His Image Before Ours
He was articulate, gifted and pleasing to the eye. A man, hand-picked by God, in answer to the cries of His people: “Give us a King.”
He wasn’t the Lord’s first choice for Israel, but the Jews wanted someone they could see to put their faith in. So God gave into their whining and they lived under the bondage of a man who cared more about his image than walking in obedience and true freedom.
Sometimes the best life lessons are learned through other’s mistakes. Saul, the first king of Israel, is exhibit A. Here is a man full of such promise. At first, he appears to be God’s man. But over time, his true heart allegiance is revealed. This man lives for Saul’s name and fame.
In 1 Samuel 13, Saul fights off the enemies of God’s people. He sees God move in power in and through him. But then he gets anxious. He waits the seven days required after battle before making a sacrifice to God. But Yahweh’s designated prophet does not appear. And Saul gets antsy.
He notices the people starting to return home. He notices his glory and his moment is being passed by, and so he rashly takes matters into his own hands. He leads the people in what He was not ordained or called to do. When Samuel finally does arrive and calls him out, Saul responds, “I forced myself and offered the burnt offering” because “I was afraid of the Philistines coming against me at Gilgal without seeking the favor of the Lord.”
Seemingly minor details, right? He was seeking God’s will, was he not? And yet, was it for the glory of God or was it really for his own image and name’s sake?
Saul had many opportunities to get back on God’s team. But he wanted to do things His way. He continues the slippery slide to narcissistic self-worship, even building a monument to his own name in 1 Samuel 15.
What a waste of an anointing. What a sad story of a man who held such promise. But Saul got in his own way of being used by God for dynamic things. He had all the equipment, but he squandered it because he wanted it on his timeframe. He had his priorities wrong. The thing that he wanted most in the world (his kingdom established forever) was stripped from his hands and given to another.
How many of us have lost sight of relationship with God because we were in pursuit of happiness, a husband, family, a good marriage, a vibrant ministry, you name it? How many of us have, “in the name of the Lord,” put our own plans and purposes first? How easily have we found ourselves, like Saul, trying to make His dreams happen for us because we don’t trust His timing?
Saul is a character study in what NOT to do.
The God who has shown Himself faithful to you will accomplish what He has promised (Hebrews 10:23). We don’t have to strive to make it happen. If He said He is going to do it, He is going to do it. If we try to live for our own story, we will end up not only missing out on the blessing He has for us, but on the one thing that truly matters - relationship with the King of Kings.
So let’s learn a lesson in “making plans,” even if it is “for God.” It’s His image that matters. He doesn’t need us to make anything happen. He just needs us to obey Him and He will do the rest. This is about His image, not ours.