Posts Tagged ‘Saul’
“So I forced myself…” [25APR2013]
Reading: 1 Samuel 13:1—15:35
As I read about the actions and heart of Saul, I find similarities between his life and my own that I wish I did not. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I’m probably not the only one, but I won’t project my thoughts on anyone else… at least not today, not in this post.
Reading in chapter thirteen, Saul had been given specific instructions by Samuel. The details of the instructions aren’t critically important, but Saul’s situation was deteriorating as was his patience. Saul felt as if he had to “do something,” so he did. Against Samuel’s instructions.
I think the interesting points I noted as I read this account was the wrestling it seems that Saul went through. It might not be obvious in the written account, but it certainly seems implied. It is evident that Saul knew his instructions because he waited as he had been told. Also, when he was confronted by Samuel, he began to explain himself and offer up an excuse…even to the point of projecting part of the blame on Samuel.
“When I saw that the people were slipping away, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering…” -1 Samuel 13:11 NRSV
Saul goes on to fully explain himself and then caps his excuse with the words that really caught my attention; “so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12).
“I forced myself;” says Saul. Some versions read, “I felt compelled…” In either event, what comes across to me is there was a deliberate weighing of a decision to choose against what he knew to do. “I forced myself.” Indeed. As I reflect on the choices of my life, if I am transparent, I have done exactly as Saul did in this account. There have been more than a few occasions when I have known the right thing to do and I deliberately chose a different path. Some of these decisions were not so obviously blatant rebellion against something I was instructed to do, but I think there have been times when I had a strong sense of what God wanted from me… I sensed the Holy Spirit guiding me and I felt “compelled to go a different direction.” Like Saul.
This attitude in itself is bad enough, but when confronted and rebuked by Samuel for his actions of insolence and disobedience, Saul appears to simply shrug off the rebuke and go his way.
“Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you…’ And Samuel left and went on his way…” (1 Samuel 13:13-15)
There are a number of lessons here for consideration, not the least of which is Saul’s continuing downward spiral toward complete self-absorption. Saul continued to “force himself” to make the decisions he wanted to make and then justify his disobedience in words that were couched in religious pontifications. He always did what he did for the glory of God… so he said. Interestingly, every choice he made “for God” was against the instructions and commandments of God.
I think the primary lesson I’m taking from this reading today was how easy it was for Saul to first turn his back to God. I wonder if he had been repentant when first confronted by Samuel if there would have been a different outcome. I also think while this might have been an obvious transgression, there are probably less obvious acts each of us might wrestle with, “feeling compelled” to do what we want to do that ultimately take us in a direction other than where God wished to take us. Perhaps when I “force myself” to do things my way, I don’t turn 180 degrees from God… I just turn 45 degrees away from him. And the slide begins.
I don’t want this to be me, not even a little bit. I’m in a season of seeking God’s direction for a new chapter of life for me and my wife. I don’t want to be second-guessing God and justifying guesses with religious reasoning. I don’t want to pontificate as Saul did that by doing what he did he could glorify God all the more. Samuel responded to Saul’s dogmatic excuses with these words:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
I do not want to take for granted hearing the Word of the Lord to me. When I ask God’s direction, I want to hear Him speak. I want to act in obedience to all He speaks to me. I do not want to reject His Word. I think paying attention to the little decisions and acting with integrity with those choices might be preparations for the bigger decisions. Getting the little decisions right and obedient might be what helps deter me from “forcing myself” to do what I think best instead of choosing to wait and obey God.
Monastic Notes (Pt.22—July 14th 2011)
(Pecos: Day 25—July 14th 2011)
Today our lectures (actually lecture) came from Fr. Sam Davies. I mentioned him the other day in my journal when I had a couple of my belongings “blessed” by him. The topic of his talk today was “Healing the Family Tree,” but it was not what I expected from the title. I don’t know if it was just me or if everyone was latching on to the central theme of “healing” coming from forgiveness, but this is what I heard in a major way. The notes I took were not verbatim, but more of an interpretation of what I heard coming from Father Sam. The heading and notes in my journal are outlined as follows:
- Jesus is the source of all healing and all healing begins with forgiveness
- God’s Kingdom is a matter of forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)
- The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples (Our Father) includes indefinite and infinite forgiveness
- Jesus insists on forgiveness. He is fully experienced in His forgiveness extended to us by His death on the cross
- The verdict we pass to others, we pass to ourselves. If we pass unforgiveness, we will be not be forgiven. Likewise, if we pass forgiveness, we will be forgiven.
- Unforgiveness unleashes torture on us and others (fear, loathing, anxiety, depression, self-hatred, etc.)
- Forgiveness is divine, because it is first a work of God toward us and second, it is a work of God through us
- Forgiveness comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit
- Forgiveness cannot be defined (or redefined) to mean a lack of hostility. Forgiveness embraces, reconciles, restores, and re-establishes love. It is truly loving mercy and cannot be redefined as anything less
- True mercy has no strings attached…mercy with strings is not mercy at all
- Confession is a non-negotiable if you want to get rid of the “soul trash” we are so want to accumulate
Father Sam’s lecture included much more than the above mentioned points, but these wonderful points on healing through forgiveness were the binding elements of the entire talk. A few more quotes from Fr. Sam that I found really insightful follow:
“If you are not aware God has done something, He may not have…”
“Lord, help me to love immensely and intensely.”
“What is impossible can become HIM-possible…”
Father Samuel Davies
Personal Reflections and Recollections:
This passage starts off with all kinds of wrong. It begins by telling us that Saul had expelled the mediums and wizards in the land, but as soon as he asks his servants to help him find one (medium or wizard) they know the exact address and location of a witch??? Seriously? Can we talk about fidelity and trust for a moment? Here are some people who are the closest to Saul in all the kingdom. They know he was trying to rid the kingdom of sorcery and those practicing it, but they know there are still mediums and wizards who remain and seemingly under protection.
The actions of Saul reveal his “fickleness” and double-mindedness when it comes to his relationship with God. Better said, I believe it reveals the true heart of Saul.
We can only assume, from Scripture, but it seems that the character of God is to welcome true repentance and sincerity of heart (an example is the repentance of Manasseh, the most evil king of all Israel 2 Chronicles 33:1-20). So, if Saul’s heart had been pure with full desire to trust God, perhaps God may have relented…we don’t know the answer to this, but we do know as soon as “impatient” Saul doesn’t “hear” from God—he forges ahead taking matters into his own hands and enacting his plan pursuing “what seems right” to him. This attitude was the reason the kingdom was stripped from him in the first place and it seems that Saul never learns the lesson nor turns (repents) to another way. Sad. How many of us fall into these same destructive habits?
“…So Saul disguised himself.” I think so much could be said about this, I don’t even know where to begin. We (humanity) do this, disguising ourselves, in our sin and we do it in our “partially committed” relationships with God. Only in completely “naked and unashamed” relationships are we free to not disguise ourselves… we are, after all, “naked” then and need no covering or “disguise.”
So Saul exalts himself above God by granting impunity to the witch of Endor—”no harm will come to you for participating in sorcery.” How can he say this? Only if he assumes authority over the person and precepts of God can he make such a promise to the sorceress.
The evidence of how far Saul misses the mark in his understanding and fear of God is shown in his actions and confession to Samuel. He says; “God isn’t talking to me anymore…” Samuel responds; “So, why do you ask me?” Samuel then goes on to explain to Saul that his own stubborn disobedience (which he continues to reveal) is the reason for God’s silence. The greatest tragedy of this entire narrative is that Saul never ever truly repents or has a real change of heart.
A concluding thought about Saul, Repentance, and “us”…
Repentance is not an intellectual decision. Repentance begins or is birthed in the heart. Repentance moves from the heart and wills the intellect to action. The heart moves the will to action and the result are fruits of repentance being exhibited in the life of the repentant soul.
Repentance that comes from the intellect will not turn the heart; therefore, intellectual repentance is not repentance at all. This type of “false” repentance results in hardness of heart and deluded conscience. It reveals the lack of surrender of self. This is most obvious in times of crisis when the self reverts to “survival mode” exhibiting the most primal attitudes in exhibitions of “survival of the fittest” and “fight or flight” behaviors.
Repentance is the ultimate act of surrender to the Person and will of God.