The book of 1 Samuel provides a relevant chronicle of Saul’s rise to kingship and the resolution of that kingship. God chose Saul to lead the people of Israel (1 Sam 9:17). Saul initially thought this was a mistaken, describing himself as being from the least of Israel’s tribes, the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam 9:21). Saul didn’t begin his rise to power thinking he would ever be in that position. He had no dreams of kingship, nor thoughts of taking over the highest leadership position of the people. Saul’s response to Samuel telling him of what God had planned for Saul’s future stunned Saul. And in the years that come, Saul’s humble approach to leadership seem to indicate that his stunned reaction was genuine. Saul was anointed by Samuel to
“be prince over (God’s) people Israel. And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies…” (1 Samuel 10:1, ESV).
Saul, a man humbled at being called, had quite the calling to fulfill. The subsequent chapters in 1 Samuel show Saul’s love for the commands of God and his continually fighting for the people of God by God’s sovereign hand.
But chapter 13 shows us a bit of insight into Saul’s kingship. Israel became surrounded by the Philistine army, and the Philistine intent was clear: they were there to take out Israel. Saul wanted to seek the Lord’s favor and grew impatient waiting for Samuel to come offer a sacrifice to the Lord. When Samuel arrived, Samuel’s first words to Saul are telling: “What have you done?” (1 Samuel 10:11, ESV). Saul offered all the justification he had, which boiled down to Samuel wasn’t there and Saul needed to seek the Lord’s favor for the battle to come. Saul moved ahead of God’s anointed prophet. Saul wanted the Lord’s favor, but he moved to gain it ahead of the Lord’s timing. Samuel was the Lord’s prophet, the one to seek the Lord’s favor on behalf of Saul and the people. This was not Saul’s role. In that moment of time, when Saul was deciding whether to move ahead with Samuel or not, he chose to take another’s anointing. Even if just for a small bit, Saul overlooked his own calling for a moment and presumed to take the responsibilities of another.
It might have been a one-time deal. We all make mistakes. We each, as leaders, have stepped in some unpleasant things when we have stepped outside our role or moved ahead before the right time. We cannot get a full picture of a leader based on one snapshot. We can, however, see where a potential weakness might be. And Saul’s potential weakness emerging from this situation was acting to get the benefits God offers without following the process God requires. Haven’t we all wanted that at some point or another? The key is this: Saul let his want move to action in his own time rather than in God’s.
At what points in your leadership have you suffered from the same weakness?