(originally published April 19, 2015)
Have you ever gone into a situation or took an action with the right heart, or at least what you thought was the right heart, only to find that it wasn't the best thing you could have done? You chalked up the failure or mistake to having good intentions, figuring that made everything okay. King Saul found himself in a situation like that, however he was really walking in disobedience and impure motives. I know what you're thinking: doesn't seem like having good intentions should be a bad thing, right? It doesn't have to be, but then again, it can.
I once had good intentions that didn't play into God's plan. I once left my job and the only church I had known to take a job at a resort in Wyoming for the summer. That was one of the best things I have ever done, however afterward I didn't see that wise decision replicated. I returned to MO after my stint in the mountains and was trying to figure out what God had next for me. I remember praying for direction, but I never felt clear direction to go anywhere (anywhere being the key word). Since I didn't have anything going on in MO at the time, I decided to go stay a few months with my family in Rhode Island, then took a job for a ministry in Florida.
I was miserable the entire 6 months I was away from MO, and I began pleading with God to open a door for me to return. Thankfully, He did! But I look back at those six months and realize I wasn't where God wanted me at that time. I had the good intentions: being with my family and working for a ministry. But all those times I called out to God to show me where to go, He never showed me a place because He wanted me to stay put. In the back of my heart I was done with MO at the time and looking for any place but there, while cloaking it in good intentions. My disobedience in leaving MO caused me to be fairly discouraged and longing for home for six long months. I thought I had good intentions, but really I was allowing fear to cloud my judgement and I did what I thought was best.
In 1 Samuel 13, we are going to learn a bit more about good intentions, as well as how fear can play into poor decisions. In the beginning of this chapter, Saul has dispersed his army across three cities outside of Jerusalem. The group of men that his son Jonathan leads actually raids a local Philistine army and defeats them. It was a great triumph for the nation, however many also began to fear that the very large nation would retaliate against Israel.
In fact, many of the Israeli military men were so afraid that they began hiding in caves, rocks, and even graves! These were men who were appointed with the task of protecting their people, and they are running off to hide. Think about how afraid they must have been of the Philistines to do so. Oddly, there had been two recent defeats over the Philistines, so you would think they would have been a bit more confident in their position. But I suppose seeing thousands of chariots and horseman come against you can be a bit unnerving.
Truth is, we all do it. We come up against a challenge we think we are ill-equipped for and have zero desire to face, so we run and hide in our caves and graves. Instead of persevering through the storm, we opt out for an easy way out. Perhaps even now you find yourself wanting to turn and run in the opposite direction from your current situation? I can't tell you how many times I've tried to take the easy way out of an undesirable situation, however every time I have regretted doing so. Why? Usually because I end up in a worse position and every time I end up short cutting something great God wanted to do in my life! The caves and graves of fear will rob you of your destiny. Come out and enter into the plan God has for you, that you may walk in obedience and experience the sweet blessing of His favor.
Saul also felt fear and it led him into disobedience. Although much of his military scattered, those who didn't went with him to Gilgal, where he was established king over the nation not too long before. He goes here under the direction Samuel had given in chapter 10 verse 8. Saul was to go to Gilgal and wait 7 days for Samuel to arrive for the sacrifice. Upon waiting 7 days, Saul began to fear the Philistines and the fact that his military was dwindling, surely causing him to wonder what would become of him. Since Samuel doesn't arrive when Saul thinks he should, he decides to take matters into his owns hands and offers the sacrifice in place of Samuel. Wouldn't you know, Samuel shows up right as this takes place!
The reason Samuel had asked Saul to wait the 7 days was because he wanted to test Saul's character and heart. Obviously, Saul fails the test and Samuel is quite upset with the king. You may be asking the question I first asked when I read this: "Saul waited 7 days and, when he didn't see Samuel, decided to offer a sacrifice to God. That seems like a good thing!" Well, not exactly. You see, Saul had it wrong a few different ways here.
First, he was basing what he did by sight, and not faith. Saul watched the Philistine army take their place for battle and it scared him. But instead of having the faith to wait on God, he decided to let his fear get the best of him and he acted disobediently.
Second, his intention wasn't that great either. He wanted to exert his kingship in the matter, essentially doing only what the priest was allowed to do -- offer the sacrifice.
Perhaps Saul thought he had good intentions, but he wasn't remaining connected to the Source...God. He allowed fear and pride to take over in a moment where he should have been full of faith and humility. Let this lesson serve us all well in moments of decision: are we walking in faith and humility, or allowing fear and pride seep into our choices? The caves and graves of fear will rob you of your destiny.
At this great mistake, Samuel announces that Saul's kingdom will not continue and that God has chosen another man with a heart like His to rule over the people. Do you see how fear and one "good intention" can strip you of favor and legacy? I pray the same doesn't happen to you or me. It's why we must humbly walk by faith and act in obedience in every decision, even the small ones.
- Has there ever been a decision you have made that you know was the wrong one to make, although you thought you were doing the "right thing?" How could you have reacted or chosen differently?
- Is there a decision or moment currently at your doorstep which has you wondering what to do? Go to God in humility and faith, asking Him to give you direction on what to do. Let Him know you only desire to do what He wants you to do.