1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 2) – Sometimes, The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Posted: January 7, 2018 in 09-1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 13:1-14 (Part 2 of 3)
War with Philistia, Saul’s Disobedience, and Samuel’s Rebuke

There was a song by the late, great Tom Petty entitled “The Waiting is the Hardest Part”. The title of the song is appropriate for today’s lesson. Saul could not stand the waiting so he decided to take it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God. He was impatient on God’s timing.

Sometimes, I get that way too. Ever since God gave me the desire to go into ministry, there has been a lot of waiting. What is it that He wants from me? I have been waiting for six years. Sure, there has been preparation to go through that I thoroughly believe was necessary. Getting my masters degree in Christian ministry was an eye-opening and faith-deepening experience for which I am eternally grateful. My understanding of Scripture and eagerness to be in God’s Word was exponentially increased by that experience. But it was my expectation that as soon as my degree was handed to me by NGU President, at that time, Dr. Epting, that the skies would open up and a church would magically call me to be their pastor or a large church would call me to be their executive pastor or that God would give me a burning desire to start a church in some community somewhere. That was back in May 2014 when I graduated.

Since then there have been lots of applications for executive or administrative pastor positions through Vanderbloemen and churchstaffing.com. There have been four positions for which I have been granted phone interviews. Two of those resulted in follow-up video call interviews. One of those resulted in an over the weekend visit on-site. That one was this time last year, back in January 2017. On that one, my wife and I came oh so close to landing the administrative pastor’s position for a church in north central Ohio. After that, it has been a yearlong dry streak for on-site interviews. We have another one coming up next weekend. The waiting has been the hardest part. The difference between this one upcoming and the rest is that I did not apply for this job. The church’s founding pastor sought me out after doing a search for candidates on churchstaffing.com. So, this one feels different than the other jobs I have pursued.

When we went through the extended interview process last November 2016-January 2017 for the position at the church in Ohio, I felt like I needed to press. I felt like I needed to do and say the right things in the process. It seemed to me that I was pressing. I was like a quarterback whose team is down by two touchdowns with a quarter left to play in the game and who thinks he has to make plays and he presses and overdoes it and throws an interception. Instead of letting the game come to him, he presses and makes a mistake. That was how I felt. Nervous. Pressing. Trying to do things under my own power.

However, this time around, a year later, it is almost as if I don’t care if I get the job or not. This job is farther away than the one in Ohio last year (sometimes I argue with God – why can’t you put me in position for a job around here, why do you grant me interviews for jobs 8-12 hours away from South Carolina?). This time around, I am not putting any pressure on the process myself. I am going into this next weekend with the attitude of “if God wants this, He will make it happen!” Maybe, it’s because the job is far away from home in a much colder climate. The low temperatures next weekend are projected to a raw temperature of 6 and 7 degrees the two nights we will spend there. The wind chills for overnight lows those two nights will be subzero. Maybe, I have just resigned myself to always just being on the edge of ministry and never really in it. Maybe, it was the severe disappointment of what happened this time last year. Maybe, though, this time, I am just letting the Holy Spirit take hold of the process. Last January, I was going in looking for reasons to take the job. This January, I am going in looking for reasons not to take the position and only one reason to take it. That reason being that the Holy Spirit will make it abundantly clear, I mean really and abundantly clear, to both Elena and me that this church is the place where we are supposed to go. I am going in with no expectations and no desires other than that. There will be a million reasons for us not to pack up and go and only one reason why we should – that God has made it abundantly and expressly clear that this assignment is what is next for us, no other reason.

That’s the lesson from last January to this January. Let God lead and not try to make this happen in your own power. I mean I am not going up there trying to flub it up and not get the job, but I am going up there with no pressure in my heart. I have simply decided to wait on God. That is the thing that I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 13:1-14, this morning for the second of three readings of it – that idea of trying to push God along because we are impatient. That idea of how Saul was pressing and was not patient. That idea of how Saul simply did not wait on God to reveal. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 13
1 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years. 2 Saul selected 3,000 special troops from the army of Israel and sent the rest of the men home. He took 2,000 of the chosen men with him to Micmash and the hill country of Bethel. The other 1,000 went with Saul’s son Jonathan to Gibeah in the land of Benjamin.

3 Soon after this, Jonathan attacked and defeated the garrison of Philistines at Geba. The news spread quickly among the Philistines. So Saul blew the ram’s horn throughout the land, saying, “Hebrews, hear this! Rise up in revolt!” 4 All Israel heard the news that Saul had destroyed the Philistine garrison at Geba and that the Philistines now hated the Israelites more than ever. So the entire Israelite army was summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000[c] chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven. 6 The men of Israel saw what a tight spot they were in; and because they were hard pressed by the enemy, they tried to hide in caves, thickets, rocks, holes, and cisterns. 7 Some of them crossed the Jordan River and escaped into the land of Gad and Gilead.

Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. 8 Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. 9 So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

10 Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, 11 but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. 12 So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

In this passage, we see that, rather than waiting for a priest, Saul offered a sacrifice himself. This act by a non-priest was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 12:5-14) and against the specific instructions of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 10:8). Under pressure from the approaching Philistines, he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God. He was doing a good thing (offering a sacrifice to God before a crucial battle), but he did it in the wrong way. Like Saul, our true spiritual character is revealed under pressure. The methods we use to accomplish our goals are as important as the attainment of those goals.

A lot of times, we want to do God’s job for Him. We want to get out ahead of God. Things aren’t happening as quickly as we want them to happen. Sometimes, it is in the waiting that we learn to be dependent on God. Man, what a relief it is when we let go and let God. Learning to trust the Lord completely with our lives is one of the toughest things we have to learn as we mature in Christ. That’s the difference between me last January and me this January – I am just at the point that I am trusting God with whatever comes our way in the ministry field. I have no more preconceived notions as to what God will do with our calling. Maybe that’s the point. Complete dependence. Completely open ears. When we quit trying to control everything, the white noise stops and we can hear God’s voice. That’s the approach I am going to take next weekend – quietness and calmness, listening for God to make it clear to us if this IS the place. If it is, He will make it clear. He will make a way.

Amen and Amen.

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