Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in the lives of their followers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 11-15

Israel demanded a king who would “judge [govern] us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20).   Having chosen Saul as king, the nation soon faced her first test under his leadership when the Ammonites “came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead” and the people foolishly sought a covenant of peace with the enemy (1 Samuel 11:1).  When the Ammonites demanded the covenant be sealed with every man losing his right eye (11:2), the people appealed for seven days respite to see if any men of Israel would come to their aid (11:3).

After being anointed king, Saul returned to his flocks until word of the calamity facing the people of Jabeshgilead reached him (11:4-5).   With the Spirit of God upon him, Saul rose to the challenge of leading the nation and commanded the men to go to war against the Ammonites giving him his first victory (11:6-11).  Soon after, the people made Saul king of Israel (11:12-15).

In chapter 12, Samuel, now an old man, asked the people to affirm he had served them with integrity (12:1-5).  He reminded the people of their godly heritage and how God had dealt with them as His people; blessing them when they obeyed Him and judging them when they sinned (12:6-11).  Reminding the people their demand for a king was a rejection and act of rebellion against the LORD (12:12-13), Samuel invited the people to fear the LORD (12:14-15).

Demonstrating the LORD is sovereign over Creation and  to be feared and revered; Samuel called upon the LORD to send a great storm (12:16-19).  Overcome with fear (12:19), Samuel comforted the people with the assurance of God’s longsuffering and longing to bless those who obey Him and walk in His Law (12:20-25).

1 Samuel 13 reveals Saul had become a proactive king, dividing his army, he appointed his son Jonathan over one division while he led the other (13:1-2).  Evidencing the zeal of youth and inexperience, Jonathan ordered his troop of 1,000 men to attack the Philistine garrison in Geba.  Following Jonathan’s successful raid on the Philistines’ garrison, we observe a weakness in Saul’s character that will haunt him the rest of his life…foolish pride and jealousy!  Although there is no evidence he ordered the attack on the Philistines, we read Saul “blew the trumpet” and “all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines” (13:3, 4).  Saul had opportunity to praise his son’s courage and success; instead, he deflected the glory of the victory to himself.

The attack on the garrison provoked the Philistines to go to war and they quickly assembled a great army (13:5).  Greatly outnumbered by their enemy, Israel’s soldiers panicked and some began to desert Saul (13:6-7).  Realizing the debilitating fear that took hold on his army, Saul recognized all would soon be lost if the people’s confidence was not restored.

Saul waited seven days for Samuel (10:8) to come, offer sacrifices and affirm his leadership in the eyes of the people (13:8).  Weary of waiting and fearing the people would continue to desert, Saul usurped Samuel’s leadership and privilege as God’s prophet and offered sacrifices in his absence (13:9-10).   Once again we have insight into Saul’s failed character and the consequences of deceit and folly.   I invite you to notice three deceptions committed by Saul: The first was his disingenuous greeting of Samuel when Saul “went out to meet him, that he might salute [bless; kneel] him.”  Saul greeted Samuel as though all was well when in reality he had usurped the prophet’s authority and role as priest in Israel.

The second deception was Saul’s refusal to take responsibility for his sin when he says, “the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash” (13:11).  The third deception was Saul’s claim he was “forced” (literally, compelled) and “offered a burnt offering” (13:12).

A personal observation: Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in the lives of their followers.  We see that manifested in three circumstances in 1 Samuel 13.  The first, the size of Saul’s army decreased from over 300,000 volunteers to 600 frightened men (13:15-16).  The second, the threats against Israel increased in direct proportion to the weakness evidenced by Saul’s army (13:17-18).  The third, Israel had become so subservient to the Philistines, they no longer had blacksmiths to manufacture sword or spear and were dependent on their enemy to sharpen their plows and axes.

Stop and think about the consequences of weak leadership:  1) Weakened military; 2) Increasing national threats within and without; 3) The loss of manufacturing capability to foreign nations.

Sound familiar?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith