The Lord’s Day Evening
1 Samuel 13:1-23
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Now turn with me once again to 1 Samuel.
Tonight, in chapter 13, you may have forgotten the entire story of Samuel
and Saul by now, but let me just say a couple of things here about Saul.
Saul, you remember, had been on a mission looking for his father’s
donkeys when he encountered Samuel the prophet.
You remember there was a private anointing by Samuel that he was to be
the king, the king
Now as you glance down at verse 13, the translators of the ESV have not
helped us in actually reading that first verse.
You’ll look as there are two gaps in the text missing words, missing
numbers, to be precise. Saul was
--- years old and reigned for “something” and two years over
Well, all that being said, I have no idea why, in God’s providence, these two numbers are missing. Perhaps it’s one of those things we’ll ask when we get to heaven, but for now, let’s read the text as indeed God, in His providence, has given it to us.
This is God’s Word. Before we read it, let’s pray together.
Father, we thank You again for the Scriptures. We do want to acknowledge again that this is Your Word, and every jot and tittle of it, given by the inspiration, the outpouring of Your Spirit upon the hearts and lives of individuals. And we thank you that we may have a Bible in our own hands that is able to make us wise unto salvation. Grant Your blessing upon the reading of it. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Saul was (and if you’re reading the NASB I think it says ‘2’)…years old when he
began to reign, (that is, he had been ruling, he was in the second year of his
reign)… and he reigned (and again the NASB inserts the term ‘forty’)…and two
Saul chose three thousand men of
And the Philistines mustered to fight with
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel.
But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from
him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt
offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’
And he offered the burnt offering.
As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel
came. And Saul went out to meet him
and greet him. Samuel said, ‘What
have you done?’ And Saul said,
‘When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come
within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I
said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not
sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I
forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.’
And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly.
You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which He
commanded you. For then the Lord
would have established your kingdom over
And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred
men. And Saul and Jonathan his son
and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the
Philistines encamped in Michmash.
And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies.
One company turned toward Ophrah, to the
Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the
Thus far God’s holy and inerrant Word.
Now let me remind you of the extraordinary words of Samuel to Saul at the end of
chapter 12 in verses 24 and 25. You
remember what Samuel had said to him?
“Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.
For consider what great things He has done for you.
But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your
king.” You’re expecting, perhaps,
great things to happen. You’re
expecting, perhaps, Saul to be the great king of
Now, and several years, perhaps one or two or possibly more years, since the
anointing of Saul, and now Jonathan launches out on an attack of what seems to
be a successful attack of these Philistines.
The interpreters are all over the map about what has happened here.
Now is this Jonathan acting as a young buck, going off at half-cock
against the Philistines without consulting Saul?
Sure. Saul takes all the
glory, you read there in verse 4, that all the
Well, others have interpreted this in almost entire, entirely opposite way.
Gordon Keddie, Reformed Presbyterian minister and professor and lecturer
on much of the Old Testament, likeened this to the Japanese attack at Pearl
Now the second section of this chapter beginning in verse 5 and going down to
verse 15, and it’s the heart of this chapter, speaks of Saul’s massive failure.
Saul is in Gilgal. We don’t
know whether or not Saul had deliberately gone to Gilgal in fulfillment of
Samuel’s word that he should wait there, but since he finds himself perhaps in
Gilgal, he remembers now that Samuel had said, perhaps several years ago, to go
to Gilgal and there to wait for seven days.
Samuel is supposed to come.
He is the prophet. He is God’s
mouth piece. Saul cannot enter into
an act of war without the blessing of God.
And for that blessing to be given, sacrifices have to be offered.
All of that has to be done by God’s constituted prophet, Samuel.
Seven days he is waiting, but Samuel does not appear.
It’s a test. Perhaps to be
accurate, in verse 8, he waited seven days.
That is, he is in the seventh day.
As Hebrews record day, perhaps the seventh day hasn’t quite ended and
Samuel actually did come at the very end of the seventh day, but Saul is
panicking. The people of God are,
in verse 6, “hiding themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs
and in cisterns and some are crossing the
Kings often act in pride. In the
time of James VI in
Oh yes, this is one of those examples again about worship. Like Uzzah in 2 Samuel chapter 6, who, you remember, puts out his hand to stabilize the ark on the back of that cart when it began to wobble and God struck him down dead. I wonder what your reaction is to what Saul does here. What does he do? He offers, he offers a sacrifice. There’s no priest there; there’s no prophet there, so what do you do? You do what is expedient. You do what you think is wise. And there’s the rub. There it is, isn’t it? You know you have something here of the anatomy of sin. Saul acted pragmatically. And you notice what he does? Notice his response. When Samuel comes, he says in verse 12, “The Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal. I have not sought the favor of the Lord, so I forced myself…” – I didn’t want to do this! – “I forced myself and offered the burnt offering. Samuel, it’s your fault!” That’s what he was saying. Isn’t that what Ligon was saying this morning – at least in the second version of the sermon at 11 o’clock? So extraordinarily powerful this morning - the failure that is endemic to the human heart of accepting our own responsibility for sin. What is Saul doing? He’s saying, “It’s your fault, Samuel. You made me do this. You forced me to break God’s commandment.”
I wonder what you make of what Saul did here and I wonder what you make of God’s reaction. This isn’t just Samuel’s reaction here, this is God’s reaction. Because of the result of what Saul did, in breaking God’s commandment, God pronounces the end of Saul’s kingdom. As far as Saul is concerned, he is finished. He may trundle on for several decades to come, but God has already decided that another will take his place to whom His favor will be given. Now, do you think that’s over the top? I mean, be honest. Is that over the top for one sin here? He broke the commandment of God concerning worship, and behold men and women – behold the severity of God. We saw the marvelous grace of our Lord Jesus this morning in a way that took my breath away, but here, behold the severity of God.
You know, John Wesley wrote little notes in his Bible, and on this passage, he wrote a note. He asked a question – “Is there such a thing as a little sin?” That’s a good question, isn’t it? Is there such a thing as a little sin? Do you know what his answer was? He wrote it in his Bible – “Only if there is such a thing as a little God.” There is no such thing as a little sin. For one little sin, Jesus must die and shed His blood in atonement. Yes, this is a massive failure on Saul’s part, and perhaps one of the bleakest statements in Samuel is verse 15 – “The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.” It’s almost an act of defiance, or is it an act of desperation? Thirty thousand plus six thousand Philistines, and six hundred of the Israelites. And God has said, “I am no longer with you, Saul.” Saul is cornered. He is marooned in a garrison, and Israelites are fleeing.
And then at the end of this chapter, this bleak, bleak picture, the Philistines
took away all of their blacksmiths.
There was no one in
There’s a wonderful verse in this chapter and it’s there in verse 14 – “The kingdom shall not continue – at least not with Saul – the Lord has sought a man after His own heart.” Yes, it’s David of course, a man after God’s own heart, but no, it’s not truly David either. There is only one good enough to pay the price of sin. He only can unlock the gates of heaven and let us in. Yes, it is Jesus, who is the Man after God’s own heart. God is I think looking tonight and asking us – will we be men and women after His own heart? Will we be the men and women who put God first, who find our all in all in Jesus Christ?
You know Spurgeon, he was converted on January 6 in 1850, and then three weeks later he wrote, “I yield myself to You as Your own reasonable sacrifice. I return to You Your own. I would be forever Yours. While on earth, I would have You and You alone, and may I enjoy You and praise You forever. Amen.” Will we be those men and women after His own heart?
Let’s pray together.
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