The life of Saul is tragic the more I read about it in 1 Samuel; filled with wasted opportunity. He was a man who had it all – honor, authority, riches, good looks and much more. Yet, he died in despair, terrified of his enemies and knowing he failed.
He failed his nation as the 1st king of Israel, he failed his family, and he failed to follow God completely. When God told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, he and his men brought back sheep and cattle in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.
Saul made the mistake of thinking he could please God through disobedience. Yes, disobedience. Like many of us today, he believed that a sensible motive will compensate for bad behavior. His power went to his head and he did not see the need to follow God exactly. Somehow, he developed a low opinion of God’s plans and a high opinion of his own.
Even when Samuel confronted him (1 Samuel 15:16-28), Saul tried to make excuses for his actions and act like he obeyed God. In that moment, God rejected him as king of Israel.
You can’t lie to God. Somehow, in his mind, Saul convinced himself that he was right. Don’t we do that all the time? We lie to ourselves or rationalize that something is okay. But it’s not. God knows the depths of our heart. If we live in pride and go against God, we set ourselves up for loss and heartbreak.
But, if we live in obedience to God’s will for our lives, we will succeed. We have to keep our hearts and our minds open to God’s will for our lives, cause if we aren’t, we are missing the whole point. But how do we do this? What does this really mean?
I have been going in circles, for hours it seems. I am just like Saul, I constantly try to put my own plans above God. I constantly rationalize behavior. Am I tragic? Hardly. Sinful? Yes. Very.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” – Hosea 6:6 or “To love Him with all your heart… is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” – Mark 12:33. If God states his desire so clearly, why did the Israelites and why do we – have such difficulty following it?
God makes His will clear. What He wants from us is our hearts. We can “play” religious activities. We go through life and do the “right thing”. We can go through the motions, sing the right songs, talk the right way, but none of this means anything unless our hearts are turned to God, offering him more than our gestures, offering Him our obedience and love.