MINISTERIAL PITFALLS OF KING SAUL
Why study King Saul? None of us wants to be like King Saul. One cannot be more wrong than to think this way. His life is recorded that we may be warned of ministerial pitfalls - that which we must not do. To hit the mark, we must not only do what is right; we must also make sure that we know what is wrong. There are as many "Thou shalt not" in the 10 commandments as "Thou shalt".
Kingly leadership is well demonstrated in the life of King David, the man whose heart is after God's heart. King Saul on the other hand, is contrasted as one who failed to be God's kind of kingly leader. Yet he was king over Israel for many years and he was not like King Ahab, who was Israel's most evil king. Even though he had fallen, it would be wrong to put him in the category of King Ahab, for in so doing, we miss the fine and subtle contrasts between one who is truly kingly (David) and one who is not (Saul). His mistakes were not those of the diabolical kind, but those that any kingly leader of God is capable of committing, even in this present day.
This is the fearful part, and it is important as such fallen characteristics are prevalent but subtle, and if left unchecked, would weaken and limit ministers of today, drowning them in bitterness and bondage, with them not knowing the reasons for falling out of favor with God. They would struggle endlessly with no clear victories and fulfillment, while at the same time growing into a stumbling block to the Kingdom and finally has to be put away. The weaknesses of King Saul are those that all kingly leaders must be keenly aware of. It is the purpose of this study to bring out the subtle differences that cause these 2 kingly leaders to stand on 2 opposite sides with God, and to highlight the pitfalls to avoid.
This study may also reveal some areas in your life that God is dealing with. One must not be afraid of confronting our weaknesses. None of us is born in Heaven. The Saul characteristics are inherent in the fallen nature and need to be overcome as they are common to all men. When we are willing and open to the Holy Spirit, the surgery will soon be over. It's when we are not willing to admit and be dealt with, that the weaknesses continue to remain to taunt us. The Word of God is a mirror and a sword. The skillful Surgeon can operate quite painlessly and quietly. How do we allow Him to do so? As you run through the lesson, be sincere and honest about the weaknesses that are also applicable to you, confess to God and ask the Holy Spirit to deal with it.
· Saul was a choice and most handsome man, taller than anyone from the shoulders upward (1Sam. 9:2) He was physically attractive and wealthy and had a sense of responsibility (1Sam. 9:3). These are basic prerequisites of all God's kingly leaders. Supposedly a man qualified in many areas, yet it is not such prerequisites but His grace that qualifies a man of God. There are much more that He will have to add on.
· He was called by God to be the commander over Israel, to reign over them and save them from the hand of the Philistines (1Sam. 9:16,17) There is a definite purpose for every kingly leader, and this can be specifically summed up in 1 sentence or a short paragraph. Take a little time to ponder over this and apply it to your call in God now. · 1Samuel 18, 19 tell us that God will confirm His call clearly in some ways, and many times in supernatural ways, so that we will know it is from Him. In this case, by a prophetic utterance of one of the greatest prophets of Israel. Do you have an experience like that? How much have you responded to such manifestations that are initiated by God to specifically speak to you?
· 1Samuel 9:21. And Saul answered and said, "Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?" A humble response is needed, but it must be out of true humility before God (so as to continually rely on Him for the task) rather than a reaction of an inferiority complex. Wherever the response comes from, effort on our part is needed to walk in the fear of God continually thereafter.
· 1Samuel 10:1. Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?" A response from a willing heart enables the Lord to bring about His plan before public eyes.
· 1Samuel 10:11. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, "What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?" The calling brings about the anointing and the gifting. But we must always remember that they are for the ministry and not for glorifying ourselves. Anointing and gifting can come to us in an instance, but the exercise of them will sharpen them. So with character, God may give special grace for a moment, but a continual dependence upon God to maintain it will then bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in a permanent way.
· 1Sam 10:17-27. It was time for public ordination and recognition, but Saul went to hide among the equipment - An act unseeming of a royal dignitary. This seems to be a sign of false humility, which is actually the fear of man - of what others may disapprove or say about him. It was basically the fear of man, their acceptance, support and opinions that caused him to do such a silly thing, coupled with an inferiority complex that will manifest into a superiority complex one day.
· 1Samuel 10:26.And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched. As God calls, He will vindicate and supply resources and manpower for the job, and the leader will have to continually remember that it is God and not man who is the giver.
. 1Sam 10:27. But some rebels said, "How can this man save us?" So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace. In almost every case, there will be those that will be left unmoved, and God's leader should take it as an opportunity to prevail, to win their hearts and to prove himself worthy. He had done right in not taking it against them. King Saul is not evil as Ahab, but righteous as a good man, but still short of God's standard to be a kingly leader, as we shall see later.
· 1Sam 11:6. Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard this news and his anger was greatly aroused. Israel was threatened and bullied by the enemy. For a purpose, the Spirit of God came upon His leader, and so Saul's anger was aroused and faith arose within him. With the authority given to him, he did as led by God and thus brought about a great victory that day.
· 1Sam 11:13. But Saul said, "Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished salvation in Israel." The people suggested that those who did not recognize King Saul, be put to death, but with forgiveness, he prevailed and won the hearts of the people. Thus he was accepted by all and crowned again, this time at Gilgal. But Saul did not recognize the significance of Gilgal, which means the circumcision of the flesh, the dying to self and the putting away of Egyptian ways.
· 1Sam 13:1,2. King Saul reigned 3 years, during which he apparently accomplished nothing and prepared nothing for the future. This was where failures and downfall began. He had no vision. Even if he had, he did nothing about it. He did not prepare or equip his people for war against the enemy during these 3 years. A very common mistake of many leaders. With whole Israel rallying behind him, he had only 3000 soldiers - 2000 with himself and 1000 with Jonathan, and the rest he sent away. He could see only himself and not beyond. He strengthened only himself and not the Kingdom. When the time came for real war, he had only 2 swords, 1 for himself and the other for his son (1Sam. 13:22).
· 1Sam 13:5. Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. The enemy prepared their people while Saul did not. He was king only for himself. This caused the people to run into hiding, and the rest that stood with him were trembling.
· 1Sam 13:8,9. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. When he saw the people scattering, he violated God's laws and did what he was not supposed to do. It was an unlawful sacrifice. He assumed the place of the priest when he was not called to be one. He was looking to the strength of men and when put under pressure, he resorted to pleasing men rather than God. God may seem late, but He is always on time. It will require great faith to be God's leader, yes, more than that of any ordinary person. But this is what God's kingly leader must have, this is what sets them apart to be kingly. This is where Saul and many other kingly leaders fail. While he did all that was humanly possible to face the impending doom and to keep his throne, his own son with his armor-bearer by faith in God defeated the whole garrison of the Philistines and set them to flight.
· 1Sam 13:14. "But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you." Does God set tests for His leaders? Yes, not to fail them but to make manifest their hearts that they may see for themselves and be rewarded if they have done well or repent if they fail. Saul did not repent, which we shall see at a later time, and thus for Kingdom sake, the throne would have to be taken from him and be given to others more worthy to do the job. He would not be capable of finishing the task. Anointing and grace come at God's time, but one will have to continue to persevere in faith and character at all times, putting the Kingdom before self. It is impossible to obey God without putting faith in Him.
· 1Sam. 14:24. And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, "Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies." So none of the people tasted food. Mistake upon mistake. A rash oath from a presumptuous spirit. The Spirit of God was no longer guiding him directly, and he could not follow up on the victory to pursue well after the enemy who was beaten by his son. Mismanagement followed a fall and the people suffered. Plans became messy with no signs of solution and victory. The welfare of the people was not taken care of, and even the faithful and loyal ones were distressed. He almost had his own son killed in the process (1Sam. 24-46).
· 1Sam. 15:3. 'Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" The kingship will have to be given to someone one day. In the meantime, King Saul remained as God's king. Perhaps, after some years of struggling on his own, another opportunity was given to him to prove himself. Hopefully, he will give God full obedience, the kind of obedience that is required of a kingly leader.
· 1Sam 15:9. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. There are reasons to spare what they spared. Agag would be a constant reminder of the victory for the glory-seeking Saul. The best of the spoils were good for themselves to enjoy. Such will not be the kind of Kingdom that God is interested in. Indeed, Saul set up a monument for himself rather than for God (1Sam. 15:12). This sealed the doom of Saul.
· 1Sam. 15:12-23 The manifestation of unrepentance is continual justification of sin. The sin of disobedience is not necessarily total disobedience but the sin of self-will and self-indulgence, with inner disobedience that may not be discernible to the common people and followers. God's kingly leaders are expected to give full obedience. This is the difference between Saul and David. One gave God a half heart and the other gave God the whole heart. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Willful disobedience is equivalent to practicing witchcraft because witchcraft, the acts of the fallen spirits, is precisely willful disobedience! In-spite of the severe judgment, all that Saul could think of was saving his face (v. 30), instead of putting himself at the disposal of God, as would have been the case if it was David. This itself reflects a sorrow that was not a godly one.
· 1Sam. 15:26. But Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." The Word of God, His voice, prophets and all other channels of His voice will cease to come to a man when God departs from him. Where the presence of God is, there His voice will always be. It was not that God had rejected him, but rather that he had rejected God. The last word given to him was that God would tear His Kingdom from him and give it to one that will obey Him fully with the whole heart. Now for the rest of the study of King Saul where we will briefly see what Kingly Leadership is not, before we go on to the study of what Kingly Leadership is as depicted in the life of King David.
· 1Sam. 16:14. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. Alas, the consequence of a fallen man who refused God. He came under the bondage and torment of the devils instead of being a dwelling place of God. This is again a vivid contrast to David who continually lived in the presence of God.
· 1Sam 17:11. When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. When Goliath the giant threatened Israel, there was none that would take up his challenge because there were no champions in Israel. There were no champions in Israel because their leader at that time, King Saul was not a champion. It takes a champion to produce champions. David in contrast produced many champions because he was himself a champion.
· 1Sam 18:9. So Saul eyed David from that day forward. A leader who is not centered in God, who builds a kingdom not for God but for himself, will inevitably be threatened by another rising leader. This will always remain a test for all Kingly Leaders who must know when the sun rises and sets upon him. He is never king forever, only Christ is King forever. For kingdom sake, Moses and David did well in raising successors that were appointed by God, while Saul had to be forced to give up his throne in dishonor to one that God appointed. With honor or dishonor to the preceding leader, the torch has to be passed on. The Kingdom belongs to God.
· 1Sam. 18:21. So Saul said, "I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." Therefore Saul said to David a second time, "You shall be my son-in-law today." Relationship is a powerful weapon that can enhance the work of ministry. Saul used it. David used it. Even God uses it. We work for God not because He will bless us, but because we have a sonship relationship with God. David used relationships well, in raising up mighty men for the Kingdom. But Saul betrothed his own daughter to David to destroy him. One did it for the Kingdom, while the other did it for himself.
· 1Sam 20:33. Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. Loving self more than God is the beginning of all evil. This will result in seeking to destroy, not just others but also one's own immediate family and ultimately one's own self. Saul was not an evil king but a carnal and soulish one who committed evil in order to keep his throne. His leadership is a reflection of a mediocre caliber that remains rampant today. It is no threat to the devil, as compared to the leadership of David which is truly kingly. It was not that King Saul did not work hard, but rather, all that he did was for himself and not for the Kingdom. His ministry was not well vindicated by the Lord because he refused to pay the extra that is required of a kingly leader. This may be justified with any other nations but not with the holy nation whose God is Jehovah. With regards to this series of kingly studies, the Lord gave me a word, which is a key to Kingly Leadership:IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO OR HOW YOU DO, RATHER IT'S FOR WHOM YOU DO THAT COUNTS.
OF BIBLICAL PATRIARCHY
HEBRAIC ROOTS OF CHRISTIANITY
Copyright © Israel CS Lim, 1997