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Saul was the king of Israel for 42 years. During that time the enemies known as the Philistines still caused God’s children some trouble.
One day Saul sent some soldiers with his grown-up son Jonathan to fight the enemies in one place, while he took the rest of the soldiers to fight the enemies in another place.
Soon, Jonathan’s army had defeated the enemies they were fighting, and everyone in Israel heard that they were winning! So Saul called for all the soldiers in the whole land “Quick! Hurry! Come and fight with me against the rest of the Philistines! We’re winning! Let’s defeat them now all at once.”
When Samuel heard that Saul was about to lead the Israelites into war, he sent a note to Saul. He said, “Wait! Wait! Wait for me to come before you fight the enemy. I will come and offer a sacrifice to God and pray for you. Just wait for me to come. Then God can help you.” Those were God’s instructions that Samuel gave Saul.
But when the enemies heard that all the Israelites were coming to fight them, they called for all their fighting men to come quickly too. Soon, the enemy army had way more soldiers than God’s army had. The Philistine army was big!
Do you know what the Israelites did when they saw all the enemy’s army getting bigger and bigger? They panicked in fear! “Ahhhh. The enemies… look at them… they’re so many… oh, no, we need help… Help! Hide! Hide!” They hid in caves and bushes, and in wells and behind rocks. Some of them just plain ran away! In fact, as time went on, Saul’s army had gotten smaller and smaller.
But, Saul knew his instructions from Samuel. Wait! Wait! Wait! He should obey and wait for Samuel to come. So Saul waited 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 4 days, 5 days, 6 days, 7 days. He didn’t attack, and he didn’t run away. He just wait, wait, waited like Samuel said.
But on the 8th day, Saul decided he had waited long enough! Every day, more soldiers were running away and his army was getting smaller and smaller. He was afraid that he wouldn’t have enough soldiers left to fight the enemy’s army which had gotten bigger and bigger.
Saul started thinking, “Hmmm. I’m the king. Maybe I don’t need Samuel’s help. I’ll just do the sacrifice myself. How hard can it be? There’s nothing special about Samuel doing it. I’m the king. I can do this all by myself.”
Uh-oh. That sounds like Saul’s pride talking again, doesn’t it?! Saul knew it mattered to God that he wait for Samuel. But he was lying to himself because the people were panicked (and maybe he was panicked too because he was losing his soldiers).
But he was prideful to think he could do the sacrifice all by himself. If he had been humble and had trusted God, that would not have happened.
Have you ever noticed that when you panic instead of trust you often make really bad decisions?! In fact, do you ever make GOOD decisions when you are panicking? No... Me neither.
So Saul disobeyed God’s instructions, and made the sacrifice all by himself. But just as he was finishing the sacrifice, guess who walked up? Samuel!
Samuel right away asked, “Saul, what have you done?” (Samuel knew what Saul had done, but he is giving Saul a chance to say it for himself, just like your parents do to you sometimes when you have done something wrong.)
But Saul answered back with blaming and excuses, “It’s not my fault! My soldiers were all panicking! The Philistines were about to start fighting us! And you didn’t come when you said you would. So I had to do the sacrifice myself so that God would help us win.”
Wow. Saul never even said he was sorry.
“You were very foolish!” Samuel said. “You disobeyed. If you had obeyed, you would have been king for a long time. God would have helped you. But because you thought you could do it all by yourself, someone else will get to be king instead of you. The Lord has found a man whose heart and mind are right there with His — a man who is after God’s heart. God has already chosen that man to lead His people instead of you.” (And you’ll find out about who that is very soon.)