Thursday, April 05, 2012
"...Samuel asked, 'What have you done?' Saul answered, 'When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn't come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, I thought: The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven't sought the Lord's favor. So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.' Samuel said to Saul, 'You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the Lord your God gave you. It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The Lord has found a man loyal to Him, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.' " (1 Samuel 13:11-14 HCSB)
It is easy to make excuses. Our tendency is to shift blame. When something goes wrong, it is natural to find a reason to avoid responsibility. That very human characteristic grows out of our fallen state. It was birthed at the dawn of history, when Adam, confronted by God for his sin, pointed to Eve, and then Eve blamed the serpent. You might remember a successful comedian from years ago who had a famous line uttered when caught doing wrong. Flip Wilson would declare, "The devil made me do it!" The reality is that Satan can entice us, but he cannot compel us to sin. There are no excuses. We cannot even blame the Serpent.
Ben Franklin said, "He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else." Then, there is this quote attributed to evangelist Billy Sunday, "An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie."
Each new politician seems to come along basing their candidacy on correcting the errors of the current office holder. This President is perhaps the most gifted man, in blaming other persons or circumstances for our nation's woes, that we have seen. He has cultivated it into an art form. Rare is the leader, like the late President Truman, with a sign on the Oval Office desk, "The buck stops here." Most of us are more willing to pass the buck. Fixing blame is easier than fixing problems.
King Saul was a leader who could always come up with an excuse. It would prove to be his undoing. He was the "perfect" candidate, it seemed. He was physically imposing, skilled in swordsmanship, a born leader. He was competent to rule the nation. But, he was fatally flawed where it mattered most--in character. Saul was like a mighty oak tree, with massive trunk and outstretched branches, which one day crashes to earth--where it is seen that it had rotted on the inside.
Saul makes an excuse based on IMPATIENCE. When faced with the great force of Philistines and the great fear of his troops, the pressure of the moment led the king to make a rash decision. He wants God's blessing in the battle. Samuel hasn't arrived to offer a sacrifice and prayer, so he takes matters into his own hands and does that which God had ordained a priest to do, or at least to have a priest supervise. Saul was rash, impulsive--and that is a destructive trait. It is always too soon to do the wrong thing.
We read, "and Samuel asked, 'What have you done?' Saul answered, 'When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn't come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, I thought: The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven't sought the Lord's favor. So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.' Samuel said to Saul, 'You have been foolish. You have not kept the command which the Lord your God gave you. It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The Lord has found a man loyal to Him, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.' " (1 Samuel 13:11-14 HCSB)
Consider this quote from businessman Bo Bennett: "Not managing your time and making excuses are two bad habits. Don't put them both together by claiming you 'don't have the time.' "
Not only did Saul have a problem with impatience, but with acting impulsively, due to IGNORANCE. In chapter fourteen of 1 Samuel, we find the king's heroic son, Jonathan, leading the Israeli army into a decisive victory over the Philistines. God works with this young warrior and sends an earthquake that throws the enemy into pandemonium--the rout is on. Here is an opportunity to destroy the Philistine army completely, so Saul impetuously gives an order to attack relentlessly--not even to stop for a morsel of food--under penalty of death. That sounds smart, but was actually ignorant. The great military strategist, Napoleon Bonaparte said, "An army marches on its stomach." A well-fed soldier has the strength to win. They had brought the ark, and a priest was summoned to ascertain the will of God, but Saul puts a halt to that. He thought, "There's a time for praying and a time for fighting--now is the time for fighting!" So, he acts in ignorance of the will of God and utters this rash vow. Jonathan, his son, meanwhile unaware of his father's command, in his war weariness, eats some honey. As a result, Saul would have killed his own son--the champion who by the help of God had brought victory--had not the troops demanded his life be spared. Saul was ignorant of what was unfolding on the field when he uttered his folly, which he would have compounded with an evil deed. When tempted to plead, "I didn't know" we ought remember the oft-repeated phrase, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
Then Saul made an excuse based on INTENTION. God has ordained the judgment to fall on the Amalekites. None are to be spared. None of their goods are to be taken as spoils of war. Complete destruction is ordered. Saul is almost obedient--which means he is disobedient! He takes the Amalekite king, Agag, as a trophy, along with some of the animals. Saul's excuse when confronted was his good intentions--that he intended to offer the animals as sacrifices to God. Here is what God thought of that excuse:
"Then Samuel said: 'Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention [is better] than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.' " (1 Samuel 15:22, 23 HCSB)
The old proverb is true, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." A good intention is no excuse for a wicked decision.
Saul looked so much like a king. His presence was impressive, but his policies were flawed--outwardly capable, but inwardly corrupt. God would find a shepherd boy who at his core had the strength of character to replace Saul. Samuel is impressed by one candidate, "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.' " (1 Samuel 16:7 HCSB) The eldest of Jesse's sons is rejected--along with the others--and the youngest is chosen. David will be the next king. He was everything Saul was not--waiting on God's timing rather than taking matters into his own hands; seeking for God's direction instead of acting out of ignorance; obeying God's will instead of merely having good intentions. David would not be a perfect man, but even when he failed, he would accept responsibility rather than blame others. Instead of offering excuses, David offered confession.
"The buck stops here." That could have been engraved on David's throne long before it sat on Truman's desk. I don't know what is on the desk in the White House today--but, it is obviously not that.
What about you? What about me? God desires a man or woman loyal to Him (see 1 Sam.13:13-14). Loyalty, sincerity, integrity, honesty--that's what God is looking for. He is not looking for excuses.