If you’re not familiar with Saul, he’s a devout Jew but, up to this turning point, had not believed Jesus was God’s son. Saul had been doing horrific things to persecute the followers of Jesus. Saul believed he was being true to his Jewish faith.
I love how God shows up in this passage to get Saul’s attention! This becomes a life altering moment for Saul. I imagine that any time God gets our attention by speaking out loud our lives are changed.
Saul really messed up this time! He didn’t listen to God! He heard what he wanted to hear. Boy did that speak to me! I can’t say that I’ve ever had such an intentional message from the LORD such as Saul was given by Samuel. But when it comes to instructions from an authority figure, I have been known to try to figure out a better way.
Saul didn’t follow God’s instructions to the letter. He made a judgment that keeping the good stuff and sacrificing it would be a good idea. In his head, it sounded good. His army was happy to have some spoils of war, too. But that is NOT what God had said to do.
Don’t we all long for a conversation with God like Samuel had that night? To hear a voice audibly calling our name! Would we be like Samuel and think it was someone else, for us our spouse, the neighbor, or the television? We need to be listening. We need to be still.
I loved what Eli told Samuel after he realized what Samuel was hearing was the voice of the LORD himself. Then Samuel knew exactly what to say. “Speak, your servant is listening.” What a beautiful line we should all remember for when God calls out to us next time.
The angel’s message from God was pretty clear. The Israelites had messed up by disobeying God’s command. Our last reading said they had “failed” to drive out the Canaanites. Did that mean they didn’t even try? Or is it that they should have tried harder and never accepted defeat because that meant they were ultimately “disobeying” God?
Sometimes in life we have to be prepared to read between the lines and understand what is intended. When we start to make assumptions that our actions are “good enough” without striving to be what God wants us to be, maybe we’re being disobedient, too. We can’t say we didn’t get the memo. We’ve got God’s word right here in our hands. Now it’s up to us to read it. He wants to bless us!
There was a bit of a rollercoaster ride feeling in today’s reading. Overall, the theme of blessing was stronger with only a few jolts of judgment thrown in for good measure. Yet we see that God doesn’t force himself on the people. We start with an almost surprising verse. “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.” Is it like a test? Does God want to see how we respond to him?
I had to check another translation because this just didn’t sit right with me. The English Standard Version (ESV) says it this way,“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” That’s better. God is waiting for the perfect time to bless us and bring justice. It’s nothing WE NEED to do. There is no test. But we do need to be faithful and wait ourselves.