The last couple of weeks several things have converged to open up the story of King Saul for me. I have been reading through the Bible and am currently working through 1 Samuel. During this same time, I have been doing some freelance writing, and the assignment dealt with the same passages of Scripture. So, over the past few weeks, I have been reading and re-reading the story of Saul's coronation and disobedience (1 Samuel 9-16).
The prophet Samuel is growing older and he appoints his sons as judges to help with the leadership of Israel. The problem is that Samuel's sons are dishonest and pervert justice by taking bribes. The people of Israel, in an attempt to be like neighboring kingdoms, ask for a king.
As Saul enters the story, he is a walking contradiction. He stands head and shoulders above everyone else, but he lack self-esteem and confidence in God. Despite standing out among all the other people, Saul is more concerned about what they think than about what God thinks. Despite being called and chosen by God to lead, Saul still considers himself inadequate.
There are several things that reveal Saul's character.
First, during the coronation of the new king, Saul could not be found. Why? Because he was hiding among the baggage! This man who stood head and shoulders above everyone else was hiding among the baggage. Rather than accept the God-given authority he hid. I believe because he felt inadequate and insecure. He was looking at the enormity of the task rather than the enormity of God.
Second, as the large Philistine army gathered against Saul and his army, Saul's men became fearful and fled. As Saul watched his men leaving he became concerned. He didn't trust God to give him the battle, and there seems to be a desperate sense of insecurity on his part. He disobeys Samuel's orders and offers the sacrifice.
Third, When attacking the Amalekites, Saul was ordered to completely destroy them. But rather than destroy them, Saul spared the king and saved the best of the animals to "offer as a sacrifice." When Samuel questioned why he disobeyed, Saul said the army wanted to keep the animals to offer as a sacrifice. So rather than obey the words of God, Saul submitted to the influence of his soldiers. He was so concerned with how they viewed him that was willing to disobey God.
You can see his insecurity in the fact that he gave an arbitrary command to not eat, despite the need of his army to regain their strength. The command seems to be simply to exert his own authority and bolster his power. Also, following the Amalekite battle, built a monument to himself rather than to God.
In thinking about our vision and leadership, I realized that many pastors have lost their authority because they are acting like Saul. I have been like Saul. Rather than listen for the voice of God and obey Him, we have lived out of fear of alienating someone or loosing someone from the church or losing that tither that keeps us afloat. Many people lack the confidence of God's authority and rest on their own ability. They lack self-confidence in who God has called them to be, and they are insecure about the authority God has given them.
When pastors fail to listen to God, seek after him, and live obediently, we risk being rejected. God rejected Saul as King, but Saul remained king for many more years. God had already chosen his successor. I don't think Saul was excluded from God in an eternal sense, but his authority and leadership were now rejected. I wonder how many pastors have been rejected by God, but are allowed to remain in the pulpit. I wonder how many, because they listen to their church board or the "squeaky wheels" more than God, have been rejected.
I know that I have given in just to "keep the peace." And there is a fine line between being confident in God's leading and who God called us and authorized us to be AND being a dictator. I think there is a fine line between being driven by a vision God has given us and leaving broken people in our wake as we step on them to get to that vision. We are called to lead which means we have to bring people along with us, but neither can we allow others to dictate the vision.
Saul gave in. He was insecure and failed to rely on God. He was more concerned with what his men thought of him than what God thought of him. David sought after God. The power of his character and confidence led Israel to some of its greatest days as a people.
What do you think? What about your confidence? How do you gain accountability to keep you confident without being arrogant?
(Check out part 2 and part 3.)