1 Samuel 13:1–15
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #047
April 5, 2016
“Father, we are so grateful we can come together this evening to be refreshed by Your Word, to be encouraged and strengthened as we study the truth of Your Word; that as our Lord said, we are sanctified by the truth. That is the means You have decreed for our spiritual growth, for our spiritual edification, as we walk by the Spirit. It is through Your Spirit and Your Word that we are matured.
Father, we pray that as we study tonight that Your Word would transform our thinking; that we can renew our minds that we can think Your thoughts after You. That we can learn to think biblically, think doctrinally, think according to divine truth, and not according to human viewpoint systems of thought. We pray that we would be willing to take the challenge to do so in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 13. As we wrapped up in 1 Samuel 12 the last two or three lessons, what we were focusing on was Israel’s unfaithfulness, and God’s faithfulness to the Covenant. Last week we saw Israel’s rebelliousness.
As we shift gears to 1 Samuel 13 we are going to see Saul’s rebelliousness. The next three chapters work together as we see King Saul completely deteriorate spiritually and God takes the kingdom from him. We see this in stages.
Stage one occurs in 1 Samuel 13. Stage two occurs in 1 Samuel 15.
In both situations it is the same basic problem—Saul is rebellious towards God. That is just the default position of the sin nature. But I am always reminded as we look at the Old Testament that one thing that we have learned in our study in Romans, is in Romans 6:3–6, Paul says that the key to spiritual growth is to understand that we have been crucified with Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection.
That is a reference to the baptism by the Holy Spirit. That is what happens at the instant we are saved. As a result of that, Paul says that we are dead to sin. That does not mean that we do not still sin. It does not mean we cannot sin in competition with the greatest of unbelievers. But it does mean that we no longer are under the tyranny of the sin nature, where that is the only option. We have true liberty and true freedom of choice to not sin and to walk with the Lord. That is Paul’s challenge in Romans 6.
As we studied that, I pointed out that this really affirms the principles of dispensationalism, that the church is distinct not only in terms of its destiny, but also in terms of the spiritual life that we have been given because we have a unique spiritual life unlike any believer in all of history.
In the Old Testament, we can be critical of Samson; we can be critical of Eli; we can be critical of Saul. We can be critical of a lot of believers that seem to have failed, but they were still under the tyranny of the sin nature. They did not have the benefit of the baptism by the Holy Spirit.
I think that when people look at Saul, they often think, “Oh, look at his life. He has got a lot of failure. He must not have been a believer.” Yet I have pointed out reasons that I believe he is a believer, but he is just a rebellious, disobedient, carnal believer who is living in rebellion against God. He has never really demonstrated a whole lot of spiritual interest.
In a chapter we have not yet come to on Sunday morning is the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees in Matthew 23. It always helps your position to call people a hypocrite to their face. Jesus is doing it in love because He is the impeccable Lord Jesus Christ, so He cannot do that not in love. We have to understand that that is all a part of love.
Matthew 23:27–28, “… For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
This is not a pleasant picture of the Pharisees. But it is so often true of a lot of Christians. It is especially true of a lot of politicians. We may or may not be sure of their eternal destiny, but they have a tendency to have this external pretense of religion. Saul was no exception to this.
As Jesus confronted the Pharisees here, He makes them realize that they have a counterfeit good, a counterfeit righteousness—that their righteousness was superficial and external. It was not internal.
- The Pharisees were not walking according to the standards of the Torah, which not only addressed external obedience, but also addressed the matters of the heart.
- The Pharisees were to love the Lord their God, according to Deuteronomy and Exodus, with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is an internal reality. That is not just an external observance.
- The Pharisees had succumbed to a system that focused on a simple outward focus, an outward appearance of righteousness.
- The Pharisees were moral by all accounts.
Many of us would be more attracted to the Pharisees. We certainly would not be attracted to the Sadducees. They were the liberals of the day although we do not know a lot about them, because they did not write anything. The only people who wrote anything about them were their enemies, the Pharisees.
If 500 years from now the only writings that were left to talk about evangelicals were the writings of our enemies, what would people think about us? So we really do not know a lot about the Sadducees. We only know a few things about them.
But the Pharisees tried to do everything right:
- The Pharisees said the right words.
- The Pharisees went to the temple every day.
- The Pharisees prayed many times a day.
- The Pharisees were outwardly righteous, but the problem was internal.
- The Pharisees were controlled by their sin nature.
That is what Jesus meant by the fact that they were full of dead men’s bones. And whether or not the Pharisees were personally justified is not the issue. The fact is they are living like a spiritually dead person.
Jesus is talking to a whole group of Pharisees. We know that at least two Pharisees, Joseph and Nicodemus, were born again. Jesus is making a generalized statement when He does that.
Even believers can live, at times, where they appear to be even worse than unbelievers, because they are in rebellion. In fact, I think that when believers go into full-scale rebellion, like the prodigal son, they end up a whole lot worse than those who are trying to live a Christian life and are walking by the Lord, but stumble along the way.
The Pharisees had a problem with this mental attitude. They had slipped into the trap of externalism. They were going through all the right motions externally, but internally they were walking as if they were spiritually dead. And in many cases they probably were.
This is the problem with Saul. Woe unto us if we fall into this trap of spiritual self-deception and externalism. Sadly, I think a lot of Christians are that way. Christians just go through the motions: Christians go to church on Sunday. Christians go maybe every now and then in the middle of the week.
Christians have a Bible at home, and every now and then they open it. Christians are going to find God’s will, so they open their Bible and close their eyes and point their finger to a verse, read it, “go and do likewise. Well? We have got to find another one (verse).” Christians do not do very well.
We have to avoid that trap. But that is the problem with Saul. He does not have a devotion to obedience to the Torah. We see his decline and failure in these coming chapters.
We start off in 1 Samuel 13:1 with one of those difficult verses. It is difficult because we really do not know what it says in the original. We only know what it seems to say, because of some words that were left out. I have put this verse in three translations to show you how different translators have sought to solve the problem. I have italicized. It is probably that way in some Bibles. My New Kings James does not italicize any. Some put a bracket in like the NET Bible does at the bottom.
It literally reads in the text that we have, “Saul reigned ____ year.”
There is one translation where the translators were gutsy enough to just put a question mark there. It is hard to sell Bibles when you put question marks in place of words in the Bible. A lot of people do not think you really believe in the Bible.
Saul reigned ? year; and when he had reigned ? over Israel.
1 Samuel 13:1, “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,” NKJV.
If you compare that to the New American Standard Bible (NASB), we read:
1 Samuel 13:1, “Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty two years over Israel.” NASB
I do not know where they get the “two” unless it seems like Saul has been reigning two years and they are going to add forty to it.
Saul was “x” years old and they supply thirty.
1 Samuel 13:1, “Saul was [thirty] years old when he began to reign; he ruled over Israel for [forty] years.” NET
There are two ways they get the [forty]:
- From Acts 13:21, where the writer specifically says Saul reigned for forty years. That is the NASB inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He is going to be accurate.
- Then compared with 2 Samuel 2:10, which talks about the age of Ishbosheth.
You all know about Ishbosheth do you not?
That is one of those familiar Bible names. Maybe you will name a dog or a cat that, but you are not going to find too many people naming their babies Ishbosheth.
Ishbosheth is forty years old when Saul dies. Ishbosheth has not been mentioned up to this point as one of Saul’s sons. The other three sons are mentioned by this point; Ishbosheth is not.
It is assumed that Ishbosheth was born close to the time that Saul began to reign. He is the baby. If he was forty years old when Saul died, then that would mean that Saul reigned forty years. That would confirm that forty-year period.
It is a little difficult here because chronologically we would really like to be able to nail down how old Saul was, and how long he reigned, and the best we can come up with is how long he reigned. That becomes a bit of an issue in chronology.
If you were here at the Chafer Conference this year on the last night when Steve Austin was talking about various issues related to the signs of the Cross, he pointed out a couple of things. One of the books I had seen but had not picked it up. I have a stack of books on biblical chronology, and everybody tends to disagree with each other. Sometimes it is like undoing a knot of yarn when you are dealing with biblical chronology.
We have a couple of issues coming up. One is the chronology in Samuel. The other is chronology of the last week of Jesus’ life preceding the Cross. That is a tough one.
But there is a book called From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology by Andrew E. Steinmann. He recommended that. I just picked it up.
There is another man, who is a mathematician and chronologist. That is his field. He is not a Biblicist. He is just working calendars. He has really done a lot of work. Both of these men have published a lot of articles in the Evangelical Theological Society Journal over the last twenty years dealing with some really tough chronological issues. They have come to some really good and interesting conclusions.
These authors have changed my views on a couple of little things. Not major things. They take the Scripture literally. They take the numbers literally, which is important. They are conservative, but they are pointing out some things that I think have been very, very helpful.
He points out in this book that this absence of numbers in 1 Samuel 13:1 is really a problem in terms of putting together a tight chronology of this period.
We can generally get most of the dates, but one of the things that we cannot really tell is when this battle occurred that has two stages that we are going to study, the battle of Michmash in 1 Samuel 13–14.
We see Jonathan, but we cannot really pinpoint how old Jonathan is. He seems to be a mature warrior. He could be anywhere from 25–40 years of age.
I have always thought that was interesting because David is probably born or is only about 9–10 years old, anywhere from 1–10 years old at this particular time. When you think about how close Jonathan and David were, usually you see all these children’s Bible stories and animated stories that have Jonathan and David at roughly the same age.
But there may be as much as 15–16 years of age difference between David and Jonathan.
If Jonathan is a little more mature and is perhaps 35–38 years of age at the time of this battle, and this is long before David meets Goliath, then there could be as much as a twenty-year gap in their ages. That is interesting because Jonathan is the crown prince. Yet he recognizes David as the one who is anointed to replace Saul.
Jonathan gives his loyalty to a man who is anywhere from 10 to 20 years his junior. That is somebody who has integrity and character, because he is looking at somebody who is a wet-behind-the-ears pup. Jonathan recognizes he is the one God has chosen. We will get into some of those issues as we get a little further along.
But as this begins, we see that Saul and Israel are facing their generational enemy of the Philistines. The Philistines have been a problem. Going back into the period of the judges they really became a problem at the time of Samson. But even earlier, they were a problem when we have that one verse, where Shamgar kills a number of Philistines back in Judges 3.
The Philistines have been a problem. But now they have really taken a strong position. They have Israel under their heel again. The Philistines were defeated at the battle of Aphek by Samuel. Now they have come back and they have come back strong.
The Philistines were a part of a Greek migration. If we look at the map, we see Philistia along the coast. This is where they settled. You have some Philistines who came early. There were waves of these “Greek sea people”, as they are called. The earliest ones came a little bit before Abraham, and they established some of these cities along the coast. You have Gaza, Ashdod, Gath, Ekron, and these are primarily where they were located along the coast.
Then as we get into this period, the Philistines have begun to push north and east. They are coming now into the central highlands here in Israel. Now if you have not been to Israel, this is pretty rugged terrain—all through here.
Here in Texas, if you go out north of Fredericksburg towards Llano and that area in the Hill Country, this is a lot more rugged than that. This is extremely rugged terrain. We will see this a little later. I have some photos to show you.
So the Philistines have become quite a force. They were originally a mix of Greeks. In the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, it identifies them as from Caphtor, which is Crete. The Caphtorim were the descendants of Ham. The Greeks were the descendants of Japheth. They are a blend of people. They established themselves as sailors and pretty much controlled all of the maritime trade on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Philistines established these cities along the coast of Philistia, but they went north. The cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Phoenicia were all the same people. Later, when you have the conquest of the Greeks under Alexander, the Philistine peoples are going to be forced to leave. They go west. They establish a colony at Carthage and become the enemies of the Romans for quite a while, until the Romans finally subdued them. That gives you some history and background on the Philistines.
At this point this is probably some years after Saul was anointed at Gilgal. We do not know how long, because we have lost the numbers in 1 Samuel 13:1. He was anointed at Gilgal. This is the area down along the Jordan River. This was when the Israelites first crossed into the land. This is where they set up rock cairns, to memorialize coming across the Jordan.
Gilgal is where the Israelites renewed their commitment to God. It is where all of the men who had been born in the wilderness period were all circumcised, as they were now entering into the land, as a sign that they were under the Covenant with God. Gilgal is a significant place for the nation to come together for purposes of their devotion to God, as well as purposes related to the defense of the nation. This happens several times.
Saul is going to face a second test of his leadership. He had to handle a problem with the Ammonites, which we saw in 1 Samuel 11, as he saved the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead. He is going to face a second major test. Remember, the primary role of the Messiah-King is to protect the people from their enemies and to provide for the liberty and the freedom of the people.
That is a great principle. That is true for any head of state, for any government. That is the primary mission for government, according to Scripture under Divine Institution #5, which has to do with the nations. It is the job of the government to protect the nation, to secure the borders, to provide the defense for the citizens, from external enemies, as well as internal enemies, in other words, crime.
This is the role that Saul has. This is, of course, a picture of the ultimate role of God’s Messiah-King who is going to provide eternal salvation for His people. He is going to protect them, as such, from the ravages of sin and provide redemption for them. He is also going to provide genuine liberty for believers.
Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
The “yoke of bondage” is legalism. Legalism is what the Pharisees succumbed to—this idea of just going through the external acts of obedience. It is what led to an external religious form. There was no internal relationship with God. There was no real love for the Lord.
We have to note that within Scripture freedom is not independence from God’s authority. Freedom and liberty are mutually exclusive. A lot of people think that freedom means you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. But liberty brings in the concept of personal responsibility.
- To the degree that people are free the others lose liberty.
- To the degree that people have liberty we limit our freedom.
We are not free to do whatever we want. True freedom leads to anarchy. We believe in liberty. This was understood by the Founding Fathers of this nation.
Their fight was for liberty, not for autonomy, not for a pure anarchic type of freedom. Liberty is freedom spiritually from the sin nature, but it is not freedom to do whatever we want to do. It is the freedom to choose to obey God.
This is what we find in passages like Romans 6:16–17, where Paul says:
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.”
Obedience to the Lord out of love is the opposite of legalism. Legalism is that superficial externalism that Saul had fallen into, that the Pharisees had fallen into, and that so many Christians fall into. It is a trap that if I just go through the checklist, then I am okay with God.
But our relationship with God is a matter of the heart. This is why God says many times to the Jews that He desired obedience rather than sacrifice. Sacrifice was following the standards of the Law, but there was not necessarily any obedience that went along with it.
A problem that we have with a lot of Christians today is that they think that obedience is somehow legalistic. I do not know if you have heard it, but I have heard Christians say that all this talk about obedience, the things I need to do, that I need to be obedient in the Christian life. This is just legalism. I am free. Grace has freed me from legalism. I do not have to do that.
No, you do not have to do that for your salvation, but you do have to be obedient in order to grow spiritually and to avoid the consequences of sin. We may be forgiven eternally from the consequences of our sin. And we may be forgiven whenever we confess our sins. But that does not mean that the consequences are not ours. The issue of obeying God and it being linked to love for God is found throughout the Scriptures.
For example, we read in Deuteronomy 5:10, God is speaking. He says, “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Notice the connection there. Loving God means you keep His commandments. So often today we have people who sing wonderful little choruses that make them feel all warm and fuzzy, “Oh, How I Love Jesus.” Yet there is no obedience in their life at all. Scripture says the barometer to determine whether you love Jesus is whether you are obedient to Jesus. The barometer for lack of love is disobedience, a failure to walk with the Lord and to obey Him.
Deuteronomy 6:17, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.”.
But this is not to become saved. This is how the saved people of Israel, the people of God, are to live as people of God. This is about their spiritual life, their sanctification, not about their ultimate justification.
Deuteronomy 7:9, “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Notice the connection again between loving Him and keeping His commandments.
Deuteronomy 11:22, “For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I commanded you to do—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—”
See the connection between keeping His commandments and loving the Lord? The two go together.
Deuteronomy 13:4, “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
A lot of these same terms we saw as we were going through the covenant language that was in 1 Samuel 12 last week. Walking after the Lord means to keep His commandments and serving Him.
The reason I did this—that is all from Deuteronomy—is somebody is going to say that it is just legalism—that is from the Law that we have to obey Him.
But wait a minute. Let’s see what Jesus says to the disciples in what is called the Upper Room Discourse, the night before He goes to the Cross. There He is clearly, from John 13 on, giving His disciples instructions for what the code of conduct would be in the Church Age.
In John 14:15 Jesus sounds so Deuteronomic, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
If we want to have a closer relationship with the Lord, we walk in obedience. That demonstrates our love for Him.
In John 15:10 Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” That is fellowship. That is not talking about salvation or the loss of salvation. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
I believe that John’s first epistle is his deep reflection upon what Jesus said in the Upper Room Discourse. He uses the same language all the way through it. It is just remarkable.
He says in 1 John 2:3, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
There is that barometer. Some people think that knowing Jesus is what happens when you trust in Him. We often hear that in our evangelical slang. We say, “Do you know Jesus?” But when Jesus was talking to Thomas and the other disciplines in John 14:3–11, Philip said, “We’ve seen You, show us the Father.” Jesus says, “if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. How long have I been with you, Philip, do you not know Me?”
He is talking to a disciple who is a believer. He says, “don’t you know Me?”
Knowing Jesus is something that happens after we are saved, as we come to know who He is. We demonstrate our love for Him as we walk in obedience. That relationship gets closer and closer. Knowing Jesus is not justification. Knowing Jesus is what develops in our spiritual growth and spiritual life. That is how we know we are growing spiritually, that we’ve come to know Him, is that we keep His commandments. That is the barometer.
1 John 2:4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
We see that this problem, that has been a perennial problem for believers throughout the ages, is walking in obedience to the Lord and not succumbing to legalism on the one hand, which just imposes a superficial external standard that if we can just check off our terrible two things we never do, or fearsome five, or nasty nine, or whatever the list is. That is just externalism.
The other extreme is licentiousness—where we just think I am free in Christ and I can do whatever I want to do. Neither of those is biblical.
Those are the poles of our sin nature. We either swing towards legalism and asceticism; or we swing in the opposite direction towards licentiousness and antinomianism. But walking with the Lord means that we are going to demonstrate our love for Him by learning the Word and growing and maturing.
So Saul is faced with this problem because he does not know the Lord. What is interesting in this chapter is we do not see him responding to the threat by looking for Samuel. We do not see him responding to the threat by seeking Samuel’s wisdom or calling upon the name of the Lord. He does not have any of that language here. He is handling the situation and circumstances all on his own.
For application, as we look at any of these battle situations in the Old Testament, I want you to think of this in terms of the spiritual battle that we are in in our life. That is where we see a transfer for application. The interpretation that we see in 1 Samuel 13 is the writer of Samuel is showing us the need for David, the need for another kind of king. That is what we will get to before the chapter ends.
Saul is a king like all the people wanted, like all the nations, but he is not the kind of king that should rule God’s people. He is not a king like David. What is going to distinguish them, as we will see in this chapter, is David is going to be identified by God as a man after His own heart. That means a man who desires above all things to do God’s will.
Did David fail? Sure he did, miserably! But throughout it all, he still was a man who wanted to do God’s will in His life. That should hopefully characterize most of us. We fail miserably at times!
If you are a human being, and you have a sin nature, you are going to fail miserably at times. But God’s grace provides the solution always. Christ died on the Cross for every sin no matter what it is. All sin is paid for at the Cross. There is always recovery.
But God wants a man and a woman who desires to know Him above everything else, and to do His will. You will have ups and downs. You will have times of failure; maybe gross failure, just as David did. He had gross failure, but God’s conclusion throughout His life was that no matter how bad David was, David still wanted to please God, even when he was in full-scale rebellion. That is true too often for too many of us.
So what we see here is that Saul is not seeking a solution from Samuel, but on His own. We read in 1 Samuel 13:2, “Saul chose for himself three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in the mountains of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent away, every man to his tent.”
Where did he get the idea to do that? Does this remind you of anybody? It is sort of reminiscent of Gideon, is it not?
Gideon was up against a much larger force. He was up against 135,000 Midianites. He started off with about 32,000. God got rid of 22,000. He was down to 10,000. Then he got rid of 9,700. He was down to 300—300 against 135,000. Those were the odds that he was facing.
I do not know that this was part of Saul’s thinking or not. But Saul, just in the previous chapter, had a huge number of Israelites with him. He had 330,000 according to 1 Samuel 11:8, and he sends them all home, except for three thousand (1 Samuel 13:1–2). Saul cuts his force down by 90%. He had 3,000 left with him. He takes 2,000 and goes to Michmash. Then he is going to leave 1,000 under Jonathan and sends Jonathan to Gibeah of Benjamin.
If we are going to understand this, then we are going to have to look at a map. I love maps. This is an interesting map because this is the topographical map. You can see the ridgelines here. What I want you to notice is that you can see this dark line that runs just above Tell Miryam. It runs east to west through Tell Miryam, and just south of the red star, which is Michmash. Then it runs down here through this wadi. This is the path of Michmash. That is where the next chapter is going to take place. It is rugged, horribly rugged terrain.
We have Geba that is mentioned. Notice we have almost a straight line here. Here is Gibeah of Saul. Some commentators think they are the same place, but they are not.
Those of you who were with me on the last trip to Israel will remember when Joel drove us through this area. Joel Kramer is an archeologist over there who went with us who had a throw-away line that nobody caught. He said Geba is not Gibeah. They are two different places. I filed that away, because I said I am doing Samuel, and I am going to get to Geba is not Gibeah.
Down here to the south is Jerusalem. Here is our scale in the bottom southeast corner. See, this is six miles. From Jerusalem to Gibeah of Saul is about four and a half miles. It is not very far. It is just on the outskirts of modern Jerusalem. You drive right up the highway. Here is Ramah (which is Samuel’s hometown) to the north of Jerusalem. If you look at this, you are looking at a direct line. If you’re standing here to the southwest of Gibeah and you’re looking to the northeast, you’ll see Ramah. Then you will see Geba. Then you will see Michmash.
I do not see how people taught this without pictures and maps. This is Gibeah of Saul in the foreground where the ancient site was. Then across here you see Geba. And then on the far horizon you see Michmash.
See how they are aligned? Does that not look like attractive land? Do you want to buy some land there?
That is in the West Bank. It is pretty dry and arid. But this gives you an idea of the proximity of these villages in the ancient world.
The description here is that Saul pulls out and goes to the northeast. He takes up a defensive position on this ridge up by Michmash. What you do not see here is that there is a tremendous chasm that runs through here. Saul has a defensive position over here because he can use the terrain to keep the Philistines from attacking him.
The Philistines have their outpost here at Geba. Saul has taken up a position on the far side. Then Jonathan has 1,000 here in Gibeah of Saul, Saul’s hometown, in the forefront. What we see here is a classic situation where Saul sets up a defensive position. You can never win a war on defense. You cannot win a football game if all you have is defense. You cannot win anything if all you have is defense. You have to have offense.
In the spiritual life, we have to understand where we are on the offense and where we are on the defense. By application there are three enemies in the spiritual life:
- The first enemy is our own worst enemy. That is our sin nature.
- The second enemy is the world system.
- The third enemy is the devil.
Satan is the real inspiration of the world system. The world system is all the thoughts and values, ideas, religions, and philosophies that make up cultures. They influence us from the time we are babies. We are influenced by a lot of cultural ideas and human viewpoint thinking from our parents, our peers, our professors all the way through school. That makes up the world that influences us.
Romans 12:2 says we are “not to be conformed to the world,” but we have our minds conformed all those years before we are even saved. We have to do something about that. Then we have the problem with the sin nature. The world and the sin nature are enemies that we are to aggressively attack. We are to be on the offense against the sin nature and against the world.
Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
There are a couple of things you need to know there. First, we either live according to the flesh, or we live according to the Spirit. This is the same thing Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts (deeds) of the flesh.”
We either walk according to the flesh or the sin nature, or we are walking according to the Spirit. What we are to do is to walk according to the Spirit and by the Spirit, who works with the Word of God. We put to death the deeds of the body, the deeds of the sin nature. We are to be aggressive at putting to death the deeds of the sin nature. We are to be on a search and destroy mission for our whole life. We are not real good at it. Fortunately though, God forgives us and meets us with grace.
This is an offensive action. In Romans 12:2 we take the offense against the world. We are “not to be conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
James 4:4, “Adulterers and adulteresses!”
James learned from his half-brother Jesus how to win friends and influence people. He is writing to the recipients of this epistle. He calls them “adulterers and adulteresses” because they like all of us, are unfaithful to God—sometimes not so much, sometimes a lot. He says that their problem is that they are worldly. They are thinking like the world. He says: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
You cannot have it both ways. We have a lot of Christians that try to be friends with the world and think like the world. There is not a lot of antagonism between their co-workers or their children or their family members. They just want to go along to get along. James says you cannot do that. Friendship with the world is hostility towards God.
“Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
You can be a Christian and an enemy of God because you are failing to deal with the worldly thinking in your own soul.
2 Corinthians 10:3–4 talks about this same battle. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” That is an aggressive action. That is using military imagery to talk about an attacking fortress, dismantling it, and taking it down.
This is further developed in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
“Every thought.” The way you think about engineering. The way you think about mathematics.
You never thought about that did you?
If God created everything, then in God’s own mind He is thinking about the creation of the whole world according to mathematical paradigms and equations. He created arithmetic, mathematics, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and much, much more, all within His mind.
You can think about these things in a biblical way or in a non-biblical way. We have to bring every thought into captivity. That is mathematics, philosophy, literature, politics, law; that is every single area of intellectual activity in human existence. It has to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
We are to take aggressive action.
But there is one area where we do not take aggressive action. We do not take aggressive action against the devil and the demons. We do not because the Scripture says we do not. It says we do not because they are invisible. It is hard to attack an enemy you cannot see. What the Scripture says in Ephesians 6:10ff is three times: we are to stand fast, we are to withstand, we are to stand fast—all based on the same word in the Greek, which means to hold a defensive position. It does not mean to go out.
So who is on the offensive?
Jesus is. He can handle the enemy that we cannot. We cannot see it. We are to take the defensive position, and He comes around and operates on the offensive. That may be what Saul has going on here because he has taken up a defensive position. But the one who has the maneuverability is Jonathan.
So Jonathan attacks the garrison of the Philistines in Geba, and he defeats it. This really shakes up the Philistines. They react with great anger and hostility. As soon as Saul hears about it he blows the trumpet and sends out messengers throughout all the land for the Hebrews to know that they have defeated the Philistines. There is only one thing the Philistines can do. That is they have to react.
Jonathan has done the right thing the right way. He has trusted in the Lord. We know from all the passages, and what is coming up in 1 Samuel 13 that he feared the Lord. He is trusting in the Lord in the midst of the battle.
But a lot of times when we trust the Lord and we do the right thing, it does not make things better. It makes things worse. We go from the frying pan into the fire, as it were, and things get a lot tougher, because we are living in the devil’s world. The devil is going to react when any believer starts walking with the Lord.
I have highlighted a couple of words here, because in the Hebrew text they stand out. It is the word “hear”. The Philistines “heard” about it. Saul sends out an announcement, 1 Samuel 13:3–4, “Let the Hebrews hear!”
Then when “all Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of the Philistines,” then they realize that Israel had become an abomination to the Philistines.
Now the Philistines are really angry. It is going to get even worse. That is a note of encouragement for believers because sometimes we live through situations in our life, and we say, “Lord, I am trusting You, I am obeying You” but it just keeps getting worse. But God is still in control. God’s strength is still available to us. Things are going to get worse in this situation, as Israel faces the Philistines.
We go back to our map. Here is Gilgal. All of this is taking place over here between Gibeah and Geba. Saul is on the north side of that east-west Michmash pass. He is going to head to Gilgal to rally the troops. The Philistines are going to go back. They are going to gather their troops. They are going to come into the hill country with their troops to put down this insurrection by the Israelites.
This is kind of interesting. Pay attention to what is going on here. 1 Samuel 13:5, “Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots.”
Now that is a lot of chariots! In that rugged terrain that is not chariot terrain. That is not tank terrain. If you think in terms of the military, you have to have wide-open plains to have tank warfare. Chariots were the same kind of thing. In fact, there is a problem with this number.
The Septuagint and some other ancient manuscripts have 3,000 chariots, which makes sense, because the 6,000 horsemen are not cavalry, they are the charioteers. If you have 6,000 charioteers and 3,000 chariots it makes a lot more sense because then you would have two charioteers, one who is the driver and one who is the archer. That would make sense.
So the Philistines are not coming in with 30,000 chariots. They are coming in with 3,000. They are still vastly outnumbering the Israelites. They would have had others as well.
The Philistines come with 3,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people as the sand, which is on the seashore. That is the supporting infantry troops. They are coming in to totally knock down the Israelites. The Philistines set up and “encamped between Michmash to the east of Beth Aven.”
1 Samuel 13:6, “When the men of Israel saw that,” look at their response. Are they saying the battle is the Lord’s? No, because Saul has completely failed as a leader. Saul can neither identify the problem, nor identify the solution. If you cannot identify the problem, you will never identify the solution. He is a lot like the politicians we have today. They cannot identify the problem. They cannot identify the solution. They are just worthless.
What happens is the people they are supposed to lead are scared to death. They look out there on the horizon and they see all kinds of problems.
- We see the rise of ISIS.
- We see the increasing debt.
- We see problems going on with refugees that are flooding the country and that can change everything.
We see all these problems. But we have leaders who because of their worldview and their disobedience toward God, and rebellion against biblical truth, cannot properly identify the problem. They cannot even come close to a solution. All they are doing is making matters worse. That is basically what was going on with Saul.
The picture we see here is the Israelites are scared to death! The New King James translates it “distressed,” but they are oppressed or under pressure. Just like you and I come under pressure with various things in life. We make bad decisions. That is what is happening here. They are under bad decisions.
So what do they do? They hide! You would think it would be enough to say they hid in caves, or they hid out from the enemy. But the writer really drills it. He says that they “… hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits,” 1 Samuel 13:6.
The Israelites were finding any hole they could get into and pulling it in over them. They were afraid of the Philistines. 1 Samuel 13:7, “And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan …”
They just wanted to leave and get out of the hot zone. They went “to the land of Gad and Gilead” on the eastside of the Jordan. “As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.”
They are out of control. They do not know how to trust God. He is not doing anything. The correct response would be to wait on the Lord.
Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” But it is not easy to wait. Saul is probably not unlike some of us. He does not have a whole lot of patience. He is waiting for Samuel to come. How he knows Samuel was coming we do not know. I do not think there is a connection back to 1 Samuel 10, because too much has gone on in between for that to fit into a six-day period.
In 1 Samuel 10:8, Samuel had told Saul at that time to wait seven days for him at Gilgal. But you do not have the battle with the Ammonites, the coronation and anointing at Gilgal, all of that could not take place within a six-day period, and the initial events in 1 Samuel 13.
I think this is a completely separate event, but Saul does not know how to wait on the Lord. Psalm 33:20, “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” But we do not see Saul relaxing and waiting on the Lord. He is panicky. He is waiting for Samuel. Samuel does not show up by the time said. Saul gets impatient.
- I am going to take over.
- I am going to go through the motions.
- I am showing that I am religious, too.
- I am going to go through the external actions.
- I am going to carry out the sacrifices.
Saul was not authorized to do that because He was not a Levitical priest.
1 Samuel 13:9, “So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering and peace offering here to me ...’ ”, which they did.
1 Samuel 13:10, “As soon as he had finished …” Now what a coincidence! As soon as Saul is finished, there comes Samuel. This is the crux of the chapter.
1 Samuel 13:11, “What have you done?” Samuel says. Then Saul gives his excuse, “When I saw the people …” Notice, the reasons he gives for being in a hurry are good reasons. They are legitimate reasons, but they do not justify disobedience to God. Saul says:
- The people were scattering from me. I had to hold them together. They were beginning to leave.
- You did not come within the time appointed. Samuel was just a little bit late.
- The Philistines were gathering together at Michmash. The forces were coming against us. We needed to do something. We needed to be in a hurry.
Saul forgot to wait on the Lord. He went ahead. He made his decision. He offered a burnt offering, totally outside the will of God. Now he is going to reap the consequences.
1 Samuel 13:13, “And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly.’ ” What is the definition of wisdom in the Scripture? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” but the fool is the one who does not fear the Lord. Saul has not feared the Lord. His heart is not after the Lord like God wants.
“ ‘You have done foolishly’ ” Samuel says. “ ‘You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.’ ”
That is one of those “what ifs.” God knows everything that is knowable. He knows that if Saul had been obedient, then he would have given him the kingdom, but Saul was not obedient.
In 1 Samuel 13:14, Samuel says, “But now your kingdom shall not continue …” This is the first time it is announced that he is going to lose the kingdom. Samuel says, “The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart …”
This whole chapter is about this verse, to show the need for David—that Saul is not the right kind of leader that God wants for Israel. He gave Saul to be the king like the people wanted. That is often what God does. He has given us many times presidents who were according to what we desired. But they were not the kind of men who should lead the nation. That is what we need. Not someone like the people want, but that is what we are going to get.
“ ‘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.’ ”
So what happens?
1 Samuel 13:15, “Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men.” He has 600 men left, and that sets the stage for the next part of the battle, which we will cover next time in 1 Samuel 14.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and to reflect upon Your grace—that in Your grace You provided a Savior who paid the penalty for our sins in a salvation that is not based on what we do or who we are. It is not based on legalistic obedience. It is based simply on trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. To believe in Him is all that is necessary to have eternal life.
Father, thank You for what we have learned here—the lessons that we have learned—lessons related to leadership, lessons related to government, lessons related to the importance of living a life where we are walking with You, walking in obedience to You, and not just going through the external motions. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”