The Test - I Samuel 13
Rev. Dr. Ernest Brodie Jr.
Whenever we take a stand for God, we can expect temptations and attacks to follow. Shortly after Saul was anointed king over Israel, he set up a small army of 3,000 soldiers (1 Samuel 13:1-2). This tiny army was more like a security force than a regular army. One third of this force followed Jonathan, Saul’s son.
Within a short time, Jonathan attacked the Philistine garrison in Gibeah (1 Samuel 13:3a). Gibeah is located in central Israel, north of Jerusalem. Jonathan strongly objected to a Philistine fort in the heart of Israel and clearly saw this as an attempt to cut Israel in half. All trade to and from the city of Jerusalem would go through this Philistine fort. Not until David took Jerusalem did the people of Israel control the city. The Philistines used various outposts to control the Jewish people. Jonathan had enough of the Philistines and destroyed the garrison in Gibeah.
Jonathan’s attack of Gibeah stirred up the entire Philistine army forcing Saul to blow the warning trumpet calling every able-bodied man to war (1 Samuel 13:3b-4). The Philistines responded to the attack by gathering a great force of chariots, horseman, and infantry (1 Samuel 13:5-7). There were thousands of chariots and 6,000 horsemen. The chariots of the ancient world were the tanks of the day. Israel had no military equipment and stayed on the side of the mountain to avoid being reached by the chariots. They were at a great disadvantage. The majority of Saul’s army responded to the sight of the Philistines by running away or hiding. Despite choosing a king to fight their battles, they were in danger of being annihilated. Often our best attempt at preparing for the worst falls short when that day comes.
Saul took matters into his own hands (1 Samuel 13:8-10). He was ordered to wait seven days until Samuel arrived to make a sacrifice. It was important to receive God’s blessings before undertaking activities involving the sacred duties which Saul was entrusted with. When Samuel did not show up, Saul took things into his own hands and made the offering. When God instructs us to wait on Him, it is imperative that we wait.
As soon as Saul completed the offering, Samuel appeared. Instead of admitting his wrong doing in disobeying the word of the Lord, Saul made excuses (1 Samuel 13:11-12). Samuel quickly challenged King Saul by saying “What have you done?” There was no room for the disobedience of God’s people to God’s commands. Saul came up with three excuses. First he blamed his army for scattering. It was their fault he had to act. Then he blamed Samuel. It was Samuel’s fault for being old and taking too long to get there. If Samuel had made it there in a timely fashion, Saul would not have been forced to act. Saul finally blamed the presence of the Philistines. He felt the urgency of the situation allowed him to take matters into his own hands. Samuel’s response showed how God saw Saul’s excuses.
Samuel’s words sharply rebuked Saul (1 Samuel 13:13-14). He revealed that Saul acted in a very foolish manner in disobeying the word of the Lord. In fact, it would even cost Saul his kingdom. The Lord would replace Saul because he failed to obey.
For Saul, things went from very bad to worse. An immense army stood before Israel. God was now angry with him. His army had scattered leaving him virtually alone with only 600 men (1 Samuel 13:15). The Philistines sent out three companies of soldiers to test the strength of Saul’s army. Soon it was reported that the Jewish army was unable to stand against them and a full-scale attack would ensue.
In 1 Samuel 13:19-23, it was revealed that only Saul and Jonathan possessed swords. None of the Israelites had the ability to forge iron or sharpen tools. The Philistines controlled the ability to create weapons and do metal work. This left the Jewish people at a great disadvantage. At this time, they appeared to be only a few hours from certain death. Having a king really made a difference. Saul failed the test along with the rest of Israel.