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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Samuel 13

Verses 1-23

Waiting for Samuel

1 Samuel 13:11-9.13.12

I. A crisis which would try a stronger man than Saul showed himself to be had arisen. He had just made a bold stroke, and with a detachment out of his 3000 reserved men had driven out the Philistine garrison, quartered on his own tribe in Benjamin. It would have been better for him not to strike than to follow it up. But he finds himself at Gilgal confronted by an increased and increasing band of Philistines, with his own army, an unarmed and disorganized rabble, panic-stricken, demoralized, and constantly deserting. And here he was hampered by a tiresome restriction put upon him by Samuel, to wait for him seven days, until he came to offer sacrifice for him and the army. He waits seven days, in which his position was getting worse and worse, and Samuel did not come. At the end of the seven days he would wait no longer. At the end of the time appointed directly after Samuel came. We know Samuel's verdict. It was this 'Thou hast done foolishly. The kingdom shall not continue.'

II. I am speaking to those who have heard the call of God, and who have answered to a mysterious vocation; to men in whom their friends have seen, it may be, a natural aptitude for the sacred profession of the priesthood, who amidst such modest shrinking and sense of the greatness of the issues, have laid their powers at the disposal of the Almighty God, and have consecrated to Him any special faculty or talents which would the more fit them for His service. You are conscious that you are raised up to be leaders, directors, organizers, as you watch the passes which lead up from the plains and marshal your forces and count the odds. And one great advantage of a festival like this is that it recalls us to the council-chamber of God, and here, before the altar, bids us remember that we are under orders, and are carrying out the details of a campaign with which we are very imperfectly acquainted; and that the great danger we have to avoid is independent action starting from self-will, and impatience which refuses to wait for slower, but matured plans of God. 'Only look at the difficulty with which I am confronted. The secularist hall is full, the public-houses are fuller still. The churchmen, so-called, follow me trembling. And yet Samuel tells me to wait. Wait? I have had enough of waiting. I must do something at once, something more human, more up to date.' But had Samuel no scheme for rallying Israel. Do we really suppose that a great general thinks the battle lost if he cannot disperse at once a local pressure? Look deeper, and you will see his method to be this, where we should seek to improve man's condition, he seeks to improve man; that as the evil is deep-seated the remedy must be thorough. Improve man, and we shall improve his condition; believing in this the Church waits confidently for Samuel's methods, and is not diverted from her purpose by an impetuous Saul.

W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 118.

A Man After God's Own Heart

1 Samuel 13:14

Let us examine the meaning of this text, and see in what way David could deserve it. Let us compare the character of David with that of Saul. Saul was wilful, disobedient. This text gives us an account of why he was rejected by God. Samuel had desired him to wait, and had said that he would come and offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. The king would not wait, and he himself then offered sacrifices. Here was disobedience of the worst kind. Contrast the character of these two men and we shall see that, although some passages in the Psalmist's life were certainly very bad, and some in Saul's very good, we shall see that the roots of their characters were different. The life of David was one of faith and obedience, and the life of Saul one of godless independence.

I. The Life of David. His first appearance in public exhibits his zeal, his true character.

( a ) His Combat with Goliath. He viewed Goliath's insult in a light in which it was never seen by that godless Saul. It was defiance of the living Jehovah, and when he heard the defiance of the giant, he felt himself at once the champion of Jehovah. He saw Jehovah on his side, and knew that he should prevail. Few sentences are more striking for their simplicity and their courage than those in which David expresses before Saul, and then again before the giant himself, the ground upon which his courage depended. Here you see the true metal shining forth in his character, faith in God and zeal for His honour. And you will readily allow that in all His conduct faith in God forms such a leading feature as to make his character very like that which we should imagine to be especially after God's own heart.

( b ) Regard for the Lord's Anointed. If you look at the early days of David you will find another beautiful characteristic of him. He was anointed to be king over Israel as a boy, so that he must have known he was appointed to succeed Saul. Saul persecuted David, and he was obliged several times to flee for his life. Saul was several times in David's power, and yet he said: 'How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thy hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?'

( c ) In the Psalms of David we see a more vivid picture than could perhaps be anywhere else found of a mind waiting upon God, looking away from itself, trusting in Him, blessing Him in trouble, and blessing Him in prosperity, of a mind of which the motive power is faith in God and submission to Him. After his fall, when repentance and sorrow had enabled him to see his sin in its true colours, when he bemoans his sin, it is not his sin in any of the inferior lights in which it might be viewed. All other views of sin vanish before this, that it was an offence against God. A man's vice may bring misery to himself, it may ruin his health and bring him to beggary, but he who looks at wickedness as God looks at it, must see it in the light in which it appeared to David.

II. The Character of Saul. He, too, was brave. What, then, spoiled his character? It was simply the opposite of what I have described. When Samuel came not, he must needs be priest himself. When Goliath came out and defied the armies of Israel, he did not offer to go out himself. He offered a reward to any one who would meet the giant, but it never occurred to him that the Philistines had defied Jehovah, and that he who went out was the avenger of Israel, and would have the victory which belonged to the champion of God. Saul was sent to destroy the Amalekites. He kept the best part of the spoil and then blamed the people. When Saul found himself deserted by the Spirit of the Lord, he must needs have access to unlawful means of gaining, as he believed, help in his trouble. He never thought of asking help of the oracle of the Lord. These are some of the features of Saul's life, and without wishing to depreciate such good qualities as he possessed, I think we may justly hold him forth as a specimen of a man self-dependent, wilful, strikingly deficient in those qualities which formed the beauty of David's character faith in God, humble waiting upon Him, and submission to His divine will.

When we contrast the two characters we can easily see that, without speaking lightly of his great sin, we may nevertheless say in truth that the character, in the main features of it, was after the mind of God, that David may lightly be spoken of as a man after God's own heart.

References. XIII. 13, 14. Bishop H. Goodwin, Parish Sermons, p. 136. XIII. 14. R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons for the Christian Year, p. 300. XIII. 19. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 31. XIII. 20. Spurgeon, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 322. XIV. 6. J. G. Greenhough, Comradeship and Character, p. 187. XIV. 23. H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, 1900, p. 140. XV. 2, 3, 6 J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (2nd Series), p. 204.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-samuel-13.html. 1910.