The Choice To Obey

Have you ever wondered why God instigates, decrees, or allows things to happen that in His infinite knowledge of all things past, present, and future, He knows will not turn out well?

1 Samuel 8-15 tells the story of how Saul became Israel’s first king. The people asked for a king, rejecting the theocratic government that made them unique as God’s chosen nation. God grants their request and instructs Samuel to anoint the young man, Saul. Outwardly, Saul looks like a king, but inwardly he is spiritually weak.

God doesn’t need our physical abilities to serve His purposes. As Saul takes up his new role, God’s Spirit empowers him and changes his heart to want to be king (1 Samuel 10:6-10). What God does need, what we have a choice in, is our obedience. God gave Saul the chance to be king, but Saul’s success was dependent on how willing he was to follow God’s commands and ways.

Unfortunately, Saul failed. He was impatient, and acted rashly, taking Samuel’s role as prophet and priest by offering up sacrifices. He overstepped his authority, and his disobedience revealed a heart that was not submitted to God. He was immature, making foolish demands of his people, like forbidding them to eat until “I have avenged myself on my enemies;” this revealed a self-centeredness in his character. He also blatantly disobeyed Samuel’s instructions to completely destroy the Amalekites. He justified his disobedience in saving the best of the spoils, saying they would be offered as sacrifices. He thought he knew better than God and was actually surprised when Samuel rebuked him.

Samuel reminds Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Rebellion and insubordination against God are equal to witchcraft and idolatry, and Saul’s rebellion cost him the kingdom. He would rule for 40 years, but never again have God’s blessing. He would die a tormented, jealous, unhappy man.

1 Samuel 15:35 says the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. Other translations say God was sorry, or repented. The Hebrew word is nāḥam. It speaks of sorrow, pity, compassion, and can also mean to comfort oneself. God is not a man that He should change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29), but He does have emotions.

God always does what is right and good. He knew how Saul’s story would turn out, but in His sovereignty and wisdom, still made him king. Saul had the opportunity to obey God and rule well but wasted the gift God offered. This didn’t surprise God, but it still grieved His heart.

God is sovereign, and His purposes and plans for humanity will be fulfilled exactly as He has intended since He set them in motion by uttering the words, “Let there be light.” But along the way, He has given men and women a measure of free will in responding to the opportunities He offers to be part of His plan. We either participate willingly, surrendering in obedience and faith in Jesus Christ, or we participate unwillingly as He structures our lives to best accomplish His divine purposes, and reveal His glory and goodness.

What opportunities has God placed in your life to serve Him? What blessings has He sent your way, undeserved, unearned, and unexpected? How will you choose to respond? God works to reveal our hearts, not to Himself, but to us.

Deuteronomy 30:19 – I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.

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