We all know that David was a man after God’s own heart, but when it came to seeking the divine guidance of God, King Saul was an exemplar.
This is something I noticed as I was studying and writing my newest and yet to be released book, Elusive God.
As I began to study the life of Saul, I found that he simply wasn’t turning out to be or act like the man I had always pictured in my head. He was kind, humble, and most importantly, a man who constantly sought God before making any major decision.
You may not believe me, but it is true, especially so when thinking of his younger years. Consider 1 Samuel 11. Here Saul hears that the people of the city of Jabesh are under threat of attack by the Ammonites. When he hears of the matter, the Spirit of God comes upon him and he rescues them. Saul doesn’t just jump to their defense. He first is moved by the Spirit, then he defends. He isn’t one to simply go without feeling that God is guiding him.
In 1 Samuel 13 (we’ll look again at this later), Saul is about to go to battle with the Philistines, a constant theme of his life as they are his arch enemy. The prophet Samuel had told him to wait seven days at which point he would arrive and ask God for His favor and direction. Samuel is a no show and the men of Israel and Judah are beginning to flee in fear.
What does Saul do? He doesn’t just run foolheartedly into battle. No, he first makes a sacrifice to God, seeking His face and hoping to get a blessing to proceed into battle. He simply will not go without first seeking God. It was of the utmost importance to him.
The same is true in chapter 14 as Saul fears that the people have brought down a divine curse by eating meat with blood still mixed in it, a major “no no” for any Israelite to do. This happens on the brink of an impending battle with the Philistines. He knows that a curse from God is certain to bring about their defeat. So, what does he do? He again offers a sacrifice, this time in hopes of appeasing his angry God (he at least assumes God is angry).
Later on in his life, even after he has gone mad and lost everything, Saul still desires to seek God’s favor. In 1 Samuel 28, Saul is nearing the end of his reign over the people of God. He is again in need of guidance from above due to the Philistines. But Samuel is dead and God has seemed to cut off all communications with Saul. He is desperate. He goes to a witch who conjures up the ghost of Samuel who them reminds Saul of what God had already told him…it doesn’t go well for Saul; the news isn’t what he wants to hear.
The point is Saul, at nearly every turn, was a man who sought God. He pursued God, often unwilling to make a move or a decision without first hearing from Him either by a dream, a prophetic utterance, the Urim and the Thummim or by a sacrifice.
For those of you who are familiar with the story, you know that Saul, despite his initial humility and his pursuit of God, still managed to lose it all. We will take a look a this part of his life as well as other parts.
But for now, I want to just meditate on the parts of Saul’s life and person that are often overlooked, or never really seen. As I stated above, Saul is a God-seeker, an exemplar of what it means to pursue God and His will for your life. Few match his passion and fervor.
However, one common theme throughout his life is that Saul seeks God because Saul is afraid.
The Philistines are constantly threatening, looming over his kingdom, causing him to be afraid.
His men eat meat with blood…and he is afraid that God has cursed them.
Once his son, Jonathan, ate honey after Saul had forbidden his soldiers to eat anything…and he is afraid of a curse.
Eventually the fear that once drove him to God will drive him to madness and even the mass murder of priests.
But that is for another time.