Saul chose three thousand out of Israel; two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin; the rest of the people he sent home to their tents. Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba; and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, ‘Let the Hebrews hear!’ When all Israel heard that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines, the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.
The Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude; they came up and encamped at Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. When the Israelites saw that they were in distress (for the troops were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns. Some Hebrews crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
He waited for seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt-offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.’ And he offered the burnt-offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt-offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said, “Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favour of the Lord”; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt-offering.’ Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which he commanded you. The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.’ And Samuel left and went on his way from Gilgal. The rest of the people followed Saul to join the army; they went up from Gilgal towards Gibeah of Benjamin.
I hate waiting. It’s just so difficult. Whether the situation I’m facing is something good or something bad, I simply hate waiting. Especially if what I’m waiting for is a person as, quite frankly, I’m not good at team-work and I’d rather make my own decisions, for better or for worse.
Much like Saul then, in this passage. There he is, facing a difficult situation and the prophet he’s relying on isn’t there. Samuel has apparently let the king down, and Saul is frightened that he might be missing out if he goes on waiting. I can’t say I blame Saul – I’d be worried about that too. In this day and age, we’re always being told to take advantage of any ‘window of opportunity’ and I suspect that, in these circumstances, I would have acted in exactly the way Samuel did. I’d have taken decisions that weren’t mine to take and tried to make a good go of it.
However, I’d have been wrong. Like Saul. Because sometimes, the waiting isn’t a test from God to see how committed we are to action (of any kind). Sometimes waiting is part of the journey we’re on towards God Himself. After all, Jesus waited thirty years before embarking on His great mission. What’s a few days’ waiting, or a few months’ waiting? Years even? God is eternal and sometimes we need to be willing to let Him have His way with us, simply by doing nothing.
Because when we give God the gift of our time, when we choose to stop the frantic activity (and make-believe activity) which constitutes so much of our lives these days, then the blessings God will pour out on us will be beyond our wildest imaginings. They will even be eternal.
Dear Lord, thank You that You know all our times and places, and You have a wonderful plan for our whole lives. Help us to turn to You in the times of waiting and in the times of activity, so that You may bless us and those around us in the way You yearn to do. Amen.
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