And that, apparently, is what Saul did not have, or, if he once had it, he had lost it. So as much as I feel for Saul, as much as I sympathize with Saul... he didn’t really obey.
Ironically, one of the things I recall about my childhood was my mother quoting me, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Of course, I had no idea where she got this warning, and I didn’t know enough to realize she “kind of pulled it out of context” … when I delayed working on my chores to do something else worthwhile. But she DID KNOW that somewhere in the Bible, God made a point about obedience.
God also used Samuel to make a point about obedience…1 Samuel 15: 29-35. We don’t like to think about God in this way, but God is serious about this obedience thing.
Here is what I want us to remember about King Saul in the early part of his reign. He was a noteworthy military leader; he was competent; he was fairly popular with the people in his kingdom. He was a lot like we would HOPE to be if we were chosen to be King. And…we can relate to Saul in our world.
You see, we have a constant problem with listening; we are bombarded with a variety of voices pulling us from one side to another of any given issue. We yearn to understand clearly what God wants, but there is no Samuel to tell us. Since we often have trouble listening to God, the whole concept of obedience has become less and less of an issue.
So, how do we listen? In churchy words… “with our heart.” What we call “the heart” is a fairly dependable instrument of God's will … leading us in God's way. It is dependable when we listen to our heart. It strikes me that most of the times I have been in trouble - times when I have done something I later regretted - were times when I did not listen to my heart. They were times when I second-guessed what I knew deep inside was right, or when I yielded to pressure from others to do something which my heart told me was not the wisest thing to do. Every time, hindsight tells me, I should have trusted my heart.
I believe God has put a good heart in us, to help us listen for the word and will of God. Yet, like Saul, fear and anxiety, harsh experience, and self-interest, can keep us from trusting our heart… and in some cases, we become so apathetic and cynical that our heart is eroded away. Is that what happened to Saul? I don't know. I just know that Saul forgot to listen and obey. Maybe we can learn something from these Old Testament kings…