“And Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ Saul said, ‘When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.’” 1 Samuel 13:11–12
After Saul had been king for about two years he chose from the men of Israel three thousand men to be his standing army. Two thousand he kept with himself at Michmash and the mountains of Bethel, and the remaining one thousand were commanded by Saul’s oldest son Jonathan at Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the men of Israel were sent back to their homes.
Not long after Jonathan was given command of his thousand he led them in an attack on the Philistine garrison in Geba. Saul realizing that the Philistines would not let Jonathan’s attack go unanswered commanded for trumpets to be blown through out the land calling for all the men to hear and come and join Saul in fighting the Philistines.
We don’t know how men of Israel answered the call but Samuel does tell us that the Philistine army they faced was thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and a numberless host of foot soldiers. The size of the Philistine army was enough to send the people of Israel running and hiding in the forests and caves with others choosing to cross over the Jordan River to be refugees in the region of Gad and Gilead.
Everyone following after Saul were greatly afraid and everyday the number of deserters was increasing. Saul had set a time for the prophet Samuel to offer sacrifice for the people and after he had waited seven days and the appointed time had arrived Samuel was not there. Saul, seeing the people’s fear and, himself, fearing that Samuel would not come, offered the burnt offering himself.
Just as soon as the offering had been made Samuel arrived.
“Saul! What have you done?”
“When you had not come I was afraid that we would have to face the Philistines without have made supplication to God by sacrifice so I offered it myself.”
Saul had been anointed as commander-in-chief and judge of Israel; he was neither a priest or a prophet. His presumption in taking to himself duties not given him by God was directly disobedient to God’s instructions and would have serious consequences. The impact of the example of leadership upon those looking to them is profound and God cannot allow abuses to go unanswered.
Samuel’s next words to Saul were that, because of Saul’s disobedience, God would not establish his family to be kings after him as he had planned.
An essential component of obedience is patience. Far too often we’re not willing to wait for the right time, place, or people and we disobediently rush ahead. But scripture promises that if we wait patiently God will reward that patient obedience with his blessing.