The best dancers are those who listen for “pauses” and “transitions” in the music. They suspend their motion for that brief instant, using it to had power and “style” to the dance.
Saul’s struggle with God was that he was not listening “to God’s music.” Samuel, like a good dance instructor, could see the problem: Saul was out ahead of God, forcing the steps, moving against the rhythm of the music.
In the music of the Christian life, God leads the dance. We men know what it is like to dance with a woman who lacks trust or faith in her partner to lead the dance. She will start to lead, and the dance will disintegrate. Samuel the prophet saw a character flaw in Saul from the beginning. He insisted on taking charge during a time when God was leading a “pause” in the music.
The Philistines in this passage assembled an awesome military force to strike fear into the outnumbered Hebrews. Saul’s forces deserted the ranks “right and left.” Saul is to wait for the prophet Samuel to lead a sacrifice to God, and to seek God’s guidance for the impending battle. When Samuel does not appear on Saul’s schedule, Saul panics. He has to do something, and now. He takes the lead.
He steps outside of his role, and manipulates the sacrifice, insisting in effect that God operate on Saul’s schedule according to Saul’s wisdom. Samuel arrives “late,” sees the situation, and basically gives the verdict: this has been a crisis moment, and Saul has failed the ultimate test of faith: to wait “patiently” upon the Lord when everything in you screams to take action.
I get the sense that Saul was not a man of prayer. I sense that unlike David, he did not spend long hours and days at a time just rejoicing in the presence of his God. You feel that David had a passionate love relationship with God based on deep daily communication with Him. This distinction in their attitudes may account for the different outcomes in their military campaigns. David danced with the Lord and let the Lord lead his steps. When he stepped outside the dance routine, he acknowledged that error, and again followed God’s lead.
Following God’s lead can be like learning to dance: it requires attention and practice. It requires a “teachable” attitude. It requires a tolerance for one’s own imperfections, and a readiness to try again and again, according to the instructor’s guidance. Hopefully, at some point, the dancer forgets the steps, and simply moves to the feeling of the music.