1 Samuel 14:36
Yesterday I stood in front of 100 fellow professionals at a luncheon meeting with a full agenda, including the election of a new chair person for 2012. Incredibly, there was a tie vote, and we had to decide how to break the tie. In the haste of the situation, we decided that I, as the new Chair, would cast the deciding vote for my successor. It was an awkward moment, but I made my decision. I felt ambivalent about that exercise of power affecting the organization’s future. I wondered if the membership felt that it was done fairly and correctly.
The 14th Chapter of 1 Samuel is replete with the hasty and ill-considered use of power by one man. Saul like me, on a much greater scale, was faced with a sudden situation, and had to respond quickly. While he sits back, lounging under a tree, his son Jonathan, first conferring with God, and trusting in His power, boldly leads an army of one right into a patrol of Philistines. His slaying of them all stirs up confusion and panic among the enemy.
Saul belatedly responds, starts to confer with God, then cuts short the process to attack the enemy. Running the show impulsively and without God’s spirit of guidance, he nearly crashes the whole operation by denying his fighting troops the opportunity to eat during the day of battle, thus weakening them. At the end of the day, he compounds his foolishness by using God’s guidance, but applying it wrongly. He uses the ephod to identify Jonathan as the one who violated his injunction not to eat until the day’s end. Jonathan did not know of the injunction, and violated it innocently. Still, Saul, showing no discretion, and still not getting all the facts, or listening for God’s will, wants to kill his own son, the very hero he, Saul, could not be. Only the army itself, seeing the foolishness of its own King, rises up in opposition to save Jonathan.
The 14th chapter in summary shows that God gave victory to the Israelites in spite of Saul, not because of him.
I find myself often making quick decisions. The decisions can include how to resolve a conflict, how to set priorities, how to respond to an affront or criticism, how to spend time with my family or friends, or how to apply my time and energy to using my God given gifts.
Too often, like Saul, I sit back, play it safe, and fail to show up, when God wants me to take action to “advance the Kingdom.” Too often, I fail to confer with God, even in the urgency of the moment, to receive His guidance on how this situation is to be addressed, for His glory.
I can say: God doesn’t have time or interest in this small matter of mine. He’s busy dealing with much bigger or more important things. Or I can say: God gave me this wonderful brain and education. I can figure this out entirely on my own. Or I can say: I don’t have time to ask God about this. Something needs to be done now. Or I may say: This God-conferral thing is hocus-pocus. This is a real problem requiring real world action.
All these evasions or excuses are variations of one spiritual problem: a lack of faith. Faith comes from knowing who your God is, and what He does. David, unlike Saul, because he was friends with God, spent long periods of time in communication with Him. David delighted continuously in God, and trusted in Him, even when in the darkness of oppression or sin. David’s faith was possible because he decided to be in the presence of God, and to seek Him out every day. Saul was not that man.
I resolve, and I hope you resolve, to spend more conscious daily time in communication with God. Throughout the day, stop before acting, pause before deciding, and take a deep breath: God, what is your will in this situation? God, what would be the best approach in this problem? God, what would most honor you in making this choice? Then be silent for a moment so that you can feel that inner inclination or urging, or catch that little insight that will point you in the direction of God’s will.