Saul was the king. He struggled with his temper, especially when it came to David. That kid just annoyed him. Always with the top of every list. Songwriter, singer, soldier. Most eligible bachelor. James Dean kind of outlaw look, except this rebel had a cause.
But it wasn’t David that took Saul’s job. Saul lost it.
He went to battle at God’s direction. In one of the violent scenes we don’t understand, Saul killed all the people as he was told. But he and his soldiers didn’t kill the best of the sheep and cattle as they had been told.
Samuel was the priest. He visited Saul, asked about the noise he heard. Saul said, “we kept the best to sacrifice to God.” Samuel said to Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Saul was told that his reign was about done.
It’s a familiar idea, this improvisation.
- “I know that you asked me to do this, but I thought that would be a better idea.”
- “I know you asked me to wait in the car, but I wanted to come in and help.”
- “I know that you said to wait until you got here, but I figured that I could just get started.
It happens all the time in our lives. In fact, it’s called “taking initiative”. But when it comes to spiritual improvisation, things can get sketchy. What God wanted Saul to do was to listen and follow directions. God wanted the sacrifice to happen on his terms, not Saul’s.
We try to pick what God would like and do it. And we wonder why we feel like he’s not listening. We say to God, “You ought to pay attention. I’m doing all this reputation-damaging stuff.”
And we hear Samuel’s voice echoing: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”