Page images

tory to tell us that God "scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts, and putteth down the mighty from their seats.” All through His inspired Word we find the same truth. We have already seen how severely Saul had been rebuked for his self-will and presumption, and now again we find him taking upon himself to act in a hasty, self-willed way, without any authority from God. That morning, before going to battle, in his strong wrath against his enemies, Saul had bound the people under a curse to touch no food until the evening, that he might be avenged of his enemies. So none of the people tasted any food, and they were distressed with hunger. Still they were strictly obedient to their king's word, and even when they came into a wood, where the honey dropped from its comb, no man put his hand to his mouth. But Jonathan was away in the morning when Saul made his rash oath ; and without thinking to do wrong, he took some honey, and was greatly refresbed by it.

One of the men near told him of his father's curse, and Jonathan, who saw how faint with hunger the people were, was troubled at what the king had done. More evil was yet to come of Saul's presumption. One of the strict

est rules of the Law of Moses was that no one should eat any manner of blood, and he who broke this law was doomed to be “ cut off from his people.” Lev. vii. 27.

Now the people were so wild with hunger, that they flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, oxen, and calves, and slew and ate them on the spot in their blood.”

When Saul heard of this he was angry, and rebuked the people, but he did not seem to consider how much he had been the cause of their sin, or how displeasing it is in God's sight when His creatures cause one another to sin. Saul built an altar to the LORD, and asked counsel of Him through the priest, as to whether he should pursue the Philistines ? But God turned away His face in displeasure, and answered Saul not.

Then Saul in his anger desired that all the chiefs of the people might be called together, that it might be proved who had sinned, so as to bring the Lord's wrath upon His children. In his pride and self-confidence, Saul never once thought that he might himself be the sinner, and declared, “As the LORD liveth

· which saveth Israel, though it be Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” All the people knew that Jonathan had tasted the honey, but no man said a word in answer to Saul. Then he said unto all Israel, “ Be ye on one side, I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” The people said, “Do what seemeth good unto thee;" so Saul cried unto the LORD to choose between them, and the lot fell upon himself and his son, and cleared the people. Then Saul tried again the lot between him and Jonathan, and Jonathan was taken. He readily told how he had eaten the honey, and Saul said that he must die, by reason of his father's oath. But the people were roused at this, and said to Saul, “ Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel ? GOD forbid ! As the Lord liveth there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he hath wrought with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and thus Saul was spared the dreadful punishment that seemed to come upon his rash vow.


All the reign of King Saul was troubled with sharp wars between the Israelites and the Philistines, and while Saul was a brave captain,

and constantly won the victory over his enemies, he did not likewise war against his inward enemies, pride and presumption, and so he went on losing God's grace more and more. In vain Samuel warned him : he would not heed, and he was now about to lose that warning voice. When His children refuse to listen to God's pleading with them, He often punishes them by leaving them to follow their own foolish wills, and woe indeed it is to those that are so left.

Samuel came to Saul with a message from the LORD, bidding him go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy the whole people, sparing nothing ! man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. Saul obeyed the command so far as he pleased. He attacked the Amalekites, entirely overcame them, and destroyed all the people; but he took their king Agag alive, and also spared all that was best among the sheep and the oxen and other cattle.

Then God spoke to Samuel, saying, “It repenteth Me that I have made Saul to be king, for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments."

Samuel was sorely grieved, and he spent all that night in prayer, and then early the next morning he followed the king to Gilgal. Saul did not meet the Prophet with any signs of repentance. On the contrary he said, “Blessed be thou of the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” Then Samuel asked whence came all the bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle which he heard ? and Saul replied that his people had spared the best of the Amalekites' cattle to sacrifice unto GOD.

Then Samuel said, “ Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night." He recalled God's goodness in choosing Saul from a low estate to be king, and asked if this direct disobedience was a fitting return? But Saul was too proud to own his fault: he argued with Samuel, and said that he had obeyed the LORD, all but in keeping some cattle, and even they were kept on purpose that they might be sacrificed to God.

Samuel could not accept these excuses : he answered, “ Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the Voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.' He went on to tell Saul how utterly the LORD abhors the sins of rebellion and stub

« PreviousContinue »