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acted as sheep without a shepherd, the LORD mightily convinced all men that Saul was His chosen minister. We are told in Holy Scripture that the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and taught him what to do. Accordingly, he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent parts thereof throughout all the lands where Israel dwelt, saying, "Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen."
Then the people believed that it was the word of the LORD which Saul spake; and they came out with one consent, and fought under Saul, and utterly defeated the Ammonites.
Thus the popular feeling turned, as so often is the way of the world, to the successful person; and the people wanted to put those men to death who had opposed Saul. But Saul would not allow this. He went up to Gilgal, and there all the people did him homage, and sacrificed peace-offerings before the LORD, and rejoiced greatly.
About two years after Saul became king, he was guilty of an act of disobedience and presumption, which lost him the favour of the LORD. The Philistines were gathered together against him, and the people were sorely fright
ened. Saul was in Gilgal, where Samuel had appointed to come and offer peace-offerings to the Lord. But Samuel did not arrive on the promised day, and the people trembled. If Saul had really trusted in the LORD, and believed Him All-powerful to save, he would have waited, certain of help; but as it was, he chose rather to help himself; and so he took upon himself the Prophet's (or priest’s) part, and offered sacrifice to God himself.
As soon as he had ended, Samuel arrived, and when Saul owned how he had acted, Samuel said to him, “Thou hast done foolishly, thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which He commanded thee."
Samuel went on to tell Saul that if he had been obedient, God would have set up his kingdom for ever ; but that now, as he had failed to obey, the Lord had sought out another man to be captain over His people, one who should be after His own heart. Somewhat later, when Saul again disobeyed the Lord, Samuel told him, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” And though it is in a different way, the same temptation comes often to us now, we are tempted to think that we know best, and that we must help ourselves, and that in a time
of difficulty or trial we shall be excused for choosing our own path, and not strictly obeying God's commands. But let us remember that as one hasty fit shut Moses out of Canaan, so this one act of disobedience cost Saul his kingdom ; and let us seek humbly and trustfully to obey our Master, believing that He knows what is best for us.
Perhaps some one may say, Surely it is quite different now. God does not give us His direct orders now as He did then, and we do not know from Himself, as Saul did, what He would have us do. But if these persons think a little, they will see that it is not so different. God spoke to Saul by His Holy SPIRIT, and by His prophet Samuel, and He speaks to each one of us by His Church, and by His HOLY SPIRIT who guides and directs that Church. Saul only knew dimly and afar off of a promised Messiah ; but we know closely and fully of that Blessed Messiah, our own Lord Jesus, who teaches and guides us in His Church, of which He said, “ Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." So that our sin in disobeying God's command is greater than that of Saul ever could be.
Saul had a very dearly loved son, Jonathan, who was both a brave and good man. Now it came to pass that when the Israelites were in great danger and fear from the camp, or garrison of the Philistines near at hand, that Jonathan determined he would try to deliver his people. He did not tell his father what he was going to do, but he proposed to his armourbearer that they two should go to the garrison, saying, “ It may be that the LORD will work for us, for there is no restraint for the LORD to save by many or by few.” The armour-bearer was willing to do whatever Jonathan wished, so they laid their plans and set off.
There was a narrow pass or passage between Gibeah, where Saul and all the Israelites were, and Michmash, where the Philistines had their camp, and each side of this pass was guarded by a sharp rock. Jonathan and the other young man went partly over within sight of the Philistines, having agreed that if their enemies called to them to come up, they would take it as a sign that the LORD had delivered the Philistines into their hand, and go on accordingly.
When the Philistines saw them, they said to one another, “Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves;” and they called to them to come up. So Jonathan climbed up the rock upon his hands and feet, his armour-bearer following him, and these two slew about twenty men. Then all the host of the enemy was seized with great fear and trembling, and in their confusion and panic they fought blindly, not knowing if they struck friend or foe, so that “the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another.” Truly a host of men will fail before two men, strong in the faith and fervour of the LORD; and so a host of temptations and sins may be conquered by a resolute spirit, fighting under the same holy banner, the Lord's Will, and in His Might.
Meanwhile Saul's watchmen in Gibeah saw a great tumult going on, and Saul made inquiry who was missing from his camp, and found that his own son and his follower were gone. Then Saul consulted the ark of the LORD, through Ahiah the Priest, and then went forth to battle, and utterly defeated the Philistines. So the LORD saved Israel that day.
We need not wait for New Testament his