Recently while reading and teaching a small youth group lesson on Saul’s life, specifically his disobedience and the consequences he faced, God revealed a passage of truth to me in His Word. As you may recall (and from a few posts I’ve made), Saul was Israel’s first king, anointed by Samuel, chosen by God. I’ve discussed the warnings that God passed on through Samuel to the Israelites about their demands for a king and how they were not only rejecting Samuel, but ultimately rejecting God as their king.
For this lesson, we’ll pick up the story where Saul was about to engage in battle with the Philistines after Jonathon had defeated a garrison of Philistine troops in Geba. I Samuel 13:3 As the tensions mounted and the Philistine troops were amassed, the Israelites found themselves cowering in caves and holes, those with Saul at Gilgal were likewise fearful. I Samuel 13:6-7
Samuel had instructed Saul to wait seven days before taking any actions. Because of his impatience, Saul decided to do what he thought best and offer a sacrifice to God, despite the fact that it was in direct contradiction with what God had commanded him. In verse I Samuel 13:12 NKJV we hear Saul’s explanation for his disobedience, “Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” Therefore I felt compelled…. Think about this for a second, we use this same excuse only worded differently when we sin. Why did you do that? Because I felt like it, because it felt good to me, because I wanted to, because I felt compelled, therefore I felt compelled. This is the sinful nature of man’s heart. To do what it is that we want to do, when we want to do, no matter the consequences. Just as the Bible says in Judges 21:25b, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” and Saul was a perfect and fitting example of this point. This is the world in which we live in today.
But there is hope. For after Saul came Israel’s great king. After Saul came a man after God’s own heart. I Samuel 13:14 After Saul came King David. David was also chosen by God and anointed by Samuel. But instead of cowering when it came time to assume the throne, David waited on the Lord. Just like Saul, David sinned, but his reaction was far greater. With Saul, we learned that he sinned because he felt like it. With David, we learn what it means to have heartfelt remorse, to pour out ones soul over the pain that we’ve caused our heavenly Father.
God used Nathan to “wake” David up from his sinful slumber. After Nathan’s rebuke, David’s immediate response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.” II Samuel 12:13 Notice the difference when confronted by their sins. Saul said to Samuel that he felt compelled to do it. David said to Nathan that he sinned against the Lord. This is what is meant by being a “man after God’s own heart.” David recognized his sin and through his heartfelt change, desired to become a better man in the Lord each day. In fact we can read about his changes and about his remorse throughout the Psalms of David. Take Psalm 25 for example:
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in You;
Let me not be ashamed;
Let not my enemies triumph over me.
3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed;
Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.
4 Show me Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
9 The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.
12 Who is the man that fears the LORD?
Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.
13 He himself shall dwell in prosperity,
And his descendants shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him,
And He will show them His covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
18 Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
19 Consider my enemies, for they are many;
And they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 Keep my soul, and deliver me;
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all their troubles!
A far cry from, “Therefore I felt compelled.” There are far too many people today with the heart of Saul and too few with the heart of David. Whose heart represents yours? One who callously shrugs off their sins, with a passing repentance of words? Or the heart of the Lord, whose heartfelt remorse and repentance leads to a life change and a desire to live more like Christ each day?