Paradoxes and Juxtapositions Pt. 2

I’ve been letting the Bible Sampler quilt blocks set my pace through the books of the Bible at a very fast clip. I’m racing through rich, complex, and symbolic events. My mind has been blown more than a few times with new revelations I missed in previous readings. But the eye candy opportunity of sharing the new quilt block in each post drives me ever forward. I am having so much fun.

But I’m going to slam on the brakes and pause in First Samuel for today’s post. Something happened, and my brain added it to my mental list that includes Mary and Martha, and the prodigal son, and King David.

Here’s what happened. Well, first I need to back up a little. While reading through the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, I was impressed that the children of Israel functioned pretty well without a strong central government. They did what seemed right in their own eyes. They appointed local judges and abided by their rulings when issues arose. But those glory days passed away with the first generation of Israelites. The younger generation clamored for a king so they would be like the other nations. The high priest, Samuel, tried to talk them out of it. What could be better than having God as your king? They would not be convinced, so he gave in to their whining and anointed Saul.

I don’t think Saul wanted this job. I say this because he was hiding when it was time for Samuel to present him as king to his people. Think about it, he didn’t step into an established position with a specific job description. There was no mentor. Even so, he got a few successful battles under his belt right away. The people were happy. But now the dreaded Philistines were marching towards him. Samuel told Saul to gather the people and wait there. Then Samuel would follow in seven days and tell him what to do next.

I don’t know what King Saul was feeling, but I would have been aware that the men were looking to me for leadership and action. I’d have felt the need to prove my kingly worth by appearing to be in complete control of the situation. Captains were probably pressing him as each day passed; which gave the Philistines the advantage of time. Time was of the essence here. King Saul’s answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear: “Wait”. As he said this out loud, he was probably screaming in his head, “Where IS that old Samuel and what’s taking him so long?”

After a few days the men got so restless that they began to scatter. On the seventh day, Saul said, “Forget this”, he grabbed the sacrifice and made a burnt offering to God before heading out to confront the Philistines. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do.

WHAT? Cut the guy some slack! Aren’t we going to give Saul credit for making the effort to acknowledge God? He was only trying to do good.

But no. Who should finally arrive as the offering is cooling on the altar? Yep, Samuel, and he is not pleased. He tells Saul that he has acted foolishly. And furthermore, because he didn’t follow the command of the Lord, the Lord will NEVER establish his kingdom over Israel. Wow. Talk about your consequences. Geez.

I would have done the exact same thing. In fact, I’ve gotta hand it to Saul for waiting it out all seven days. I would have been nearly crazed by day three. And no cell phone signal meant I couldn’t call to learn what the hold up was with Samuel. His chariot could be stuck in a ditch, or worse, right? If he could get a message to me, I bet he’d say: “Go on and start without me. Please go ahead with the burnt offering, and the Lord be with you”. Right?

And Mary and Martha? If Mary would’ve just cared a little bit and helped out in the kitchen, Martha could’ve relaxed and enjoyed Jesus’ visit too. And the prodigal son? I’d have joined big brother in resenting all the fuss and nonsense over that slacker. And David? How dare he say, “Against thee, and thee alone have I sinned” when he actually left noble men dead in his selfish wake. Don’t they get it?

Here’s the thing.

I have an authority problem. My reaction to these seemingly-to-me unjust consequences show my lack of trust and lack of patience. The love chapter in First Corinthians begins with “Love is patient”. Patience demonstrates both love and trust: Trust in God’s authority that He will do all things in His time. Saul stepped away from his faith and took matters into his own hands. He meant well, but his action revealed his true soul. He hadn’t given over all of himself to God. Neither did Martha, or David, or the prodigal’s brother. Like Mary, the sister of Martha, they could have received “the better part” that God had planned for them if they had just trusted in His timing and His provision.

It doesn’t help that I live in a “Get ‘er done” society that values busy-ness and speed. It doesn’t help me practice patience. But I’m glad I took the time to ruminate on 1 Samuel 13.

No quilt block today, but here’s some eye candy for you. Meet my dogs, Heidi and Emma: This is what relaxing looks like.

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