Friday, August 12, 2011

Red Lights

Today's passage:  I Samuel 13:1-13
     My husband is the antithesis of patience.  His greatest weakness is Chicago traffic.  Why he allows it to still frustrate him so, frustrates me.  Many of our biggest arguments have been about his driving as he manuevers through a gridlocked city.  I'm getting better at keeping the criticisms to a minimum, but I still have a long way to go.  It seems that a dark cloud of negativity hovers over his head as soon as he is settled in the driver's seat.  The drive hasn't begun, but he is already anticipating the worst.  I have tried to convince him that those pessimistic expectations will most certainly come to pass, if he begins the trip this way.  I have needled him that Chicago traffic is like the weather, you can't control it, so don't get upset about it.  I have learned to keep my mouth shut, mostly.  I still voice my opinion rather loudly when he passes a car on the right at breakneck speed, or pretends he didn't see the red light.  Yes, this is my police officer husband.  He is human too.  Now, instead of losing my cool as well, or arguing how he might not need blood pressure medicine if he would just give this little matter over to God, I try to whisper little prayers for him.  Not out loud, that would probably irritate him more.  I am really trying to help him, not aggravate him, but I've learned my "friendly" advice is not a help.  Praying works much better.
     Saul shows his impatience in this passage.  The first verse says that Saul had only been reigning for two years.  Several commentaries I read said that it didn't really mean two years.  I tuned out everything they said after that, I don't see any need to correct the Bible.  If the Bible says he reigned two years, I'm going to take it to mean that he was only reigning two years.  I'm not sure how much time has passed between Chapter 10, when Samuel first tells Saul he will be king, and Chapter 13, but I think perhaps there was a maturing time before God actually established Saul as king.  David went through the same process.  He was anointed years before he actually sat on the throne.  Now the reason I think this (and I could well be wrong) is because Saul met Samuel on an errand for his father, fetching the donkeys.  That seems like a young man's job.  That seems like a job that a young man still living at home would do (of course customs in Biblical Israel may have been very different).  By Chapter 13, Saul already has a son old enough to head up a regiment of soldiers.  Considerable time has passed, or Saul was not as young as I thought when he was anointed.
     Saul and Jonathan establish soldiers in three cities that surround a garrison of Philistines in Geba.  If you look at a map of Israel, these three cities form a triangle around Geba, so if those soldiers tried to go anywhere, they would be captured by Israelis.  Obviously, Saul was using military strategy here, but what is not strategic is when he sends several men back to camp.  Why he would not use every soldier at his disposal when he was about to launch an attack on the enemy is puzzling to me.  Jonathan is given the order to attack, which he does.  This brings every Philistine soldier on the planet to the garrison's aid.  It looks as if Saul and his army retreat a little because they go north to Gilgal, actually, he has gone here to wait for Samuel.  This is where Saul's trouble will really begin.  He thinks he has a problem when he scans the hills and as far as he can see there are Philistine soldiers.  That is nothing compared to the hole he will dig for himself a few verses later. 
     Saul waits.  Patience does not appear to be Saul's strong suit, and as a king now, he has not had to wait for much.  By now, he is used to snapping his fingers and it is done.  He has had the power of his will being fulfilled in seconds and has not had to wait for anything for at least two years, but probably before too, since people knew he was going to be king.  Now he has waited an entire week on Samuel.  He doesn't like it.  He doesn't like to be subjected to somebody else's timetable.    The people are getting restless, and it seems that they are ready to go home.  He needs every body present to fight these Philistines (especially when he made the foolish decision earlier to send a bunch home).  He knows he needs to get this battle started and he needs to do something to keep the people there.  So, he starts without Samuel.  He takes the matter into his own hands.  He offers the sacrifice to the Lord himself.   Either Saul really does not care about having God's blessing, he is just doing this to appease the crowd (because it was a tradition and they might not think God was on their side without the sacrifice) or his ego has grown to such a size that he thought he could do no wrong.  Saul has made a costly mistake.  His bad judgement here will follow him into the rest of his reign.  Finally, Samuel arrives.  Probably part of the reason it took so long for Samuel to get to Gilgal is that the land is crawling with Philistines.  He may have had to take various routes to get to his destination and avoid being captured.  Had Saul considered this?  No.  He was a leader.  He made a decision, which is really what we want leaders to do, but leadership without Godly counsel is dangerous.  Saul did not seek God on this matter, he let his impatience decide.  Making a decision when we are tired of waiting for an answer or an action is not wise.  When God gives us a yellow or red light in life, that does not mean proceed through the intersection anyway.  It means wait, sometimes for a little while, sometimes for a long while.  Who knows what God would have allowed Saul to do, if he had been willing to wait a little longer?  What would God allow me to do if I am willing to wait on Him?
     When my husband is in his patrol car, he doesn't have to wait a lot.  I think perhaps this is why he gets so frustrated outside of work.  He doesn't flip on his lights to get through the intersection, to get around traffic, he wouldn't abuse his powers like that.  But people see a police car, and they have a habit of getting out of the way, lights on or off.  In his civilian clothes and civilian car, he does not have that luxury.  Also, he drives all the time for his job, so he deals with traffic non-stop.  I understand why he gets so aggravated, but I'm not as sympathetic as I sometimes should be.  However, having the power to get people out of your way, and then not having that power would probably be pretty frustrating.
      Saul had absolute power in Israel.  He was the king.  Why shouldn't he be allowed to offer the sacrifices?  Why should a little law God established hundreds of years before interfere?  Because if I really want God's blessing, I need to wait on Him.  And when I am tired of waiting, I need to wait some more.  God will give me a green light when He is ready for me to get through the intersection.  Until then, I'm safer at the red light.

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