The message I get from this text is to be careful not to rush ahead. In our society, there is pressure to get ahead. To get the next big thing. To buy the better car, phone, house. To get the better job. There is an impatience to have forward momentum. Waiting, being still, can seem like being left in the dust by others who are faster, bigger, stronger, more successful.
I’m reminded of when I used to help kids struggling in school and I’d see one rushing through their school work so that they didn’t get it done right. “It’s not a race,” I’d say.
Saul felt impatient. He wanted things done on his time, in his place. So he took on the job of the prophet and the priest. He offered the sacrifice to God. God had to move on his time table, and those God sent to support him in faith were taking too long. Ultimately this choice was the turning point to Saul’s downfall.
A part of why this is wrong was Saul was bringing down the division between church and state. He as king was taking on for himself the role of prophet, priest, mediator between humans and God. This is the role kings outside of Israel had, some not just declaring themselves mediators between the gods and humans but some a god in the flesh themselves. God appears to want some distance between the kingship and its statecraft and the prophet, priest, or religious center. They need to be somewhat separate so that the faith of the people of God does not become manipulated like puppets on a string to declare as God’s word the wishes of the monarchy. As such it can become a tool of oppression. Likewise if the religious leaders are too caught up in the politics of the day, they can become taken with and drunk on the idea of power forgetting their call to be faithful to love, justice, and mercy.
Another reason it is wrong is there is a desire to leash God here, like God is a pet of the king. God is not a pet we can contain. God is not a dog to be taught tricks. Rather God is wild, uncontainable, like the ocean waves. God moves freely like the wind. To move toward God’s plans one must learn to cooperate with God, to partner with God. This does not mean always blindly waiting, doing nothing, for the prophets of Scripture often challenge God, question God, and argue with God and so affect God’s plans. But it does mean recognizing God is God. You might question, argue with, or wish for different than God’s timing, God’s plan, but ultimately God is God. God sees a bigger picture than you or me. God sees how what is happening will impact not just now but millennia in the future. God sees how our direction will not just impact us personally but also the live of countless others.
Saul lost the big picture.
We do too, when we are unwilling to wait upon God, to let God’s timing and plans influence ours. We lose the big picture when we are so insistent on our own way we forget that listening to and waiting for God is about also how we impact others – our families, our neighbors, our communities, people we have never met our choices may impact.
Let’s learn to wait on God, to trust in God, and to partner with God. It may seem the one God sends is running late, but if we can learn to see through the eyes of God we will know they are right on time.
And I ain’t just whistling Dixie,
Your progressive redneck preacher,