1 Samuel: A promise that can’t be kept

1 Samuel 14:36–52

But he did not answer him that day.

Are there more infuriating words in Scripture?

Have you noticed yet in the story of Saul that he hasn’t ever once taken the initiative in approaching God? Not once has he ever had the idea to ask God on his own what he should do.

Remember, there was that story about the lost donkeys. It was Saul’s servant that had the idea to go ask Samuel, the man of God. And now Saul wants to go plunder some Philistines. His army is ready to follow. But it’s a priest that goes all wait a minute. Before we go risking life and limb maybe we ought to consult our God first and see what he thinks.

Good thing Saul has a priest with him.

Now, the point of the whole story here is to show us that Saul speaks before he thinks. The army is on the way to fight and Saul makes this impulsive vow—and vows are serious, serious business in the ancient world—that nobody eats until the enemies are avenged. Not just any enemies, but his enemies. He’s made it personal, and the battle is all about him. Not the nation. Not the people. Not God. The world revolves around Saul. Poor leadership.

And now it’s to the point of people starving, so much so that when they we fight and win, the soldiers don’t even both cooking the animals they find. They’ve grown so desperate for food, they become animals themselves.

Jonathan missed the memo and ate a snack. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Somebody made a promise that couldn’t be kept. What we’re supposed to see here is Saul’s poor decision-making skills. First he makes a promise he can’t keep. Then he’s willing to kill his hero son for the honor of keeping the promise. This is no way to lead God’s people. This is poor leadership.

Ever made a promise you couldn’t keep? Did it affect your relationship with God?

What about you? What do you see?


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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