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‘And Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Micmash, then I said ‘The Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal … Therefore I felt compelled and offered a burnt offering” I Samuel 11-12 At the request of the people, God had conceded to give Israel His permissive will – He had anointed Saul as king. Whenever we make a choice for God’s permissive and not directive will, we ultimately settle for something less than perfect. But that is a topic for another day. Two years into his kingship, Jonathan, the son of Saul attacks the Philistine garrison at Geba. Saul blew the trumpet (a call to war) and gathered the people together at Gilgal. The agitation and distress that follows is a familiar one for anyone who has encountered sudden battle. Israel was caught off balance as there had been no discussions or consultations or an agreement that Israel would go to war against the Philistines. The Philistines came to war with ‘thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore’ A formidable adversary you would agree, especially against a people unprepared, as Israel was. It was mandatory in those days that a burnt offering should be made before Israel goes to war and only the priests could offer the burnt offering. Saul did wait the mandatory 7 days at Gilgal for Samuel to come to carry out the offering. When the 7 days of waiting had passed and under distress, he said that he felt compelled to offer the burnt offering. Seemingly understandable, considering: a. that the people were scattered (he had lost control and there was disorder in the camp of Israel);

b. Samuel did not come within the set time of 7days;

c. The Philistines were gathered together and the possibility of an attack on Israel was imminent;

d. Saul felt that breaking the rule on who offers the sacrifice was not as important as attempting to go to war without the firm promise of God’s presence. Against the backdrop of all these facts, it did look like there were genuine reasons for Saul to do what he did. Can you relate with this? Abraham and Sarah could. They, like Saul, felt that they had lost control of any chance they had of having a child of their own. They, like

Saul, also felt that ‘God’, like Samuel had not come within the set time, as Sarah had passed the natural time within which a woman could conceive. They, like Saul, also felt that there was a threat that the enemy, called barrenness, could stick with them eternally and they also, like Saul felt that any heir was more important than the child of promise. And just like Saul, they also felt compelled to make their own arrangements to have an heir. Can you really relate with this? Have you never felt the distress, common to all who have lost control of particular areas of their lives – finances, career, life partner, fruit of the womb, marriage? That area of life where it is so important that something good happens quickly, and yet you feel totally unable to do anything? Saul wanted God’s presence to go with the army. And so, he felt justified in doing what he felt had to be done to ensure that. The problem with that however was that he did not follow the biblically prescribed procedure for ensuring God’s presence. To Saul offering the sacrifice was more important than offering it in the prescribed way. No one can walk with God in the fullness of His presence and power except and until such a person understands that God is very much interested in details. God pays attention to details. Look through the Bible and you will see that God cares about details – the building of the Ark of the Covenant, strategies in going to battle, instructions concerning offerings, marriages, courtship, crime – the list is endless. Waiting. An old and revered song, most times bitter to the ear, but a necessary road for those who want to inherit God’s promise – Hebrews 6:12 admonishes us to: ‘… imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promise’ Understanding God’s commitment to detail, we know that waiting for the Christian transcends the issue of time in the context of hours or months or years. More importantly, it includes allowing God’s will to be done in God’s way. ‘I felt compelled’ is another way of saying the surrounding circumstances left me with no choice but to do what I did. We feel that same way too – so pressured beyond measure that everything around us is practically screaming for us to do something about our situation, even when this involves disobeying God. Allowing ourselves to be persuaded by what we see or experience physically can only lead us to that same spot where Saul became rejected as king and Abraham births ‘Ishmael’ – the child of the bond woman. The true blessings of God belongs to those who will believe God (have faith) and wait for Him to fulfil His promises whenever and howsoever He chooses (patience). That is the divine order of things. Every kingdom has its rules and regulations. The kingdom of God is no exception. Pressure, no matter how persuasive is not a valid reason for us to literally ‘take the law into our own hands’ and do what we feel necessary to do even when it would lead to disobedience. There is no greater need for ‘rulership and authority’ than in seasons of battle and distress. The times when we are under pressure to do what is outside of His will is the time when we need to hold on the most to what we know to

be His will. There is a possible different reaction to pressure other than Saul’s. In Psalm 27, David acknowledges his distress. He states: ‘… the wicked came against me, to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes… though war … rise against me… in the time of trouble…when my father and my mother forsake me… false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe violence’. Are these not enough reasons for a man not to wait on God? Would a man under such distress not be justified in choosing not to sit and wait but rather to do such as is needful to protect himself? Yet, he decides not to be afraid: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?’ Verse 1 ‘My heart shall not fear’ Verse 3 He re-affirms that his need for God is greater than his need for victory or deliverance from the pressure: ‘That will I seek That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord’ He affirms his confidence in God and His immutable ability to deliver him from the source of his distress: ‘My enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell’ verse 2 ‘In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion In the secret place of His Tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock And now, my head shall be lifted up Above my enemies all around me’ Verse 5-6 He then gives the secret to not caving in under pressure: ‘I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living’ And finally, he thunders: Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage

And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord’ That is the response of a man after God’s heart. We all face it – that time when we receive medical reports that life as we know and cherish it is possibly over; when we are tired and fed up of all the gossips surrounding us as men give us names synonymous with our trials; when we get incensed and offended at being ignored and disrespected by people who we feel we have no business being insulted by; when our hearts sink as we receive a wedding invitation from someone we had felt akin to because they too, like us, were unmarried; when a whole day or week of joy is blown away in a second as someone asks us ‘Do you have a job now?’; when all hell breaks loose and our centre can no longer hold. We all know it, that situation that comes with such great distress, we feel compelled to solve it on our own whatever it takes. A great many have left the Way – that narrow way (Matthew 7:14) that leads to life, not because they set out to leave, but because they got tired of waiting on God to do it at His own time and in His own way. But we must always remember that true deliverance can only come if we do it God’s own way and not by compromise. The alternative, like in Abraham’s case may produce ‘Ishmael’, who remains till today a thorn in ‘Isaac’s’ flesh or as Saul’s who was rejected as king and had the kingdom passed unto David. Yes, his kingship passed on to the man who chose to wait. Believing God is not that difficult, but waiting is. Infact, no one can wait on God in his own strength. But God promises strength to those who will wait – Isaiah 40:31. I pray, from the depths of my heart for you, that God will hold you up when in distress, that He would not let the enemy distress you so much as to forfeit the victory you have long waited for; I pray that the testimony of the Lord will remain with you, that the choices that you make will birth no Ishmael nor provoke God to anger but rather that the victory God intended for you in allowing that distress will come to pass in your life in Jesus’ precious name. Shalom

Chi Onwuchekwa

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