What leads to spiritual downfall? How is it that some who were once so committed to the things of the Lord can drift away from that commitment and come to spiritual ruin? Well, certainly it can be that those who manifest such things indicate that they might never had been truly regenerate in the first place. Many have been those that have started well in their professions of faith, but ended up apostate, denying the very Lord that bought them. These indicate that their “profession” of faith was not a “possession” of true saving faith.
But then there are some that seem to be an enigma. King Saul was one of those. Chosen to be the first King of Israel, he had a dynamic beginning. He rallied the nation to defeat Nahash the Ammonite when Nahash besieged Jabesh-gilead and told that Israelite town that in order to have peace all the men of the city must put out their right eyes in subjugation to him. When Saul heard this the Spirit of God came upon him and he led a volunteer army against Nahash and delivered Jabesh-gilead (1 Sam. 11). It was a great moment for Saul and solidified him as King.
But soon after that Saul’s checkered history begins. In 1 Samuel 13,he faces another threat; this time from the hated Philistines. While waiting for Samuel to come and invoke God’s blessing on the campaign, Saul jumps the gun and intrudes into the priestly office and offers an unlawful sacrifice; a seemingly small thing to us but a very serious matter in that day. Immediately following that in chapter 14, again in conflict with the Philistines, Jonathan, Saul’s son, initiates a resounding victory. But in the midst of the battle Saul makes a rash vow attempting to curry favor with God, decreeing that under penalty of death, no one should taste food that day. Jonathan, unaware of the vow eats a little honey and when Saul finds out, he is ready to kill Jonathan until the people rise up against Saul to deliver him. Saul is losing credibility with the people. Then, in chapter 15 Saul is instructed by the Lord through Samuel to devote to total destruction the Amalekites both in terms of people and material goods. But when Saul defeats them in battle he saves the best of the material goods and King Agag rather than destroying them. When Samuel calls him on this, he argues that he had obeyed the Lord but had saved the best ostensibly for the Lord but in reality, it was for himself.
Well, it is at this point that God rejects Saul from being king and determines to replace him with “a man after my own heart”; David (chapter 16). Now, Saul will go on to some more victories in battle and remain as king for some years. But from this point onward, God has shifted his intentions from Saul to David. And this downward spiral all started with a seemingly insignificant disobedience on Saul’s part to offer an unauthorized sacrifice by intruding into the priestly function.
Sometimes it does not take much to knock us off our pins spiritually and create a downward spiritual spiral. That is why all disobedience ought to be viewed seriously. No, God does not “reject us” for any little (or even big) disobedience. For those that are in Christ…truly in Christ, God will never reject us because our acceptance with God is based in the merits of Christ imputed to us by faith, not on our own merits (for we have none). But this episode is designed, at least in part, to show us that the Lord delights more in our obedience than he does in sacrifice… “To obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity an idolatry” (15:22-23). And… disobedience kills spiritual vitality.
The greatest attribute we can teach our children is to “obey”. For if they learn to disobey us they will disobey God and the gospel. That is why, when my children were small, a direct act of disobedience was always met with the “nuclear option” in a parents disciplinary arsenal; a painful spanking.
The greatest part of Christian character is to “obey”. We should purpose to obey in every area of life. Our very salvation is based in obedience; not ours but His, for “…he was obedient unto death, even the death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Had Jesus Christ ever disobeyed the Father…even once…none of us could have been saved from sin.
Here is praying that we all have a very obedient week…and life!