I have a son who loves to do anything but go to bed when it’s time to go to bed.
On his way, he’ll find a piece of trash that needs to go in the garbage. Or he’ll pick up a toy and put it away. He does this every night even though I tell him explicitly to go to bed. The activities he does aren’t intrinsically bad—picking up after yourself is a good thing—but the context makes them wrong. Essentially he’s doing the right thing the wrong way.
King Saul had this same problem.
His troops were scattered and afraid. The Philistine threat at Mikmash melted the hearts of the Hebrews, and engagement was imminent. Saul had already waited seven dreadful days—that’s how long Samuel said to wait. But still the priest hadn’t arrived, and his men grew more fearful by the hour.
The king couldn’t wait any longer.
Someone had to petition the LORD on Israel’s behalf lest her be slaughtered by the barbaric Philistines. “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings,” Saul said (1 Sam. 13:9). Then Saul broke God’s law; he offered the sacrifice to the LORD.
But what’s so wrong about sacrificing to God?
Nothing in itself. But the sacrifice wasn’t in accordance with God’s word. Through His prophet, God told Saul to wait for Samuel. But waiting had become too uncomfortable.
Why Following God Can Be Uncomfortable
These two examples essentially are the same thing.
An authority commands action (go to bed, wait for Samuel), but that action is uncomfortable. So the recipient of the command does something else instead. Something that is good, but not according to instruction. He does what is right in his own eyes instead.
And we all do this, don’t we? We get impatient, or afraid so we do things that aren’t necessarily bad, but aren’t in line with God’s will.
What we discover is that no amount of “good” deeds can trump obedience. As Samuel says to Saul a couple chapters later:
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22
Following God is hard. It’s uncomfortable. As a Christian you’re called to rejection, to poverty, to persecution. You’ll be afraid like Saul was, and feel pain at other times. But as hard as that is, not following God is even harder. Look at what God said to a different Saul on the road to Damascus:
It is hard for you to kick against the goads. Acts 26:14b
Do you know what a goad is? I had to look it up. A goad is a sharp stick used to drive cattle. When the animal gets too uncomfortable with the prodding, sometimes he kicks back. Of course, kicking a prick only makes matters worse.
God’s word whether delivered audibly, through others, or through the Bible is a goad, prodding you in the right direction. It’s uncomfortable, sure, but kicking against it only makes matters worse.
Andrew Gilmore writes every other Tuesday on his website, andrewgilmore.net.