1 Samuel 14:47-52
47 After Saul became the king of Israel, he fought against Israel’s enemies who were all around them. He went to war against Moab, Ammon and Edom. He fought against the kings of Zobah and the Philistines. No matter where he went, he punished his enemies. 48 He fought bravely. He won the battle over the Amalekites. He saved Israel from the power of those who had carried off what belonged to Israel. 49 Saul’s sons were Jonathan, Ishvi and Malki-Shua. Saul’s older daughter was named Merab. His younger daughter was named Michal. 50 Saul’s wife was named Ahinoam. She was the daughter of Ahimaaz. The commander of Saul’s army was named Abner. He was the son of Ner. Ner was Saul’s uncle. 51 Saul’s father Kish and Abner’s father Ner were sons of Abiel. 52 As long as Saul was king, he had to fight hard against the Philistines. So every time Saul saw a strong or brave man, he took him into his army.
This is a description of success, but I think it’s a bit sad.
Saul had been unwilling to accept the kingship of Israel when God gave it to him, yet here it says he “took” (AV) the throne (“secured his grasp” (NLT), “established his authority” (NKJV)). Jealously protecting what God has given him becomes a preoccupation throughout his rule. Here he appoints his cousin (Abner) as commander of the army. (Appointing relatives to positions of power is a common pattern for insecure rulers.) Later we read how he tried to kill David, the one anointed by God as his successor.
Unlike other records of victories in this part of the Bible, there is no mention of God here. It seems that Saul was competent as a war leader. But it seems he is taking victory rather than relying on God to give it (or perhaps just not recognising that God has given it).
The outcome of his striving? More conflict. No peace.
Being capable can sometimes be a real trap.
I’m sorry, Father, when I fall into the trap of thinking I can do it on my own. You give me victory over sin and death (bigger enemies than the Philistines), and the outcome is peace: with you now and ultimately an eternity of perfect peace. What I do with you is infinitely more successful than what I do alone.
Please show me what you’re doing today. Let’s do it together.
Written by David Cornell