Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

June 1, 1888

The Rejection of Saul

By Mrs. E. G. White

The relation between Samuel and Saul was one of peculiar tenderness. Samuel loved Saul as his own son, while Saul, bold and ardent of temper, held the prophet in great reverence, and bestowed upon him the warmth of his affection and regard. Thus the prophet of the living God, an old man whose mission was nearly finished, and the youthful king, whose work was before him, were bound together by the ties of friendship and respect. All through his perverse course, the king clung to the prophet as if he alone could save him from himself.

When Saul was proclaimed as king, Samuel had assured the people that the danger of the future would be that of forgetting the covenant of the Lord, and of failing to acknowledge God as the supreme Ruler of their nation. Israel had sought and obtained a monarchy after their own heart, yet Samuel had told them that the Lord in his infinite mercy was willing to forgive them, and to help them, if they would only fear him, and serve him in truth. The question of the conversion of Israel into the royalty of the kingdom of God, was to be decided. Would the Israel of God, with their king at their head, obey God explicitly, or would they not? Either Israel must cease to be the people of God, or the principles upon which the monarchy was founded must become spiritual, and the nation must be governed by a divine power. If Israel would be wholly the Lord's, then the Lord would constitute a kingdom in which the will of the human and earthly would be in subjection to the will of God, and, by this means, the covenant relationship that constituted God the Ruler of Israel, would be preserved. The question may seem of little consequence to our finite minds; but it was far from this. Would the king whom Israel had chosen listen to the Ruler of all kings? Would he surrender his will, and do the will of the Father which is in Heaven? No monarchy in Israel that did not acknowledge in all its ways the supreme authority of God, could prosper. As long as the people of Israel would conduct themselves as subordinate to God, so long would he be their protection and defense.

The prophet Samuel had been rejected as ruler of Israel, and Saul had been chosen to fill this responsible position. Samuel was not envious and jealous of the chosen king. “God forbid,” said the prophet, “that I should sin against God in ceasing to pray for you.” The Lord identifies his interest with the people, and although Israel had greatly displeased the Lord, and sorely grieved Samuel, yet the prophet did not divorce his interest from Israel; but he uttered a decided warning, “If ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

Saul had failed to bear the test of his faith in the trying situation at Gilgal, and had brought dishonor upon the service of God; but his errors were not yet irretrievable, and the Lord granted to him another opportunity to learn the lesson of implicit faith in his word, and unqualified obedience to his commands. If the Lord had separated himself entirely from Saul, he would not have spoken to him again through his prophet, and intrusted him with a definite work to perform, that he might correct the mistake of the past.

Let us mark this. When anyone who claims to be a child of God, becomes careless in doing the express will of God, and through his deviation from the path of rectitude, many are influenced to become irreverent and unmindful of the injunctions of God, and if he then accepts reproof and has true contrition of soul, if he will discern his error, and no longer entertain lofty opinions of his ability, and will trust in God, who alone is able to save him, his past failure may be turned into victory, because he will become conscious of his inefficiency to do what God requires, without divine strength and wisdom.

The apostle Paul went directly contrary to the will of God before his conversion. His powers were employed in the cause and work of the enemy of God and man; but when light from Heaven shone about him, and the voice of Jesus was heard saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,” he inquired, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Love for Jesus became the ruling power in his life, and when there was work to be done for the Lord, no danger could intimidate him, no opposition hinder, no threats appall, no difficulties dishearten, no power cause him to swerve from the path appointed of God.

Before Paul experienced genuine conversion to God, selfishness controlled his mind and soul. His estimate of everything was a wrong estimate, for self-aggrandizement and selfishness had an influence upon his entire life and character. He praised his own zeal. He was carrying a mirror with him, not a mirror in which to discover the defects of his character, but a mirror in which he might admire himself. Everything was turned into self-glorification; but after Jesus was revealed to him, his lofty opinion of himself was gone. He saw nothing in which to glory, save the cross of Christ. The Lord brought Paul over a path that was difficult to travel, but the apostle saw in it precious opportunities to prove his fidelity to Jesus, whom he had persecuted in the person of his saints.

When Samuel was called upon to deliver a most painful message of condemnation to him whom he loved as a son, Saul saw no great sin in the course of transgression which he had pursued. When reproved he manifested no repentance or contrition of soul. He was not grieved for his disobedience. He did not surrender his will to God, but began to vindicate his actions, and to offer excuses for his error. After the announcement that, because of his transgression, his kingdom should not continue, Saul became sullen and despondent. He thought he had been treated unjustly and went to great extremes in his management of affairs in the kingdom.

At one time he pronounced a curse upon anyone who should taste of food throughout a certain day of battle. This prohibition was not required by the Lord. It originated with Saul himself, and nearly cost him the life of his son Jonathan. It created a will of decided opposition to his authority in his army, and resulted in leading the people to transgress the command of God. They had engaged in warfare all day, and were fainting for want of food, and, as soon as the hours of restriction were over, they eagerly fell upon the spoil, and greedily devoured the flesh with the blood, thus violating the law that prohibited such an act; for the Lord had said, “Thou shalt not eat the blood thereof.” God had given them rules which should have been respected; because the Lord knows what is for the good of man, and he should be obeyed. But there are many who will lightly regard the tests which God has given, and will assume the responsibility of creating tests and prohibitions, as did Saul, which bring dishonor to God and evil to men.

The Lord sent a last message to Saul. By obedience, he might still prove his fidelity to God, and his worthiness to walk before Israel. Samuel came to the king and delivered the word of the Lord. Said the prophet, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” And the record states that “Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.”

This victory over the Amalekites was the most brilliant victory that Saul had ever gained, and it served to rekindle the pride of heart that was his greatest peril. The divine edict devoting the enemies of God to utter destruction, was but partially fulfilled. Ambitious to heighten the honor of his triumphal return by the presence of a royal captive, Saul ventured to imitate the customs of the nations around him, and he spared Agag, the fierce and warlike king of the Amalekites. The people, influenced by his example, reserved for themselves the finest of the flocks, herds, and beast of burden.

Here Saul was subjected to the final test. His presumptuous disregard of the will of God, showing his determination to rule as an independent monarch, proved that he could not be trusted with royal power as the vicegerent of the Lord. While Saul and his army were marching home in the flush of victory, there was deep anguish in the home of Samuel, the prophet. He had received a message from the Lord, denouncing the course of the king. “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.” The prophet was deeply grieved over the course of the rebellious king, and he wept and prayed all night for a reversal of the terrible sentence.

God's repentance is not like man's repentance. “The Strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent; for he is not a man that he should repent.” Man's repentance brings about a change of mind. God's repentance implies a change of circumstances and relations. Man may change his relation to God by complying with the conditions upon which he may be brought into the divine favor, and he may, by his own action, place himself outside the favoring condition; but the Lord is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” The Saul whom God made king was a humble man, little in his own eyes, and not the Saul whom God repented to have exalted to the throne of Israel. Saul's disobedience changed the condition of his relationship to God; but the conditions of acceptance with God were unaltered,—God's requirements were still the same; for with him “there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

With an aching heart the prophet set forth the next morning to meet the erring king. Samuel cherished a hope that, upon reflection, Saul might become conscious of his sin, and by repentance and humiliation before God, be again restored to the divine favor. But when the first step is taken in the path of transgression, the way becomes easy. Satan leads on, and Saul, debased by his disobedience, came to meet Samuel with a lie upon his lips. He exclaimed, “Blessed be thou of the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”

The sounds that fell on the prophet's ears disproved the statement of the disobedient king. To the pointed question, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul made answer, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

The message of Saul's rejection brought unspeakable grief to the heart of Samuel. It had to be delivered before the whole army of Israel, when they were filled with pride and triumphal rejoicing over a victory that was accredited to the valor and generalship of their king, for Saul had not associated God with the success of Israel in this conflict; but when he saw the evidence of Saul's rebellion, he was greatly stirred with indignation, that he, who had been so highly favored of God, should transgress the commandment of Heaven, and lead Israel into sin. Samuel was not deceived by the subterfuge of the king. With mingled grief and indignation he declares, “Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel.” He repeats the command of the Lord concerning Amalek, and demands the reason of the king's disobedience.

Saul persists in self-justification: “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

In stern and solemn words, the prophet sweeps away the refuge of lies, and pronounces the irrevocable sentence. “Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

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