1st Samuel 13 must be one of the saddest leadership narratives I have come across recently. I had read this story before; but it did not impact me the way it did this time round. King Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. The story is taken from the second year of King Saul’s’ reign, at the beginning of his very promising leadership career. Israel’s first leader, is faced with a threat from a foreign army. Saul makes one decision which completely changes the direction of his reign.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
13 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
As leaders, one thing you can be assured of is pressure. You should expect to be stretched from within as you battle with decisions or personal weaknesses, and pressure from without. There are challenges that will come, which may threaten your mere existence, your reputation and livelihood. From this story, we realise that some challenges will cause members of your team to scatter. This experience of Saul’s life teaches us to refrain from taking matters into our own hands by compromising on established principles. Saul lost his right to legacy through one thoughtless act. It is sad that we never see him showing any remorse for his actions. Instead, he leaves the battle field after a successful battle and counts his men; further deluding himself and entrenching the view that his own strength has wrought this win.
What pressures are you facing as a leader? Are the taxes for your employees too high? Are you planning to submit falsified tax returns? Are you experiencing a high attrition rate because of your competitors who have shifted from the values you espouse as an organisation? Are you being tempted to falsify receipts or make concession in some particular area? Saul was insolent. Incidentally, he continued to reign for forty more years after this incident. However, he had lost his leadership position. May we find the needed strength to make the right decisions, even when it is difficult. May we also find the courage to get up from the ditch if we have made mistakes. There is hope for restoration today.
Lord I need help with this issue. I know that there is nothing impossible with you. Please help me, Amen.