Enthusiasm is a great thing, especially when it comes to doing things for God and his people. God takes great joy when his people do things out of love for him. Except.
Except? Yes, there is an exception. You see, God is not just interested in our zeal. He’s also interested in that we do what is right. And when in our zeal we do things that are wrong, he is not pleased.
That’s the point of this story. It says in verse 2,
Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.
This goes back to the time of Joshua, when the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites into signing a peace treaty between the two peoples. (Joshua 9). Deceived or not, the Israelites were bound to keep the covenant. But Saul in his zeal for Israel, and perhaps for God (or so he thought), tried to wipe them out. And it seems from verse 1, that his family was involved in this act as well. (God not only mentioned Saul, but his “blood-stained house.”)
As a result, a famine came upon the land, and it was only after David dealt with this matter that the famine ended.
Throughout history, you see this kind of problem, however. You see this in the crusades and the inquisition, two stains on the Christian world. People who were zealous for God, and yet did some atrocious things.
Even today, you see this problem, and not only in terms of violence. There are many cultists such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who are very zealous for God. They go on mission trips, and knock on people’s doors to share their faith. But it’s a faith whose teaching has been corrupted. And God takes no pleasure in their activities.
Alm0st every year you hear of people that are convinced Jesus is coming back this year, and so they sell all their possessions, quit their jobs, and wait in expectation. They too are zealous, but wrong.
What’s the problem? The apostle Paul pinpoints it for us in Romans 10:2.
For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Paul is specifically talking about the Israelites here, namely the ones who were trying to be justified before God through the law. But the truth is a general one. If you have a zeal that’s not based on knowledge of the truth, you often end up doing things that displease God.
Where do we get the truth? From God’s word.
So the question you need to ask yourself is this: ”How well do I know God’s word? Do I have zeal without knowledge of what God’s will is?”
If you do, the day may come when you stand before God expecting his praise, only to find out that you weren’t pleasing him at all.
Do you have zeal without knowledge?