Here we see the first of Saul’s two major failures that led to his loss of the throne God had given him.
He was supposed to wait for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice before engaging the Philistines, but Samuel was late. And with his troops panicking and deserting him, he “forced himself” to offer the sacrifice. After all, he needed to “seek the Lord’s favor.”
It’s interesting to see Samuel’s words in verses 13-14.
It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure.
One wonders if Samuel’s lateness was really a test to see if Saul would obey God even under extreme pressure, much in the same way that God tested Abraham in the offering of Isaac.
I don’t know. Maybe Samuel was just late and all he was saying was that the battle against the Philistines was supposed to solidify Saul’s reign in Israel.
But here’s the thing: Samuel said,
“The Lord has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him ruler over his people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded. (14)
Saul made the mistake that many people do: they think that God is most interested in religious rituals, religious works, or even works of ministry. They think these are the ways to gain God’s favor in their lives.
But what God is really after is our heart. All our religious works, rituals, and ministry work mean nothing if God doesn’t have our hearts. And that’s a theme we see throughout the Bible.
Had God had Saul’s heart, Saul would have had a successful reign. What Saul showed in his actions was that God truly didn’t have his heart. His foolish actions that day were the mere symptom of that much larger problem.
Were God to test your heart, what would he find? Would he find a heart that belongs to him?
God is not primarily interested in your ministry and how successful it is. Nor is he primarily interested in how much you tithe, or how often you read your Bible, or pray.
All these things are important. But the thing he wants most from you is your heart. And if he doesn’t have your heart, in his eyes, he has nothing.