1 Samuel 13: The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part I
Monday, October 17, 2016
As the political season heats up in the U.S., we consider this important story from one of our oldest scriptures.
This is the portion of the Samuel story in which we watch Saul move away from God to begin his long slide into darkness. This downward movement happens because he presumes to know best. Saul takes action on his own without waiting for Samuel, who is designated by God as the judge/leader, to offer sacrifice before battle. Although his son Jonathan and the rest of Saul’s troops have immediate success, Saul himself is eventually lost. He becomes paranoid about his fear of David (1 Samuel 18) and forces David to flee the court (1 Samuel 19). He allows his fears to overtake him as when he orders the priest of Nob to be slaughtered (1 Samuel 22) and continues his frenetic search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23). In his panic he consults with a seer in Endor (1 Samuel 28); and finally he meets his dreadful end (1 Samuel 31) along with his beloved son Jonathon. This is a sad ending for a man who had shown such promise but who, in the end, did not trust God. Today we see the beginning of Saul’s long and terrible journey into the dark. Unwilling to admit his errors or to seek pardon, Saul gives himself over to the fantastical thinking that he knows better than God . . . that he can do without God. He sees his troops slithering away before the battle and, thinking that he will keep them from leaving, he steps in to intervene – countering God’s plan.
Today we reflect on Saul’s story and examine our motivations to see if the fire of self-knowledge threatens to consume us. Tomorrow, the fire of battle. Do our conflicts help us to know ourselves better? Or do they send us further into deception and denial?