Today’s reading: I Samuel 13-14.
Patience is one of the lessons God most wants to teach us, and one we are slow to learn. We prefer to act. Waiting takes faith. Circumstances pressure us to act rather than wait. Waiting seems unproductive, but in God’s economy it is the best action we can take if we are waiting on him. King Saul faced a major test of his patience and faith as he began a war with the Philistines. Saul and his men were greatly outnumbered, and the situation grew worse each day, but Saul had agreed to wait on Samuel to make an offering to God before going out to fight.
He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. “What have you done?” asked Samuel. I Samuel 13:8-11
Saul failed to wait, and he presumptuously took on the priest’s role. He showed by his action that he didn’t trust God to protect his men until Samuel arrived. He lacked patience because he lacked faith. Israel didn’t lose the battle because of Saul’s misguided action, but his mistake cost him personally: Samuel declared that his family would not continue on the throne of Israel.
Saul’s son, Jonathan, demonstrated the faith that his father lacked. Jonathan and his armor-bearer decided to approach a Philistine outpost on their own. Jonathan didn’t rush in without leaving room for God to act, however. He let God decide if it was the right time.
Jonathan said, “Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the LORD has given them into our hands.” I Samuel 14:8-10
Jonathan trusted God to direct his way. He didn’t put out a fleece like Gideon; he was determined to attack but would hold back if God directed him to stay put. He was willing to wait for God’s time.
There are times to wait, and then there are times to act. Sometimes we have all the authority or approval we need to proceed. Then waiting becomes foolish procrastination or faithless doubting. As the battle heated up Saul hesitated. He couldn’t decide whether to join the fight or wait for a clear word from God. He even called for a priest to help him decide, but then waved the priest away as the tumult of the conflict made action unavoidable. Saul had no sense of God’s timing.
We should live our lives with margin for God, room around the edges where he can act. That may mean leaving time for God to work when only he can do what needs to be done. It may mean leaving time and energy for you to act when opportunity presents to serve God. It may mean leaving money in the bank that you can put to use quickly when a need arises to help someone or go on a mission trip. It’s faithful living that says, ” God, if you say wait, I’ll wait. If you say go, I’m going to make sure I’ve got the resources of time, energy, or money to go.”
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