Reflections on 1 Samuel 13 – Good luck rituals and cat and mouse games

Mishmash and the pass aerial view from the Southeast

Here’s the text.

  • The Philistines are in Israel’s land and controlling what goes on in it (see verses 19-22, the Philistines are not allowing any Israelite blacksmiths to operate).
  • Saul, King of Israel, decides to fight the Philistines at a place called Geba, and his son Jonathan leads the Israeites to victory.  This however rouses the Philistines who organise themselves into an enormous Army and the Israelites are petrified.
  • Everyone is scared, so Saul decides to offer a burnt offering to God himself, rather than waiting for Samuel, the priest, to offer it.  Saul uses the burnt offering as a good luck ritual, to try to ensure victory, rather than as an act of worship and as a symbol of consecration to God.
  • Samuel arrives, tells Saul off, and leaves.
  • Israel’s Army remains scared and scatters.  A few men gather at Geba, where Israel has just won, however the Philistines take over Michmash (see photo) from where the Israelites have just left.
  • A cat and mouse game begins as the Israeiltes and Philistines chase each other across the region.

Saul makes two key mistakes, that I can learn from.

Firstly, worship should not be confused with rituals for good luck.  My worship to God should be motivated by love and adoration, not by a desire for God to bless me.

Secondly, I should consecrate myself, and my plans, to God at the beginning of a venture, so that I allow God to guide me in my plans, rather than panicking when things go wrong later.

As for Samuel, should I, like him, keep away from people who use God for their own purposes? I’m not so sure about that one, any advice for me?

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