Sermon on 1 Samuel 13:1-15 – “Saul’s UnlAWFUL Sacrifice”

Sermon on 1 Samuel 13:1-15 – “Saul’s UnlAWFUL Sacrifice”

Sermon for Sunday, February 4th, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC

Old Testament reading:

[1Sa 13:1-15 ESV] 1 Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, 2 Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. 3 Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” 4 And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal. 5 And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, 7 and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” 15 And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.

New Testament reading:

[Col 1:9-14 ESV] 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 2:22-38 ESV] 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.


Have you ever seen one of those signs that says “Littering is Unlawful?” And in the word “unlawful” the letters A W F U L are capitalized? Littering is awful. It is BOTH unlawful and awful.

The same can be said about Saul’s sacrifice here in chapter 13 of the Book of 1 Samuel. It is both unlawful (against the law of God) and awful (a sin against God.)

For those who know your catechism well, you might quickly point out that this is the same thing. SIN is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the LAW of God.

Though this is indeed true, I want to look at these two ideas separately as we focus on two different aspects of the problem here in our text.

So let’s look at:
I. Saul’s Unlawful Sacrifice

and then:
II. Saul’s Awful Sacrifice

before finally applying some lessons from this chapter to our own lives as we meditate on
III. The Christian’s Duty to Wait Patiently for the Lord


I. Saul’s Unlawful Sacrifice

I’ve noted in recent weeks that Saul is not a believer and that his actions are going to show that. Here we see one of those sinful godless actions as he “takes matters into his own hands” and makes a sacrifice that is unlawful.

Samuel is called to be king, not priest. And only priests are to make sacrifices on the altar of God. Hence his making the sacrifice is unlawful.

The account begins with an unwise or ill-advised military action. Saul raises an army of 3000 soldiers. Much smaller than the 330,000 man army raised to defeat the Ammonites. Saul has the “rest of the people sent home.” He thinks this small army is sufficient. And maybe in peace time it would be OK. And maybe he’s not intending for any military adventures, but he is the King; he is in charge. So when 1000 of the men under Jonathan go and attack a Philistine garrison and defeat it, Saul is responsibility for that action occurring. It is clear that he approved of it, or even directed it to happen, because he “blew the trumpet throughout all the land.”

2000 of the relatively small 3000 man army were with Saul, and the remaining 1000 of were with Jonathan in victory of the Philistines. This is actually the first mention of this Jonathan in the Bible. We’ll find out later in the chapter than Jonathan is the son of Saul.

So the defeat of the Philistine garrison at Geba was a great victory, right? Well, this is something more like a matador poking a bull with a tiny sword and ENRAGING him. You had a calm bull, now he is fuming, boiling over, red hot, and ready to charge.

“Israel became a stench to the Philistines.” They were ready to charge.

So what is a guy to do?

When Israel sees a great army of Philistines coming at them — 30,000 chariots, 10,000 horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore – Israel runs! They hide in caves and in holes and in tombs and cisterns. And some run away across the Jordan.

This is not looking good for Saul. Things are going south fast. He needs to act. He needs to get the confidence of the people. Above all, He needs God on his side.

To get God on his side (before any more Israelites run away) Saul makes an offering to God. A peace offering and a burnt offering. But the problem is, he is not the priest. What he is doing is UNLAWFUL.

Now we can’t totally see a precursor to the separation of church and state here. There are times in the Bible where the church and the state, the priesthood and the leadership ARE one and the same. Samuel is a good example. He was a judge and a priest. He led the nation and led the temple worship. Samuel was both the civil and spiritual ruler of the nation. But Saul is only king. And so his sacrifice was unlawful.

This is the first problem here for Saul. His sacrifice was unlawful. But there is another problem; Saul’s sacrifice is AWFUL.

II. Saul’s Awful Sacrifice

It appears that there was some arrangement where sacrifices were to be made on important occasions.
The last important occasion was Saul’s coronation as king. And thee Samuel had said to him:

[1Sa 10:8 ESV] 8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”

Now again, apparently, we find that Saul is supposed to wait for 7 days and have Samuel make the offerings.

But Saul doesn’t wait. By doing the sacrifices himself he not only breaks the established general law, but the specific command of Samuel to wait for him.

Because of Saul’s AWFUL sin Samuel (who shows up still on that 7th day as promised) says:
“You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue.”

Saul’s sin then is compounded. It is unlawful and it is awful.

Here Saul functions as a negative example for us. An example of what not to do. There are many positive examples for us in the Scriptures, many of them contained in Hebrews 11 in the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” But Saul fits rather in the “Hall of Shame” with Cain and Nadab and Abihu, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira.

Saul has a “time” problem. It was a bad time to attack the Philistines when his army was so small. And it was a bad time to celebrate victory over them; prematurely. And it was with the sin of impatience that Saul made sacrifices to the Lord.

And the result is disfavor with the Lord, and the promised end of his reign as king.

Sin has consequences. That is a promise to Saul and soon it will be a reality. Sin has consequences.

III. The Christian’s Duty to Wait Patiently for the Lord

So we are to learn from this negative example of Saul.

We are to learn to “wait patiently on the Lord.”

This is the Christian’s duty. To wait patiently on the Lord.

A good example is perhaps found in waiting on our finances. Don’t buy something until you’ve got the money. I’m somewhat anti-credit card. I use them only to get the points and benefits and then pay them off immediately. When I don’t have the money to pay them off, I don’t use them. We need to wait until we have our resources together before we buy. The proverb is about a man building a house. If he only has half the money and spends is on lumber and bricks and plaster and he builds half of a house, it is all ruined because he couldn’t afford a roof or a furnace. His half-house investment becomes a total waste of his money.

Let us wait patiently on the Lord.

That phrase repeated throughout the Psalms.

[Psa 27:14 ESV] 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

[Psa 37:7 ESV] 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

[Psa 40:1 ESV] I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

This is the duty and virtue of a Christian. Among the Fruit of the Spirit is PATIENCE.
Love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

Now “waiting patiently for the Lord” is, of course, about WAITING, but it is also about TRUSTING in the Lord.

We are to trust in the Lord and live according to his commands, not taking things into our own hands and walking contrary to God.

It might feel like the armies of the Philistines are approaching, and you need to act fast. But that is never a reason to go against the Lord.

There’s that pressure society puts on people to get married and have kids by a certain age. But it is better to be single than to do wrong in the pursuit of these desires.

Our impatience often leads to bad mistakes. Maybe this has happened to you. Have you ever been hungry at the airport? That is trouble. You have to eat, but all that is available is greasy food that costs 2 of 3 times normal? If you’re patient maybe you can wait it out, but if you’re impatience and get the food it means (1) buyer’s remorse and (2) you feel lousy on your flight. Sometimes it is better to wait patiently. Well, eating food isn’t a sin, but we can at least say bad food choices too have consequences.

So Saul’s sin will lead to him losing his kingdom. And a greater — and more patient — king will come.

Conclusion: A King After God’s Own Heart

Samuel prophesies: “The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people”

Who is this prince, this king who is “after God’s own heart?”

It is, to some degree, David. The next king.

Opposite of Saul’s impatience are the Psalms which say “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Whose Psalm is that? It is a Psalm of David. So out with the impatient king, and in the patient king.

But to find a prince truly “after God’s own heart” we must look to the Prince of Peace.
And to find a king truly “after God’s own heart” we must look to the King of Kings.

While David is a sinner, Jesus Christ is sinless. Only Christ is truly “after God’s own heart.” Own Christ has the will of God and follows the law of God and is fully patient.

So if we ask the question “What does it look like to wait patiently on the Lord in our own day and context?” The answer is Christ. It looks like Christ. Fully patient, fully trusting in God, even to his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ trusts God even given his impending death.

Let us look to Christ and imitate his patience.

We are called to wait for the coming day of the Lord; for his second coming. The Christians in the Book of Hebrews are even “eagerly awaiting for him.” We are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are waiting for that time when his enemies will be a made a footstool for his feet. We are, according to his promise, waiting for the new heaves and he new earth in which righteousness dwells. This is an eager waiting.

And this eager waiting can propel us through those difficult times of patiently waiting, as we are struggling, persecuted, in pain, or feeling lost. Our eager waiting for the Lord empowers our patient waiting as we Trust in the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord is an acknowledgement that God is in control. To wait on the Lord is to accept and believe that God will act at the right time; His time. Our attempts to change that timing are as futile as a farmer yelling “grow” as his corn. It will grow … on the Lord’s timing.

So let us wait on the Lord patiently, and know His blessings. This is the promise we hear in Isaiah 64:4:

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

Let us wait patiently on the Lord. Let us pray.