Folly Illustrated by the Character of Saul
1 Samuel 13:13-14
And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you…

We perhaps, had we possessed no ulterior information, might have been disposed to expect that, when the Searcher of hearts cast His eye over the twelve tribes in quest of a man whom He might appoint to be ruler over His people; He would select one conspicuous for piety, and prepared by steadfast faith to meet the trials with which his exaltation would be attended. Yet why should we have expected such a choice? Is it the established order of Providence that piety should be recompensed by elevation to dignity and power? Are the rulers of the earth, whether in Pagan or in Christian lands, whether God raises them to empire by the settled course of succession, or by the storms of warfare and revolutions, usually eminent for religion beyond the mass of their subjects? The thoughts of the Most High are not as our thoughts. He knows by what governor, in any particular nation and at any particular time, His Own secret and righteous purposes, whether of mercy or of vengeance, will be most efficaciously promoted. I purpose to lay before you the leading circumstances in the conduct of Saul: and afterwards to deduce, for your edification, some of the inferences which they suggest.

I. IN THE EARLY BEHAVIOUR OF SAUL, after the period when he is introduced in the Scriptures to our notice, THERE IS MUCH TO PREPOSSESS US IN HIS FAVOUR. The fruit, however, corresponds little with the blossom. The impressions produced by early symptoms in Saul of moderation end of respect for his sovereign Benefactor are soon to be effaced. Though Saul by his disobedience respecting the sacrifice has incurred the forfeiture of the kingdom, yet God, ever merciful and long-suffering, forbears to commission Samuel to anoint a successor to the throne, and is willing to grant to the unworthy prince an opportunity of reinstating himself in the Divine favour. Samuel, by the direction of the Most High, now commands Saul to execute the long predicted vengeance. To the conduct of Saul throughout the whole of this transaction can a name more appropriate than folly be ascribed? Can any fact be ascertained more clearly than the identity of folly and sin? Saul is now an outcast from the Divine favour. He is permitted to retain the kingdom during his life; but judgment in its most terrible form delays not to overtake him. The Spirit of the Lord departs from him. How shall the life of Saul be summarily described? I have sinned; I have played the fool; I have erred exceedingly. Whose are these words? The words of Saul himself in his latter days. Do you require stronger testimony to the identity of folly and sin?


1. We learn, in the first place, not to repose blind and premature confidence on some few promising appearances as to piety. Let every symptom favourable to the supposition that religion is the ruling principle in the character of another be cordially welcomed, and judiciously encouraged. But learn to guard your willing hopes from degenerating into sanguine credulity. Conceive not that examples of religious consideration on some particular occasions are proofs that religion is firmly and durably established in the bosom. Gold is not known to be genuine, until it has stood the test of fire. The crop is not estimated by the blade, but by the harvest. Wait until religion has for some time been tried by the temptations of life, before you pronounce on its reality.

2. Consider in the next place the guilt of impatiently endeavouring to attain a present good by departing from the way of God's commandments. Everything which is not conformable to His revealed will is evil. Are you involved in difficulty or trouble? Abide thou in the track of righteousness. This is the way. Walk thou in it. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left. Abide thou in the track of righteousness: wait thou the time of the Most High, and in His Own time and by the track of righteousness the Most High shall guide thee to peace and to salvation.

3. Behold, thirdly, the guilt of rash resolutions and vows. In concerns of importance that which is resolved hastily is commonly resolved foolishly. But whenever, like Saul, a person forms a determination, or fetters himself by an engagement, under the precipitate impulse of passion, seldom shall a considerable time elapse before he perceives reason for deep and lasting regret.

4. Mark the heinousness of fearing man rather than God. What sin is more general? What sin is more conspicuously arrayed in the attributes of folly?

5. Lastly, let the example of Saul admonish you to frequent meditation on the consequences of disobeying God.

(Thomas Gisborne, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.

WEB: Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you; for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom on Israel forever.

David -- Beloved
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