Saul’s Folly
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

Saul’s Folly

1 Samuel 13:1-23  (ID: 3378)

Trouble was brewing in Israel. As the Philistine army assembled against them, the nation watched in fear and hopelessness, hiding among rocks and tombs. Surveying the circumstances, Saul chose not to wait for Samuel; instead, he offered an unauthorized sacrifice to the Lord. Examining Saul’s actions, Alistair Begg explains that while trusting God is seldom simple, disobeying Him is the heart of folly. Thankfully, our hope does not rest in ourselves, but in Christ, the obedient King.


Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to 1 Samuel and to chapter 13 and to follow along as I read from here. First Samuel 13:1:

“Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, 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. 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.’ 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.

“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 [at] Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 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, 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.

“He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’ And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ And Saul said, ‘[Well,] 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, 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.’ 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. 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.’ 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. And Saul and Jonathan his son and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped [at] Michmash. And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual; another company … toward Beth-horon; and another company turned toward the border that looks down on the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.’ But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. So on the day of … battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

A brief prayer:

Father, what we know not, teach us; what we have not, give us; what we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

Somebody handed a cutout from a newspaper to Dwight L. Moody towards the end of the nineteenth century. They gave it to him because it was a poem that they thought he might like. The poem was actually written by a man called Edgar Stites. Edgar Stites combined being a riverboat captain on the Delaware with being an itinerant Methodist preacher. And his poem would probably have been long forgotten were it not for the fact that Moody then passed it to the man who was his sidekick and who was responsible for the music in the evangelistic campaigns, to Ira D. Sankey. And he gave it to Sankey, and he said, “Consider writing a tune for this.” Sankey said, “Well, I will, if you can vouch for the theology of the text.” And so, as a result of that, for well over a hundred years, this poem, then a hymn, has been sung, at least in the English-speaking world, by many, many congregations. And some of you, like me, will perhaps have known it since your infancy. And you have sung,

Simply trusting every day,
Trusting [in] a stormy way;
[Trusting] when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.[1]

A wonderful reminder of the fact that God is utterly reliable and that he is entirely trustworthy. However, you, like me, may stumble a little over the first word, the word “simply.” It’s an adverb, which, as you know, modifies the verb. The verb is “trusting.” And so, Stites has encouraged us to consider the possibility that “trusting Jesus” is something that we might do “simply.”

Now, we’ll come back to this, because in the heart of this passage, I think Saul would have balked at that adverb. Because what we’re going to discover is that for Saul, at least, trusting God, obeying God, was neither straightforward, nor was it simple. And we’re going to consider the fact that he may actually be more representative of some of us than we perhaps care to admit. Now, we might talk in terms of bravely trusting, or even, at the other end of it, fearfully trusting. But simply?

Now, the heart of the matter in this passage begins around verse 8 and goes through to verse 14. So, if we view it as a sandwich, if the substance of the sandwich is in verses 8–14, then the two slices of bread that contain the substance of the sandwich are there from verse 1–7 and from 16–23. So what I would like to do is to consider, as it were, the two slices, and then we’ll come to what I’m referring to as the heart of the matter.

Now, the chapter opens with the formal recognition of Saul’s reign. It’s a normal pattern of other kings: “King Hezekiah reigned from this time until this time,” and so on. But if you look at that, you will be immediately struck by the fact that it represents some difficulty. We’re not going to delay on the difficulty. It’s notoriously difficult, and people spend a long time fiddling with it. But “Saul lived for one year.” Well, he lived for more than one year, so… “And then [he] became king.” You mean he became king when he was one? It clearly can’t mean that. Well then, what does it mean? And what does it mean that “when he had reigned for two years over Israel,” he “chose three thousand men of Israel”? It is difficult, all right? Let me tell you my best attempt at it, and you can move on from there.

The idea of the one year I think may be considered as taking place between the private anointing, which was at the beginning of chapter 10, when out of the blue, “Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him.”[2] You remember that that preceded what you then find in 11:15, when “all [of] the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul [the] king before the Lord in Gilgal.” What you have there is approximately a year. It may be that. And the two years, I think, may be understood from that point in 11:15 to the point that is recorded for us in 15:28, when Samuel says to Saul, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” Your own homework will reveal the fact that it is possible to view that period of time as falling within the framework of this first verse. As I say, it’s notoriously difficult, and many of you have already decided that you have very little interest in the subject at all, which would be perfectly understandable, because this is not a main thing and a plain thing, and therefore not something to be distressed over.

Trouble Is Brewing

Now, what I’ve done in my notes is I’ve just written over verses 1–7 a heading, which is simply “Trouble Is Brewing.” I want to rehearse it with you and do so fairly quickly. “Trouble Is Brewing.” “Where did you come up with that?” Well, look at verse 6: “When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed)…” So it’s this troubling circumstance, set within the context—verse 2—of Saul choosing and putting together his army. He “chose three thousand”: two thousand with him at “Michmash and the hill country of Bethel,” and a thousand now with his son “in Gibeah of Benjamin.” So Saul musters his army.

And then, secondly, Jonathan causes a stink. You say, “Well, that’s not… How’d you come up with that?” Well, you look at verse 4: “[All] Israel had become a stench to the Philistines.” And why was this? Well, because of what Jonathan had taken it in his hand to do—and that is, you will discover, defeat “the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba.” So once he had made an intervention in that context, the word had now spread to the Philistines throughout the land, and so they said, “These people are a stench in our nostrils.”

Thirdly, Saul blows his trumpet. That’s back in verse 3 again: “And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, ‘Let the Hebrews hear.’” And then verse 4: “And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines.” Well, in actual fact, it hadn’t been Saul, had it? It was Jonathan that had done it. But Saul—quite understandably, I suppose—gets the credit for it. He doesn’t need to take the credit for it, which he actually does.

Fourthly, in verse 5, then the Philistines, they put on a show of strength. And they muster their troops, their chariots, their thousands of horsemen. In fact, says the chronicler, it’s just like sand on the seashore. If you looked out across it, you would be overwhelmed by it yourself. I remember in the days of the Cold War, how on May Day, the Soviet Union, the USSR, would make sure that the world was aware of the vastness of its arsenal, and they would provide pictures that went around the world of all their warfare and their weaponry and their troops and marching them through Red Square, so that the whole world might look on and say, “Whoa! That is something to deal with.” That’s exactly what the Philistines have done here. They put on a show of force.

And what did the people do? Well, the people did a Saul. To do a Saul now, for me, is to run away and hide. You remember he was hiding in the baggage.

“Where’s the fellow that we want to make king?”

“Oh, he’s in the luggage room.”

“Why’s he in there? Did he lose something?”

“No, he’s hiding in there.”

“Oh, well, they’ll go dig him out.”[3]

Leadership has a way of impacting; you become like your leaders. And now they’ve all decided, “What a great idea. We’ll hide as well.” And when they saw that they were in trouble, they “hid themselves in caves … holes … rocks … tombs … cisterns.” In other words, you can imagine them just saying, “Look, if there’s any way you can find cover, find cover, because this isn’t going to be good.”

So the people did a Saul. Some of them were slip-sliding away, crossing “the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.” Saul was still there, and in the words of Elvis, there’s a “whole lot of shaking going on”:[4] “And all the people followed him trembling.” The picture we have is really of a very unsettled situation, isn’t it? They’ve said, “You’re a great king, you’re a triumphant, you’re a wonderful king,” and so on, and within very short order, look at where they are.

A Hopeless Picture

Now, that’s one slice. Come now to verse 15, and we’ll deal with the other slice. I put under this simply a heading, “A Hopeless Picture.” “A Hopeless Picture.” And I think as you reread the text, allow your eye to scan it, you can probably agree.

Saul, having taken matters into his own hands, as we’re about to discover, finds that his resources are depleted to the point of hopelessness. And Saul on that occasion “numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.” That’s not very impressive. You put together a force of three thousand. A thousand of them were with your son, two thousand were with you, and now, in the face of it all, you’re down to six hundred. Incidentally, that’s still twice the number that Gideon had when he went against the forces. But Saul, if we might say so, is no Gideon.

Leadership always matters.

And in verses 16, 17, and 18, we have the picture of Saul and Jonathan and the few people that were present with him realizing that the Philistines were really able to play cat and mouse with them. They don’t need to come in a great, massive force, although they’ve put a massive force together. They just send out companies on little sorties, on little raids—one company going this way, another company towards another area—and thus creating instability and fear throughout the entire company of the Hebrews. It’s a pitiful sight: a small band, neutralized, hopeless.

And not only that, but verse 19, they didn’t have a blacksmith. Now, I wonder, when you read that first of all, you said, “Well, why would they put in? That’s like saying you can’t get a plumber when you need one.” “Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land.” No, no, it’s very significant! Because the Philistines had strategically deprived the Hebrews of the ability to put together an arsenal: “If they don’t have this resource, then they cannot create weaponry. If they don’t create weaponry, then there will be no way to defend themselves and certainly no way to attack us.”

And if that isn’t bad enough, they are in the humiliating position of not only being deprived of the weapons of war but of needing to go to the same Philistine people and ask for them to sharpen their agricultural implements. Some of you, you shop at Heinen’s, will know that every so often there’s a fellow there, and he sharpens your knives for you. And it’s a jolly nice thing to do. But it’s a sort of first-world experience. This is not like that. This is an absolute necessity. And they have to go. And if that’s not bad enough, they had to pay. And if that’s not bad enough, they had to pay over the top. So although the need for weapons wasn’t that vast—they only needed some for six hundred—look at what we’re told: “There was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people …, but Saul and Jonathan … had them.”

And then verse 23, somewhat ominously, just in a sentence: “And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.” In other words, “And the Philistines are now on the move”—setup for chapter 14.

The Heart of the Matter

Well, those are the two slices. We’re going to come to what I’m referring to as “The Heart of the Matter.” That’s the heading I used for verses 8 through to 14, 15, or so.

The question that we are confronted with is how in the world is it that the Israelites find themselves in such a sorry state? How is it? And the answer to that is found in the foolish disobedience of the king. In the foolish disobedience of the king. Leadership always matters.

I found myself… Actually, I didn’t sing it, but I hummed it: “Day after day, alone on a hill, the man with [a] foolish grin is keeping perfectly still”[5]—for those of you who are Beatles fans. So you have this picture of Saul on the hill, grinning somewhat sheepishly and foolishly as he looks out on the circumstances before him. And he decides, “I’m going to have to fix this myself.”

Now, in order to help us understand this central section, if you turn back one page to chapter 10, you will be reminded—we will be reminded—of the clear instruction that Samuel had given to Saul on the occasion of his anointing. He told him that there would be signs that would be there for him to discover. And he said to him, “Now, when the signs meet you, first of all, let me issue to you a call to action: do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”[6] And we saw at that time that the inference was “Take care of your opponents.” Then, verse 8, a call not to action but a call to wait: “Then go down before me to Gilgal. … 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.” So, clearly a call to action and a call to wait. [Saul] eventually, in chapter 11, obeys the call to action, and now, we discover in chapter 13 that he fails in the call to wait.

Now, we need to read this carefully. You will notice that it is not that he disregards the command, as if to say, “Well, I don’t need to do that.” He believes he does need to do that, and he wants to do it. And he does it, if you like, for as long as he can. You will see verse 8 begins “He waited seven days.” Well, wasn’t it seven days he was supposed to wait? Yes. He was to wait seven days until Samuel came. So, he waits the seven days, but Samuel hasn’t come. We don’t know at what point in the day he finally shows up. But you will notice that Saul, when he is defending himself later on, says to him, “But Samuel, you did not show up within the appointed time.” In other words, his time was running out, and he’s looking for a way to excuse himself.

What he actually does here is he just leans on his own understanding. Despite the fact that Samuel was coming to do what Saul has now done, despite the fact that Samuel was coming to tell him what he should now do, the desperate situation in which he found himself was such that he took matters into his own hands. So, in verse 8, Samuel did not come, and then he does what is described for us there in verse 9: and when “he had finished”—the beginning of verse 10—“offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came.”

And it doesn’t appear as though Saul felt any sense of concern or disappointment, as you see in that final sentence of verse 10: “And Saul went out to meet him and greet him.” If he had felt bad about it, or if he was overwhelmed by it, presumably he would have gone and done a Saul again. He would have gone and find somewhere to hide. But it doesn’t. It says he comes out and says, “Samuel…” And before he can get out his question, which would inevitably be “Where have you been?” Samuel hits him with his question. And that question is simply “What have you done?” “What have you done?”

That actually is a recurring question in the Bible. If you know your Bible, you will know that that’s the question that God posed to Eve in the garden: “What have you done?”[7] It’s actually the question that he posed to Cain in the killing of his brother Abel: “What have you done?”[8] It’s the question that we discover in [Joshua] in the event of Achan stealing and hiding and lying, and God comes to him and says, “What have you done?”[9]

Incidentally and in passing, a series that we did some time ago—a long time ago now, I think—was entitled Questions Which God Asks. Many of us are very keen with the questions that we want to ask God. Some of them are rather rude. But the real issue is, are you able to answer, am I able to answer, the questions that God is asking me? Remember the question that Pilate asked: “What have you done with Jesus who is called the Christ?”[10] Well, I wonder, that question could be leveled to every one of us, couldn’t it? What have you done with Jesus? Have you become a follower of Jesus? Do you trust Jesus? Or do you just dismiss Jesus?

Well, that’s the way the question comes. And there’s more than a hint of self-justification in Saul’s reply. If the text is before you, you can see it. And Saul replies in verse 11: “Well, Samuel, listen, the numbers were dwindling. I figured if I wait any longer, I won’t even have an army at all. I mean, I had three thousand, but when I looked behind me, there was only about six hundred. And furthermore, you hadn’t shown up within the days appointed.” “Within the days.” Again, I’m assuming that Samuel comes at the last minute. “And so,” he says, “I reasoned. I reasoned, ‘The Philistines are gonna come and attack.’ I wasn’t going to go out and defend against them without having sought the favor of the Lord”—that’s verse 12. “So I forced myself, and [I] offered the burnt offering.”

In other words, what he’s saying is this: “I did what any sensible person would do in the circumstances.” That’s a fairly common response to things, isn’t it? “Well, given the circumstances…” “Well, of course, in light of the circumstances…” “Why did you do this?” Children do it all the time with their parents. “So, how was it that the chocolate chip cookie actually got in your mouth?” “Well, in light of the circumstances of need and desire and temptation and… I did what was only sensible. And I was only doing it because Penelope here told me she needed one of these.” And so immediately we go to self-justification.

And the response of Samuel to that attempt is equally clear. Look at what he says: “Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly.’” Samuel’s words were clear: “Wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”[11]

Now, in reading this, if we were just having a conversation with one another, I don’t think it would be too long before somebody’d say, “Well, wait a minute. We shouldn’t be too hard on Saul. After all, I wouldn’t call it foolish. Quite the reverse! It seems to me that it was the only sensible approach to take.”

It is a huge mistake to think that obeying God is an easy thing to do. Trusting God is neither straightforward nor simple.

Well, yeah, he reasoned from the circumstances: dwindling numbers, attacking force, no-show Samuel. But what about the alternative? He didn’t have to do this. He chose to do this.

“Oh,” says somebody, “you mean the alternative like ‘simply trusting’?”

No. No, no. Not simply trusting. Excruciatingly trusting. Trusting against all odds. Trusting in the face of massive opposition. Trusting in light of the dwindling numbers. Trusting in light of one’s own personal sense of inadequacy. Trusting God by obeying his words.

See, what Saul does here is he sets his own heart and mind against the clear command of God. And the implications of this are of vast significance. Verse 13: “If you had done what you were told to do, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue.” It is a huge mistake to think that obeying God is an easy thing to do. Trusting God is neither straightforward nor simple. If you rehearse your life, you know that’s true. Think of the things that come in opposition to you. Think about the challenges that are yours right now in this moment as I address you. And the last thing that you probably want to hear from the Bible or from me is something like “Well, why don’t you just ‘simply trust’?” And you’re saying to yourself, “I can’t! I won’t! I don’t know!” And here you have it crystallized.

Solomon, later on in the kingship, was going to tell his son, “Son, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”[12] Now, the interesting thing is that’s not a call to some kind of intellectual decision-making process. The intellect’s involved, but you notice what he says: “Trust God with all your heart.” Because the heart in the Bible is the epicenter of who and what we are. It is involving our minds, our emotions, and our wills. To trust God with all my heart is to display a deep, settled confidence in God’s care—a deep, settled confidence at the very core of my life, where my desires, where my anxieties, where my doubts, where my disappointments live.

And all those things come and clamor for attention, and wake us up in the night, and make us fearful, and cause us to say, “Yeah, but if you understood the circumstances, you would realize that the only thing I could possibly do was just disobey God. That’s why I made the business deal. That’s why I slept with her. That’s why I did this. In the circumstances. If you knew the circumstances…” Well, God knows the circumstances! That’s why God has given Saul Samuel, so that he might have the prophetic word of God. You say, “Well, I wish I had one.” You do have one. It’s right here. It’s absolutely clear. When it says “Wait,” it means wait. When it says “Stop,” it means stop. When it says “Go,” it means go. “Oh, but…” Hey! No one said it’s simple.

Now, look at this. God’s care expressed in this way was the basis upon which Saul would be able to obey the command.

Let me just turn this in a slightly different direction for a moment as we mention this notion of heart. You remember in Psalm 14 it says, “The fool ha[s] said in his heart, There is no God.”[13] “The fool ha[s] said in his heart, There is no God.” What are we discovering here is the essence of folly? The essence of folly—Saul’s folly—is not because he’s a dimwit. His folly is expressed in his disobedience: “You have done foolishly.” Now, when you take that in terms of Psalm 14, “The fool ha[s] said in his heart, There is no God,” that’s not a comment on the intellectual capacity of the individual. It’s a comment on the moral circumstance of the individual: “in his heart.” Because we know that many of our friends who are atheists are really intelligent. They’re really bright. We can’t hold a candle to them. And the Bible says, “You’re foolish.”

The same thing that Paul picks up in Romans 1, where he’s describing the way in which God, having revealed himself in creation and in the conscience of a man, describes what happens when, under the disguise of being really wise, men and women become foolish. We sang about it:

Once I was blind,
Yet believed I saw everything,
Proud in my ways,
Yet a fool in my part.[14]

And someone says, “You don’t understand. I did a PhD at Case Western Reserve. That’s absurd.” We’re not talking intellect.

You say, “Well, I don’t see any evidence of it in the world.” I’ll tell you why. The darkness is not on the outside of you. The darkness is on the inside of you. Well, that’s a staggering revelation, isn’t it? In other words, at the very core of our being. The fool is someone who lives as though God does not exist or God doesn’t matter. And what happened to Saul in this circumstance was that he finally said, “It matters more that I take this action than that I obey God.”

The implication, then, is straightforward. We noted it in verse 14: “Your kingdom shall not continue.” Why not? Because the only king that can rule Israel is a king who is obedient to God. And so he tells him, says, “God has his mind on such a king. God has a man after his own heart.” “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” In other words, God knows exactly the one that he has in mind. There’s a hint of David and ultimately the picture of Jesus. It will always lead us forward to the obedient King. Jesus is the obedient King. Remember, in Gethsemane, he says, “Father, … not my will, but yours, be done.”[15]

And that’s why when we read the Old Testament and when we read this about this ancient king and what he did and the decisions he made, we’ll go wrong unless we allow it to take us all the way forward to Jesus, who is the King, who didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped,[16] but he “made himself of no reputation.”[17] And when all of the circumstances appeared not simply to be against him but to be the kind of circumstances that one could say, “Well, maybe there’s another way,” that was where Jesus was, wasn’t it? He said, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But nevertheless, I’m the obedient King.”[18] And it’s that obedient King who, unlike Saul, calls us to his army, extends to us a welcome. He’s gentle, he’s lowly in heart, he’s not rude, he’s decisive, he’s powerful, he’s God. And so we want to listen to those promises of welcome.

Beware of the least disobedience, because it will be impossible to disobey God and his clear command without facing the implications that follow from it.

And finally, we want to ponder the warning that is provided in Saul’s response. And it’s a straightforward warning, isn’t it? I made a note to myself. I said, “Alistair, you need now to beware of the least disobedience, because it will be impossible to disobey God and his clear command without facing the implications that follow from it.” That is true for an individual. It’s true of a church. The empty churches that remain empty and will finally close, close because they’re foolish, and their folly lies in this: to refuse the command of God.

Some of us say, “Well, I’ve done a lot of foolish stuff.” We all have. The Evil One wants to come and rub our noses in that. And our response to that is not to say, “It didn’t happen”; it’s not to say, “I can justify it.” It is to say, “The obedient King has borne all of my rebellion, all of my punishment, all of my sin in his own body on the tree.[19] And that’s why I’m looking forward to Communion tonight, so that I can remind myself that my presence in his company—now and ultimately then—is on the strength of his obedience and his sacrifice and the fact that he was so unlike Saul when the chips were down.”

Lord, let us trust your promises. Let us obey your commands. Let us live to your glory. Thank you for the wonderful way in which the gospel reaches out to every one of us. You know everybody who’s here today. None of us are here by chance. Match whatever there is in my faltering words that is actually conveying the truth of the gospel and the Bible, match it to the needs of each of our lives, we pray. Let us understand that when the Bible says, “Whosoever would come,”[20] may actually come. And may none of us falter for failing to respond to such a welcome. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] Edgar Page Stites, “Trusting Jesus” (1876).

[2] 1 Samuel 10:1 (ESV).

[3] See 1 Samuel 10:22–23.

[4] Dave Williams and James Faye Hall, “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” (1955).

[5] John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “The Fool on the Hill” (1967).

[6] 1 Samuel 10:7 (paraphrased).

[7] Genesis 3:13 (paraphrased).

[8] Genesis 4:10 (ESV).

[9] Joshua 7:19 (paraphrased).

[10] Matthew 27:22 (paraphrased).

[11] 1 Samuel 10:8 (ESV).

[12] Proverbs 3:5–6 (paraphrased).

[13] Psalm 14:1 (KJV).

[14] Stuart Townend, “I Will Sing of the Lamb” (1997).

[15] Luke 22:42 (ESV). See also Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36.

[16] See Philippians 2:6.

[17] Philippians 2:7 (KJV).

[18] Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42 (paraphrased).

[19] See 1 Peter 2:24.

[20] Revelation 22:17 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.