On the surface this statement can appear to be a simple formula introduction for what the prophet will say next. But below the surface this is a telling statement and one that is timely in the life of Saul as the first king of Israel. The people of Israel had clamored for a king-to be like the other nations around them. God obliged and gave them Saul-he was anointed and proclaimed king back in chapter 10. Saul starts off well-but by chapter 13 he makes the first of three fateful leadership errors. Two of these leadership errors involve disobedience and the other a rash command at the expense of those he is leading-especially his son. Chapter 15 represents the third error and once again reveals the sin of disobedience. God, through Samuel, commands Saul to annihilate the Amalekites and all of their livestock. But Saul ultimately spares the best of the herds and flocks-and king Agag himself. This precipitates the final severing of the kingdom from Saul’s hands. King David will eventually assume the throne because “he was a man after God’s own heart.” My own take on Saul’s core problem was that he was a man and leader driven by fear. Why else would he be hiding among the baggage at his inauguration? (10:22) I think it was his fear that drove him to several bad decisions. Leaders driven by fear will always live in partial obedience and make rash judgments-but that is for another post.
What I want to take note of here are three aspects of leadership perspective revealed in 1Samuel 15:1 that would have aided Saul greatly had he truly paid attention.
1. God places leaders
Notice what Samuel says, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king . . . ” This was God’s idea-not Saul’s and not Samuel’s. God initiated through His prophet Samuel to call Saul as king. This is true of you and me. If we hold a leadership position we need to see it as from the Lord. To do so keeps us humble and in recognition of our need to trust the One who called us.
2. God’s leadership appointment is truly a stewardship
Notice too that Samuel says ” . . . His people Israel”. These are not Saul’s people-they are not his subjects just because he has the title of king-not in God’s economy. They are God’s chosen people-His subjects-and Saul is merely to act as a steward of that which God has entrusted to him. That means Saul does not “own” anyone or anything-but was suppose to be a good and obedient manager of these precious resources. That is why I always want to be careful to not call people “my disciples” or “my team”. This is not just semantics-they belong to the Lord and I am simply a steward of them for some defined season of time. To see myself as a steward keeps me from becoming dictatorial-and again keeps me humble and trusting the One who truly owns them.
3. God expects total obedience from His leaders
In Hebrew the verb “to listen” also carries the meaning of obedience. In other words, to the Hebrew mind, to listen was to obey. Samuel charges Saul to “listen to the words of the Lord”. Samuel-and God-expected Saul to fully obey these words. He did not. Partial obedience is no obedience. Ask any parent. Remember that a leader’s actions are always multiplied in the lives of his followers-the consequences are much greater-either for good or for bad. Its imperative that a leader seek the Lord for His guidance and then fully follow through with the guidance he receives.
We need this three prong perspective today as Christian leaders: To see my leadership role as divinely appointed by God; to see the people that have been entrusted to me as God’s people, not mine-and myself as merely a steward for some season; and to see the necessity of total obedience to the revealed will of God-that I might remain usable in God’s kingdom.