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 in 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, “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.
1 Samuel 13:1-15
Imagine living in another time and place. You and your family are citizens in a kingdom, and the king is a good man. You have food, clothing, and shelter. You feel safe. But one day, you look out the window, and foreign soldiers are marching down your street. Some on horseback, some on foot. You hear a language you don’t recognize. As you peer out the window, trying not to be seen, your heart races. Why are they here? What do they want? Should I fight? Should I run? Should I hide? Like King Saul, in a flash, you forget what you know and start to take matters into your own hands.
A version of this scene plays out in our lives on a regular basis. Along comes some threat to life as we know it, and an avalanche of fear buries us. For the Christian, fear tempts us to forget who we are and all that we have in Jesus Christ. Like an invading army, death, change, sickness, conflict, or anything can turn our lives upside down in a moment. As fear rises, we do well to ask ourselves: Where do I feel like I’m losing control or becoming powerless? Where am I tempted not to trust God and to take matters into my own hands? How is fear causing me to forget the Lord? Until we realize how much fear controls us, we will struggle to see the darkness of our hearts and the light of our Savior.
Have you noticed that children can be comfortable and terrified in the exact same space? The same place that is “home” when the lights are on can become a haunted house when it’s dark. With the flick of a switch, however, everything changes. “This is home. My fear of the dark is irrational.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, even when it seems dark, the kingdom of God is our home; and the King of kings, the Man with God’s own heart, is our King. As we look out the window, we see the kingdom of this world marching by with threats and invitations. When fear causes us to forget, we need to remember in the dark what we’ve seen in the light. How do we do that? We open God’s word and pray for the Holy Spirit to pierce the darkness. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Are we spending time in God’s word? When we do, are we expecting for the Lord to shine His light and scatter our darkness, to build our faith and conquer our fear? As we walk in the light, it becomes clearer and clearer: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).