Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13:5-14)
I Felt Compelled
The nation of Israel had demanded a king to lead them into battle and Saul would be their first ruler with disastrous results. It was only a few years after being anointed by Samuel that Saul proved to be a man who cared more for his own will than the commandment of the Lord. The Philistines would be a constant source of trouble for the young nation. Thirty thousand chariots of the Philistines along with six thousand horsemen and innumerable warriors stood against King Saul and his rag-tag army of Israelite’s. The men of Israel were terrified at the sight of the huge army of Philistines gathered against them and many of the Israelite’s hid in distress. Saul was no doubt concerned for his young nation and anxiously waited for Samuel to arrive to bless the people and give them courage. The prophet Samuel instructed Saul to wait seven days for him to arrive but Samuel did not come to Gilgal at the allotted time. Concerned he would lose his nation; King Saul took matters into his own hand and offered the burnt offering in the place of Samuel. As king of Israel Saul had the authority to carry out many duties but to serve as a priest and prophet of the people was not given to him. As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering Samuel came. It would seem Saul was excited to see Samuel and tell him he had taken it upon himself to offer the burnt offering for the people since the prophet had delayed his coming. In the mind of Saul it was the right thing to do considering the circumstance and surely Samuel would understand.
From the view of Saul there was a big problem. The Philistines had gathered against him with an incredible army that seemed invincible. There was little hope of winning the battle and with Samuel delaying his arrival the people began to leave in fear of the opposing Philistine army. For the king it was a watershed moment of decision to keep the people together and although he knew he had no authority to offer the burnt offering he forced himself to take the place of Samuel since it seemed a good idea to make the sacrifice. He probably performed the sacrifice in the right manner with the right animal. However Samuel rebuked the king for making an unlawful sacrifice and failing to trust in the will of the Lord. It was foolish for Saul to think God did not know what He was doing. Saul could not wait on the Lord when he offered the burnt offering. The king had failed to keep the commandment of the Lord regardless of the circumstance. Saul knew the law and understood he had no right to offering the burnt offering even if he thought it was a good idea and needful at the time. Being the king did not give him the authority. The thousands of Philistines set in war against them was not a reason to disobey the will of God. Having a good idea and feeling compelled to go beyond the law of God was not reason enough. What Saul did was what so many people have done in religion to go beyond what is written.
Circumstances do not change the law of God. The apostasy of the New Testament church is born from the illicit ideas of men thinking they know more than commandments of the Lord. There are many things that work well in the business world but do not fit in the church of God because there is no authority. Men go beyond the word of God because they feel compelled to help the Lord out with His plan (that in the minds of men is not going to work). Look at the denominational world of religion and see the chaos and confusion in the programs and teachings of man-made churches that like Saul are making unlawful sacrifices to the Lord. The sacrifice of Saul probably looked a lot like what Samuel would have done but Saul had no authority to carry out the sacrifice. It did not matter to God that Saul thought it was a good idea. There was no authority. From the beginning of time authority must be established in worship and without authority worship is vain. When men go beyond the word of God they go beyond the bounds of authority. Like Saul, religion has become foolishness because they refuse to follow the word of God. And like Saul, the religions of men will be cast down as refuse when the Lord appears because there is no authority for their sacrifices.