There’s an interesting account in 1 Samuel 14 where Saul and his 600-man army in Gibeah are facing a more numerous Philistine army on the far side of a valley to the north. The Philistines have posted a lookout on a rocky crag named Bozez (“shining”). Jonathan decides to take action against the lookout post with his armorbearer – subject to the Lord’s approval. These two brave Israelites scaled the rocky cliff and slew twenty Philistines – throwing the entire Philistine contingent into a panic.
When Saul heard all the noise from the Philistine camp, he directed his ephod-bearing priest Ahijah (Eli’s great-grandson) to bring the ark of God before them so the priest could seek the Lord’s guidance before it. (You may recall Eli’s sons foolishly took the ark into battle against the Philistines at Ebenezer where it was captured. Subsequently, Eli died upon receiving news of this great loss. See 1 Samuel 4:4-18.) The ark had been in safekeeping at Kirjath Jearim since its return by the Philistines and we would think the Israelites would have learned their lesson not to bring the ark near the battlefield.
But what I want us to notice is in verse 19. In the middle of seeking the Lord’s guidance, Saul interrupts the priest (“Withdraw your hand from the ephod”) and decides to go into battle on his own. Yes, he had correctly assessed the panic of the Philistines and seized the opportunity to enter the battle fray – but shouldn’t he have waited to hear from the Lord? This seems like such an insignificant incident – especially since the Lord saved Israel that day anyway (verse 23). However, failure to completely follow the Lord is why Saul lost the kingdom to David (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
Is it possible for us to do the same thing as Saul and fail to wait for God’s answers to our prayers? Is it possible for us to assess the noises of the world and lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)? I know we live in a fast-paced world and want immediate answers to everything, but sometimes we need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Unlike Saul, we need to be patient and give God time to answer!