When Israel was still a young country, they didn’t have a king. Ideally God should have been their King. But unfortunately the Israelites didn’t always follow God with all their heart. It says in Judges 17:6 that “everyone did as they saw fit.” This was a destructive path they were headed down. As a young nation, they saw a lot of turmoil and heartache because they didn’t follow the Lord. Off and on the nation did have different leaders known as judges. But finally one day the Israelites decided they wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted a king to rule over their nation like they saw in other nations.
You might be familiar with someone from the Old Testament named Saul. God chose a man named Saul to rule as the first king over Israel. Saul was a humble and thoughtful man. When we first meet Saul in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 9, he is out searching for some lost donkeys. He was gone so long that he considered turning back so that his father would not worry about him. This illustrates how Saul was a caring and considerate man.
But the servants with Saul prompted him to continue on to meet up with Samuel. Samuel was a prophet and the current judge over Israel. The servants thought Samuel might know where the lost donkeys were. Little did they know, Samuel was expecting them. Samuel already knew that he was to anoint Saul as the first king. One of the first things that Samuel said to Saul was, “And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” Saul’s answer was one of humility, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”
After Samuel anointed Saul with olive oil, things looked promising for Saul. We read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul and he was changed into a different person (1 Samuel 10:6) and God changed Saul’s heart (1 Samuel 10:9). One of the first great things we see Saul do was to help rescue the city of Jabesh which had been besieged. Saul gathered 330,000 men to save Jabesh. After the battle, Saul honored the Lord and said, “…this is the day the Lord has rescued Israel” (1 Samuel 11:13).
But things began to change in Saul’s heart. First he allowed fear, impatience, and disobedience to creep in. In 1 Samuel 13, when Israel was up against the Philistines, Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to meet up with him. But he didn’t. And he even sacrificed a burnt offering to the Lord, disobeying what he was told. When Samuel arrived on the scene, he let Saul know that he had been very foolish. And because he did not follow the Lord’s commands, his kingdom would not endure.
Then Saul allowed pride to enter into his heart. When the Israelites were still in battle, there was one particular day when he forbid his troops to eat anything. He said, “Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies.” In the latter part of his statement, he is focused on himself; and he has taken God out of the equation. This almost cost the life of his own son, Jonathan. He had not heard his father say these words and had eaten some honey. Fortunately, due to the great things Jonathan had done in battle, the other men stuck up for him and saved him from being put to death. (1 Samuel 14)
Saul’s heart deteriorates even further. Samuel brought Saul a message from the Lord. He told him to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.” Saul and his troops did attack. But they did not destroy everything as God had commanded. They spared the king and also kept all the good animals and plunder. Samuel went to speak to Saul the next day to let him know that the Lord was not pleased with him. Saul tried to argue with Samuel saying that they kept the good animals to use as burnt offerings to the Lord. But Samuel told him that obedience was more important to God. (1 Samuel 15)
Later on in Saul’s reign we meet David. David would become the next and greatest king of Israel. I am sure you are familiar with the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17 we read that the Israelites troops were too scared to fight Goliath, who they say was over nine feet tall. But David knew the power of the Lord, and defeated Goliath with a slingshot and a rock. After this incident, David received a high rank in the army. He was always successful in any battle that he faced, because he relied on the Lord. But one day Saul heard people singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). This is when Saul really allowed jealousy, anger, and pride to take over his heart. Things spiraled downhill fast after that. Eventually Saul’s only goal was to kill David. David had to flee in order to stay away from Saul and his wrath. In 1 Samuel 22 we read that Saul even had eighty-five priests killed because one of them had been kind to David.
Reading about Saul shows us how dangerous it is to let negative feelings live in our hearts. They eventually become toxic to us and those around us. We cannot allow anger, resentment, negativity, bitterness, fear, pride, jealousy, or any other negative emotion to rule our lives. Once we realize we have these feelings in our hearts, we should immediately take them to the Lord. God will always show us the right way and the right path to take when we truly seek Him. Ultimately these emotions can block us from the Lord and all the good things He has planned for us. Saul’s family line could have reigned over Israel for many generations. But that possibility was forfeited when Saul continued to turn away from God.
Take some time today to examine your heart. Are you holding onto any of these negative feelings? If so, pray and ask God to help you restore your heart.