Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs-everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night. “Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?”

But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”       1 Samuel 15:7-11; 19; 26

The Lord’s instructions to Saul, through his prophet, had been very specific. He was to totally destroy the Amalekites. Nothing, including their livestock, was to be spared.

Although Saul destroyed their civilization and slaughtered their army, he spared the life of Agag, their king, and also kept the finest livestock for sacrifices to the Lord. Surely the Lord would be pleased with him, Saul thought to himself. This, however, was not to be the case.

When Samuel arrived and saw Saul’s disobedience, he was both heartbroken and angry. “Why didn’t you obey the Lord?” he asked Saul.

“I accomplished my mission,” Saul replied.

“If your mission was accomplished, there would be nothing left alive,” Samuel grimly stated.

“I thought God would be pleased with my sacrifices,” Saul whimpered.

“God wants your obedience more than your sacrifice,” Samuel retorted.

By now, Saul was frantic; although he pleaded with Samuel to forgive him, Samuel would not relent. With his eyes burning like fire and the anointing of the Lord pulsating through his being, he told Saul that God had rejected him as king over Israel.

When he tried to leave, Saul grabbed him so forcibly that the hem of his robe was torn. Turning once again toward Saul, Samuel released God’s prophetic judgment like an arrow into Saul’s rebellious heart: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors.”

Although there are many lessons we can learn from this tragic tale of rebellion and divine judgment, we will only concentrate on one of them.

According to verse 9, Saul spared the best of the livestock because he was only willing to kill that which was despised and weak. Spiritually speaking, I have seen Christian after Christian make this same tragic mistake.

Although they are willing to repent of the things in their lives which they loathe, many times they are unwilling to bring equally dangerous areas of their lives to the cross. They live this way because they, like Saul, want to be the final arbitrator of what is right and wrong in their life.

They may turn from things such as depression, addiction, or sexual bondage; after all, these types of problems make them feel weak and defiled. On the other hand, when it comes to that wonderful unbeliever in their life or their prideful, unbroken will, they are not as willing to repent.

If anyone, including God, dares to touch these areas, they are going to have a fight on their hands.

Do you understand? If you have made yourself the final arbitrator on what is right and wrong in your life, sooner or later it will bring death to your soul.

Even as Saul deceived himself, through his rebellion, into believing he was pleasing God, so you and I also the same perils.

God, through His Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, are the final authority over what is right and wrong in our lives. Sometimes, however, I have found it takes another human to break through my self-deception; I am so thankful for the men God has used to lovingly confront me with the truth.

May He begin the work of freeing you from self-deception as you ponder the serious message of this story today.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon


Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

Jonathan said, “Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the LORD has given them into our hands.” So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost.

“Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”

So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”

Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him.       1 Samuel 14:6-13

The whole nation of Israel was groaning under the heavy weight of Philistine oppression. With the Philistines in total control of the metalworking trade, Saul could not even arm his soldiers, so he and his son Jonathan were the only men in Israel properly armed to face their foes that day.

While Israel’s army was paralyzed with fear, one young man and his courageous armor-bearer decided to rise up and win the day. The name of the young man was Jonathan; he was the son of Saul and the prince of Israel. (His armor-bearer’s name is never given.)

Their plan was not just dangerous, it was absurd. So absurd, in fact, that only a man of faith would even attempt it.

The Philistine outpost was perched high on the cliffs. Naturally, it would be impossible for any man to fight his enemies while attempting to scale these cliffs. If that was not enough, they would be horribly outnumbered when they finally reached the top.

Yet, out of courage forged by faith in God, Jonathan and his armor-bearer began the impossible task. They had only asked for one sign: “Lord,” they had cried, “If you will give us victory, let the Philistines taunt us by saying, ‘Climb up to us and we will fight you.’”

To ordinary men, this would have been no sign at all. Through the eyes of faith, however, what seemed to be the Philistines’ only logical response became a sign from God to attack. Once they miraculously reached the top of the cliff, they began to slaughter the Philistine garrison.

When the Lord saw their faith and their courage, He struck the Philistine armies with a terrible earthquake. As the ground shook, the Philistines ran for their lives. The Bible says, “It was a panic sent by God.” What lessons can we learn from this incredible story of human courage and divine power?

First, even as Jonathan faced impossible odds, so you and I face spiritual enemies in our nations which seem beyond our strength to defeat. Whether it is the immorality of the media or the atheistic humanism of our educational systems, what hope can one mere human have of ever truly affecting these mammoth powers?

Remember, if we will trust God and obey Him, we have every reason to believe He can change our society and our culture. If we will simply climb up into these high places of darkness which are controlling our world today, we will find they are not as invincible as their reputation would lead us to believe.

Second, even as God released His earthquake power through the obedience of Jonathan and His armor-bearer, so He will do amazing things through you and me if we will only penetrate these strongholds in His name.

I am convinced if we do our part, God is more than willing to do His part. Simply stated, if we obey, God will give us the power we need to change our world.

May God fill your heart with faith as you ponder the implications of this miraculous story today.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon

[Samuel said,] “Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.”… Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter.

So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.

“What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”

“You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”       1 Samuel 10:8; 13:7-14

Saul was in the worst crisis of his young kingship. With thousands of Philistine soldiers surrounding his small army, his men were slowly deserting him, either hiding themselves or running for their lives.

Now, with the remainder of his army quaking in fear, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. After all, he had waited the full seven days which Samuel had instructed him to wait. Who really knew why Samuel hadn’t come?

Maybe he had been captured or even killed by the Philistines! Surely Samuel would have expected him to use his own initiative and offer sacrifices to the Lord, so he could inquire after His will.

Just as he was completing the sacrifices, Samuel arrived. When he saw that Saul had not waited for him, he was heartbroken.

“What have you done?” Samuel asked.

“The men were deserting and the Philistines were ready to attack,” replied Saul, “so what else could I do when you did not show up like you had promised?”

“Saul, you have been foolish,” Samuel said. “Because you have not learned to wait upon the Lord, your kingdom will not last.”

There are many critical lessons which can be drawn from this story, but I will only concentrate on three of them.

First, like Saul, when we are hard pressed by the crises in our lives, we all have a natural tendency toward panicking and taking things into our own hands. It might be not paying your tithes because you are in a financial crisis, or marrying an unbeliever because God didn’t send you a godly prospect in your allotted timeframe; many times, I have seen Christians repeat Saul’s tragic mistake.

Second, in this story we also find the frustration (and mystery) associated with trying to understand God’s timing. When Samuel did not show up in seven 24-hour days, Saul immediately took matters into his own hands.

Could it have been that Samuel was speaking of the number “7” symbolically? (i.e, the number of fullness) Who really knows?

In my own experience, I have found it is almost impossible to understand the timing of God. What I think is going to happen “tomorrow” sometimes takes years. On the other hand, what I would like to put off for “years” seems to come into my life on the very day I am trying to avoid it the most.

It will be no different for you; following God is much like trying to figure out the date and time of the Second Coming.

In reality, it has far more to do with obeying God than knowing the exact details of God’s timing. His promises to you will be fulfilled in His time, not yours.

Third, what seemed to be a simple act of impatience would eventually cost Saul his entire kingdom. It would cost him both his kingdom and his destiny, because he would destroy it himself by taking matters into his own hands instead of waiting on God.

Do you understand? When you do not wait on God, in reality you are trying to be God yourself, because you are attempting to do what only He can do for you.

May God burn this story’s dire warnings deep into your heart as you ponder Saul’s story today.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon

Saul answered, “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?”       1 Samuel 9:21

So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?”

And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.” They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others.

Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”       1 Samuel 10:22-24

Where was the nation’s hope? All day they had been waiting to meet the man who would be their king. When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel together, the tribe of Benjamin had been selected. From Benjamin, Samuel had gone clan by clan until the family of Matri had been chosen.

Finally he called out the name, “Saul, son of Kish!” Much to the amazement of Samuel and all the people, Saul was nowhere to be found. With the tribes murmuring their displeasure around him, Samuel began to seek the Lord.

God answered him by saying, “Saul has hidden himself in the baggage.” After they had pulled Saul out of his hiding place, Samuel introduced him to his new subjects. When the people saw his great stature and physical prowess they shouted, “Long live the king!”

What lessons can we learn from this strange story?

First, even as Saul was hiding from his destiny among the baggage, so I have seen Christian after Christian hiding from God’s purpose in the very same way. The baggage I am talking about, however, is far different from the huge piles of clothing and supplies under which Saul was hiding.

No, this “baggage” is spiritual in nature; it is the emotional wounds, wrecked dreams, and shattered lives which make people feel as if they are unfit for their destiny. They have listened to, and believed, the enemy’s lies–instead of God’s promises.

Even as Samuel sent men to extricate Saul from the very baggage under which he had been hiding, so God desires to send both his Holy Spirit and other Christians to pull you out of your “baggage” today.

Second, it is important for you to see that Saul hid himself among the baggage. It was not like the baggage fell on top of him – he purposely climbed into the baggage and hid himself!

Many of you feel as if the “baggage” of your past is holding on to you. No matter what you have done, you feel like you are destined, like a beast of burden, to carry your “baggage” for the rest of your life.

In reality, however, you are holding on to it yourself. It could be unbelief, pride, fear of change, or low self-esteem; whatever be the case, you have wrongly accepted this “baggage” as an inescapable reality in your life.

If you will simply call out to God and His people, you will be delivered from your “baggage” and thrust into the mighty destiny which God has created for you.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance? When you leave me today, you will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin. They will say to you, ‘The donkeys you set out to look for have been found. And now your father has stopped thinking about them and is worried about you. He is asking, ‘What shall I do about my son?’

“Then you will go on from there until you reach the great tree of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there. One will be carrying three young goats, another three loaves of bread, and another a skin of wine. They will greet you and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept from them. After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”       1 Samuel 10:1-7

As young Saul looked up in wonderment, Samuel slowly raised the flask of anointing oil and poured it on his head.

“How could simple oil feel like this?” Saul wondered to himself as the burning presence and power of God began to flood his soul. With the holy oil of God running down his face and Samuel continuing to call out the words of his destiny, Saul felt for a moment that he had been transported into another world.

After helping Saul to his feet, Samuel described three other supernatural signs Saul would receive, confirming God’s calling on his life: the knowledge of the lost donkeys, material provision, and an incredible encounter with a group of prophets –which would change Saul into a different man.

In these three miraculous signs, signs bringing such tremendous confirmation for Saul, we also find three critical lessons for our lives today.

First, even as Saul heard that his father’s donkeys had been found, so God will meet your particular need as you submit to His overall purpose for your life. Furthermore, the very fact that the first sign took place at Rachel’s tomb was also significant.

Rachel, one of the most illustrious women in Israel’s history, was the mother of Benjamin, who was the patriarch of Saul’s tribe. In this encounter, God was touching Saul’s insecurities about the size of his tribe by reminding him about the amazing origins of his tribe.

Second, when Saul reached the great tree of Tabor, he met three men who were going to seek God at Bethel. Between them, these men were carrying three young goats, three loaves of bread, and a skin of wine. As they gave some of these provisions to Saul, God was showing him that he would never lack provision, just as you will never lack provision as you follow Him with all your heart.

Third, when Saul encountered the prophets at Gibeah, he was so impacted by the power of God that he himself began to prophesy. As he was prophesying, Scripture records that he was changed into a different person.

It is no different for you and me today. As we are willing to follow God, He will change us into the people we need to be to fulfill our destiny.

As you ponder this story’s lessons, never forget that the God who provided so miraculously for Saul is your God as well.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon

There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites-a head taller than any of the others.

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.”

When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

“I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will let you go and will tell you all that is in your heart. As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?”       1 Samuel 9:1-3; 5-6; 17-20

On the outside, young Saul was a giant of a man, a head taller than any other person in Israel. On the inside, though, he was deeply insecure about the size of his tribal group and the condition of his blood family. Despite these contradictions, he was soon to become Israel’s first king.

Kingship was the last thing on his mind as our story begins; in fact, Saul was far more concerned about finding his father’s lost donkeys than he was with finding his destiny. After a futile search, his servant finally suggested they go and inquire of Samuel, the great seer and prophet of Israel.

When Saul and his servant arrived in the town where Samuel was living, the great prophet was already waiting for them. God had already told Samuel the man he was going to anoint as king would come to see him.

Although young Saul would be incredulous when Samuel told him about his calling to become king, the miraculous signs he received in confirmation gave Saul the faith he needed to accept God’s will for his life.

Many lessons can be drawn from this story, but I will concentrate on only one of them.

Even as God used the loss of his family’s donkeys to bring Saul into his destiny, so God will use the natural circumstances in your life to bring you into your destiny. Saul would never have come to Samuel unless he had lost something of great value he could not find on his own.

It is no different with you and me; many times our only motivation to seek the Lord is from the loss of something we value–or the desire for something we cannot get on our own.

Whether it is our desire for a spouse, need of a job, healing for our bodies, or a critical financial need, God in His wisdom will use these needs to bring us into His purposes for our lives.

Do you see it yet? God is using the pressing needs of your life to drive you so deeply into the promises of His word and the reality of His presence that you will not be able to escape His amazing purpose for your life.

May God help you to find both your donkeys and your destiny as you contemplate the powerful message of this story.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon

When the ark of the LORD had been in Philistine territory seven months, the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.”…

“Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance.”

So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. They placed the ark of the LORD on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.       1 Samuel 6:1-2; 7-12

The Philistines had celebrated prematurely. When they had defeated Israel’s armies, they also thought they had defeated Israel’s God. Now, as their cities were being destroyed by horrible plagues and a terrible infestation of rats, they knew they had somehow made a horrible mistake.

Yet even then, they were not fully convinced the horrible things happening to their nation were the judgment of Israel’s God. In order to discern the source of the calamities they were experiencing, the priests and diviners of the Philistines devised a strange test.

Philistine soldiers were ordered to find two wild cows, which had just given birth to calves. These cows, totally unbroken, were to be hitched to a cart. Then their calves were to be taken away from them and pinned up in a place where they could still be seen and heard by their mothers.

Finally the Ark of the Covenant, along with some appropriate sacrifices, was to be placed in the cart. If the two cows would leave their calves and pull the cart all the way back to Israel, without any human help, then the Philistines would know they had been judged by Israel’s God.

When the day of the test came, many of the Philistine leaders were smugly laughing to themselves. What God had the power to transform the nature of these wild cows to the point that they would leave their own calves and pull a cart all the way to Israel?

Much to their amazement, however, as the men carrying the Ark approached the cart, the cows immediately ceased their bucking and bellowing and became placid and calm. In fact, the cows were not the only creatures to be affected. Everyone in the crowd was beginning to feel a strange, mysterious sense of power they had never felt before. They were even more astonished when the cows began to pull the cart towards Israel.

With the rulers of the Philistines following them, the cows pulled the Ark all the way to Israel without straying from the road even one time. As the Philistine rulers watched the Israelites celebrate the Ark’s return, their whole bodies trembled with fear. They knew beyond the shadow of a doubt Israel’s God had indeed been judging them.

What lessons can you and I learn from this miraculous story of judgment and transformation?

First of all, the judgments of God alone are not enough to transform a culture. Like the leaders of the Philistines, the people of our world will not believe until they see the power of God transform one of His creations.

Second, if the Ark of the Covenant had the power to transform two dumb cows, how much more should you be changed by the fact that Jesus Christ Himself lives inside of you?

Third, when the Philistine rulers saw God’s transforming power, they were willing to follow dumb animals all the way to Israel’s borders. How much more, when they see true transformation in your life, will the very friends and loved ones for whom you have been praying be willing to follow you into the kingdom of God?

Do you see it yet? The same God, who empowered wild cows to leave their bawling calves, can also deliver you today from the sin gripping your soul. If dumb animals can rise above the deepest call of their instincts, surely you can rise up out of your old nature into the fullness Christ has for you.

Furthermore, the very God who enabled two stubborn, untamed animals to work together in harmony is also able to transform your relationships with your spouse, children, and friends.

If this wasn’t enough, there is also a magnetic aspect to God’s transforming power. Even as the hardened leaders of the Philistine empire followed dumb cows, so many of your friends will be inexplicably drawn to Christ’s fresh work in you.

May God begin a fresh work of transformation in your heart, as you ponder the message of this amazing story.

© Copyright 2005 by Jim Laffoon