Did you ever make a promise you couldn’t keep? Maybe you agreed to something in haste, later regretting what you vowed? As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:6, “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.” In today’s passage, Saul acted contrary to this advice. Israel had demanded that God provide them with “a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:20). Yet after a promising start, Saul faltered. In chapter 13, we find Saul seated under a pomegranate tree on the outskirts of Gibeah, surrounded by his troops. While Saul was holding court, God’s people were hard-pressed by the Philistines.
Compared to the more professional Philistine army, Israel was outnumbered and underequipped. The Philistines had chariots and swords, while God’s people had to pay their enemies to sharpen their farm implements. Only Saul and his son Jonathan had proper weapons. Between these two, it was Jonathan who proved the more daring. Eager to engage the enemy, he and his armor-bearer executed a daring raid. Saul joined the fight when he saw that God had sent such a panic among the Philistine troops that they fought amongst themselves. Jonathan’s actions demonstrated a boldness born of faith.
Saul bound his troops with a harmful oath when he pronounced a curse on anyone who ate food before the king’s enemies were defeated. Saul’s primary motivation was not God’s glory or Israel’s protection but personal revenge. The consequences of Saul’s rash vow cascaded from Jonathan to the whole army, whose hunger drove them to eat the captured sheep, cattle, and calves without first draining the blood as was required by the law of Moses (Lev. 3:17; 7:25–26).
>> How does a rash commitment differ from taking a leap of faith? It may be helpful to remember that faith is focused on God and shaped by the guidelines of His Word. Think and pray before you promise.