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Saul a Portrait of Pride and Insecurity
I highly recommend reading I Samuel chapters 9-17 which chronicles the life of Saul if you get a chance. It will greatly assist in understanding this lesson.
Saul's whole life is an example of how his low opinion of himself and his lack of Faith in God led him to pride and his own demise.
Let's begin in Chapter 9. The children of Israel desperately wanted a king like all the other nations. God is a bit offended by them not being satisfied with His leadership but agrees to let them have what they want. While Saul is out looking for some lost donkeys God informs Samuel the prophet that Saul is the man that is going to be Israel's first king.
It is interesting to note that the chapter actually begins with a description of Saul's physical appearance.
And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
— I Samuel 9:2
Samuel the prophet explains to Saul that he has been chosen to be king over Israel and this is Saul's reply:
And Saul answered and said, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?”
— I Samuel 9:21
It appears that Saul is a bit insecure despite his good looks and stature.It also reveals that Saul's sense of security is centered already, not on God's ability to enable Him, but on the size and value of the tribe and family, he comes from, very possibly, formed from the opinions of men, that will eventually become a great snare to him.
Samuel then holds a ceremony to introduce Saul to the nation as their king but Saul is nowhere to be found.
...And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”
— I Samuel 10:21-22
The first verse tells us that he was taller than all the people around him but he obviously felt smaller than all of them.
When he finally becomes king and steps into the role of a leader of the nation of Israel he begins to make tragic mistakes that are rooted in his deep insecurities and how he chooses to placate them.
Beginning with Chapter thirteen. Saul is in a battle and he is waiting for Samuel to show up to make the sacrifice and give him guidance from the Lord concerning the battle. Saul becomes fearful. So he decides to just go ahead and make the sacrifice himself. Only those appointed by God (prophet and priest) were allowed to do this.
And Samuel said, “What have you done?”
— I Samuel 13:11
“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,
Saul's greatest fear was that he would look bad in the eyes of the people and his enemies. He displayed no confidence in God concerning the matter. He was plagued by a fear of failure, a need for public approval, and being humiliated so he took matters into his own hands rather than seeking God and remaining loyal to His instructions.
When Samuel confronts Saul about his disobedience, Saul's pride leaps into action to cover up the real issue. The first thing he does is blame Samuel
"because he did not come within the days appointed"
He does admit that he was worried about the people who were leaving him but claims that if Samuel just would have shown up on time this would have never happened and makes himself appear as the victim. Pride will convince us that it is in our best interest to make ourselves the victim through blame when confronted with our own moral failures.
The next tragic mistake happens in Samuel chapter 15. The Lord had given the Amalekites, who were noted for their cruelty and cowardice, into the hands of Israel's army. God made it abundantly clear that they were not to spare anyone or take the spoil of anything of the Amalekites.
But Saul and the people spared Agag (the king of the Amalekites) and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
— I Samuel 15:9
Samuel comes to confront Saul once again.
So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
— I Samuel 15:12
The deception of pride will try to convince us that our selfish motives are for God's benefit. I love Samuel's response it uncovers the deep insecurity lying underneath it:
So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?”
— I Samuel 15:17-19
Samuel goes right to the very root of the problem, he was little in his own eyes and even shows Him that he had no business trusting in his own abilities anyway because God had anointed (empowered) him to be the king.
Saul's pride can't cover him anymore and he finally admits the real reason for his disobedience.
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.
— I Samuel 15:24
Saul was attempting to win the approval of his peers as a remedy for the insignificance he felt inside. We see how Saul attempted to esteem himself through building himself up in the eyes of man. We see God behind the scenes trying to lift him up if he would only humble himself and obey.
We also see this same fear of man and prideful excuse, played out when Aaron was confronted about making a golden calf to be worshiped when Moses went up on the mount and was delayed in coming back. He even plays the victim in claiming that the calf just came out of the fire without taking the responsibility for forming it himself.
So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
— Exodus 32:22-24
Aaron here again was afraid of the people.
The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.
— Proverbs 29:25
Gesenius' Lexicon defines the Hebrew root word for pride "ge-ah" and several words built from it come with the idea of lifting oneself up to a position that should only be held by God Himself.
The Hebrew word picture definition is quite simple and agrees with this definition.
"Gimel" the first letter of the Word "ge-ah" is a picture of a camel and carries the idea of lifting up. Camels are noted for their ability to kneel. We looked at this in another study about how camels kneeling can be a picture of humility. Here we see the camel lifting itself up which can be seen as a symbol of pride. Except for giraffes, camels are the tallest land-living animals according to discovery magazine.com. So we can see when the camel lifts itself up it is a head above all the rest as we saw in the story of Saul he was a head taller than the others. Pride wants us to see ourselves as above anything or anyone else including God.
Aleph is a picture of an ox and carries the idea of something that is strong and leading. It is also connected to one's will. When our will is exalted over God's will we are in a state of pride getting ready for a fall.
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
— Proverbs 16:18
The deceitfulness of sin convinces us that by lifting ourselves up we will be exalted and lifted up but the Bible tells us that...
A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
— Proverbs 29:23
"Hey" is the final letter of ge-ah a Hebrew word expressing pride and is a picture of a window relating the concept of revelation and when at the end of a word it makes the word female indicating the idea of what comes from or is produced by.
Taken all together we can see that pride is what comes from strongly lifting up our own will and wishes over God's will and wishes.
Pride Is Not Personal
Pride is not just a personal matter. Saul's attempts at self-exaltation, by capturing alive, as a trophy, King Agag a Hitler type of enemy to the Israelites, rather than slaying him as instructed, had horrific consequences for God's people.
Centuries later the evil Haman arrives on the scene in the book of Esther and is identified as an Agagite, meaning descended from Agag which means that there were still descendants alive that Saul was instructed to kill and did not.
Esther spoke again to the king, fell down at his feet, and implored him with tears to counteract the evil of Haman the Agagite, and the scheme which he had devised against the Jews
— Eshter 8:3
The scheme against the Jews was to completely annihilate them. Saul's self-preoccupation and disobedience had far reaching consequences. He left an open door for a future persecution.
Flesh and Spirit
There is also an interesting pattern in Old Testament scripture that can be relative to this same principle. Many times when God presents two men either together or in succession, one is a picture of flesh and self-dependence and the other is that of spirit as in one who depends on God. This can be seen with Cain (image flesh dependence) and Abel, (image of spirit - God dependence). Ishmael (flesh), Isaac (spirit), Esau ( flesh), and Jacob (spirit), King Saul (flesh), and King David (Spirit).
Cain, Ishmael, Esau, and Saul give us a picture of insecure, self-reliant, flesh and a great lesson that there is no security or confidence to be found in our flesh Paul writes...
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells
— Romans 7:18
I will end with Paul's exhortation in Philippians, as to where our confidence ought to lie.
rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
— Philippians 3:3
We can see from these examples that insecurity, depending on how we deal with it, and pride, go hand in hand, and that there is only one cure for that insecurity, that being faith and confidence in God and not our self and flesh, and an esteem that is built from the love He has for us alone.
Building our security-based upon peer acceptance, public opinion, or the way we look is building a house, and life, on the sand, which will inevitably fall and will have far reaching consequences for future generations. Building our esteem through a humble relationship with our creator is building our house and life on the rock that will stand through to eternity.
...be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud,Butgives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
— I Peter 5:5-7
And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.
— I Samuel 12:21
© 2010 Tamarajo