Beware Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

There is a regular trap I fall into as a homeowner. Something will break, wear out, or become damaged and I will take a look and then nod my head in resolution. Under my breath, I’ll say something like, “I’ll take care of this myself.” It hardly ever works out the way I intend.

I have lumpy drywall repair jobs, badly swinging screen doors, and half-done leaf raking jobs as witnesses to what I am and am not capable of on my own. It’s actually not that big of a deal; I learn a little something with each attempt, and my family indulges these ventures into the unknown with good-natured humor. Mostly. So my disposition toward trying this stuff is likely not to change in the future.

When it comes to your home, or your car, or your whatever, it’s fine to take matters into your own hands. You roll the dice on your own ability and accept the coming result. But then there are other times when it’s very much not fine to do that. Saul, the first king of Israel, is a case study in this respect.

Despite having all the promise in the world – he looked like a king, sounded like a king, commanded like a king – the reign of Saul was marked with impatience. Time after time, when he should have exercised restraint he instead charged forward. When he should have exercised faith, he took matters into his own hands. And in 1 Samuel 13, the Lord had enough:

“You have done a foolish thing,” 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 ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Sam. 13:13-14).

So what had he done? What action had Saul taken that would result in the stripping of the kingdom from him and his family? He took matters into his own hands instead of waiting on the Lord.

The Israelites were outnumbered at Gilgal by the Philistines, and panic was running through the camp. Rather than standing in faith, the soldiers were running and hiding in caves, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. It was chaos, and Saul was acutely aware of how out of control the situation was becoming.

Samuel the prophet had told Saul to wait there for seven days, which Saul did. Samuel said that he would be there to offer sacrifices at the end of that time, but when the seventh day came and went and Saul saw that the men were deserting, he decided it was foolish to wait any more. So he took matters into his own hands. He offered the sacrifice himself, assuming that doing so would bring a victory from the Lord.

And while the smoke was still rising from the fires, Samuel approached.

Now you could argue that Saul had done the prudent thing. After all, something had to be done, didn’t it? They couldn’t just continue to stand there. And Samuel did not actually come when he said he would. And the whole army was becoming anxious. And, and, and, and…

It could go on forever. The bottom line, though is this: Saul had a command from the Lord, and rather than obeying what he knew was true he decided to go another way. Rather than leaving things in the hands of the Lord he took them back himself.

Now surely we can relate to this, can’t we? Surely there have been times when it felt like your life was in chaos. That something had to be done. That you couldn’t just continue to wait on the Lord. That it was not only the right thing, but the responsible thing to take matters into your own hands. It’s that inner voice that tells you that action must be taken. But here is what we tend to forget during those times:

Waiting on the Lord is not passive. When we are waiting on the Lord, there is plenty to keep us busy. We have an entire book riddled with the will of God to be busy about. Just because we are waiting on the Lord for one thing does not mean that we have pushed pause on everything else he has told us to do. No, we keep going in what we know until God brings about what we don’t know.

Waiting on the Lord is not a posture of laziness or inactivity; it’s an exhortation to not overestimate what we are either capable of or even supposed to be doing. Friends, if it feels like things are spinning out of control today, beware of taking matters into your own hands. Instead, walk with Jesus in what you know to be his will and trust that God will bring about the unknown in his time.

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