1 Samuel 13:12
Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now on me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD…
"I forced myself therefore"; "could not help it"; "my poverty but not my will consents." This not tenable in Christian morality. (Romans 12 fin.; 1 Corinthians 10:13.) The prophet was mouthpiece of Divine law: the king its administrator and executor. Prophet superior to king in respect of religious observances. Saul's difficulty continually recurs, plain commands of God not to be slighted or disobeyed for less plain ones. In this incident we find something right in Saul, and something wrong.
I. WHERE SAUL WAS RIGHT. He was in great distress, and felt need of Divine aid. (Psalm 60:11.) He was for seeking it in ordinances appointed. Christ's sacrifice on cross our great peace offering, to be presented in faithful, intelligent prayer. (St. John 14:6 fin.) Do not stay at a mere dull, diffused sense of wanting pardon. So, if need enlightenment, seek it in Holy Scripture (St. John 5:39); if spiritual refreshment, at Holy Communion. Ordinances have their proper value, rightly used. Thus Saul was right.
II. WHERE SAUL WAS WRONG. Elements of his fault: Want of faith; contrast Gideon (Isaiah 28:16); superstition as to sacrifice. Nowadays, many value ordinance of religion quite independently of state of heart in the person using it. Saul relied on the form only. "Sacrifice must be offered!" No! It is not the objective but the subjective that is of highest importance; the formal is useless without the spiritual. Heart first. (Isaiah 1:10-20; James 4:3; St. John 4:24; Psalm 51:9, 10.) Saul misapprehended the object and effect of religious ordinances. It is not the thing done, but the obedient spirit of the doer which obtains. (Psalm 50:18.) No mechanical influence upon God by prayer, etc. Ordinances are not charms, but channels of grace when rightly used. Therefore Saul disobeyed. Sin never necessary. Contrary notion arises from cowardice, or from superstition, or from some other want of intelligence Since Saul's fault was superstitious distrustfulness, seek from Holy Spirit an intelligent reliance on the general promises of God, and an intelligent obedience to the plain commands.
(Cornelius Witherby, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.