“Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. So they inquired again of the LORD, ‘Is there a man still to come?’ and the LORD said, ‘Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage’” (1 Samuel 10:21b-22).
As the years passed in Israel, each generation continued to rebel against God. Eventually, God handed them over to captivity, allowing some powerful, cruel nation to rule over His people. Whenever they repented, however, He would have mercy on them and send a judge to deliver them from their enemies. For the duration of the judge’s life, the people would live in obedience. But before long, they would return to their wicked ways, and the cycle would begin again. The people became tired of this, however. In their minds, if they only had a strong, consistent ruler to fight their battles, they wouldn’t constantly fall into captivity. So they demanded a king, and though warning them that this was a bad idea, God provided a king for them. The man he chose was Saul.
Saul was by all outward appearances the perfect leader. He was handsome, taller than any other man. He was responsible and hardworking, and early in his kingship he was able to lead his people into victorious battle. But though he seemed to be an excellent ruler, he was sorely lacking in the area of character. His biggest problem was fear.
Saul’s fear is evident even before he officially took the throne. To reveal the man whom the LORD had anointed king, Samuel had all the tribes gather together and draw lots. The lot came out for Saul. The problem, however, was that Saul was nowhere to be found. When the people finally did locate him, he was attempting to hide. The man who had been chosen to courageously lead his people against their enemies was too afraid to face those people.
This same lack of courage permeated his entire reign. One time, the prophet Samuel had instructed him to wait seven days before going into battle, and on the seventh day Samuel would arrive to offer sacrifices. But when Samuel did not come at the anticipated time, Saul elected to offer the sacrifices himself. This was because the people were leaving him. Though the Bible doesn’t specifically say he was afraid, one can gather that from his actions. As a result of his unlawful sacrifice, the kingdom was taken away from him and given to another. Later, when David—the next anointed king—began to rise in favor with the people, Saul became afraid of him and attempted to kill him countless times. His fear drove him nearly insane. He chose to listen to his fears instead of what God had told him, and the result was the destruction of his entire family. He and his sons were killed in battle, all on the same day.
Fear is a horrible thing. Not even the strongest people are exempt from it. If we listen to our own fears, we will assuredly miss out on what God wants to give us. But the good news is, we don’t have to listen to them. God is greater than anything we fear, and if we listen to Him, we will see Him work wonders. Every time Saul gave into his fear, he missed witnessing God’s glorious power that He would have worked through him and around him. The same temptation chases after us today. God is calling us out to war, promising to fight our battles for us; will we be found hiding among the baggage?