“I Thought I Should…” The Battle of Our Reason Versus Obedience
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Samuel asked him, “What have you done?” Saul explained: “When I saw that the army was deserting me and you did not come on the appointed day, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 I said to myself, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not yet sought the LORD’s blessing.’ So I thought I should sacrifice the burnt offering.” 13 Samuel replied to Saul: “You have acted foolishly! Had you kept the command the LORD your God gave you, the LORD would now establish your kingship in Israel forever; 14 but now your kingship shall not endure. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart* to appoint as ruler over his people because you did not observe what the LORD commanded you.”1 Sam 13:11–14 NAB-RE
Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off an end of Saul’s robe.b 7 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to lay a hand on him, for he is the LORD’s anointed.”c 8 With these words David restrained his men and would not permit them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. 9 David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked back, David bowed, his face to the ground in homage, 10 and asked Saul: “Why do you listen to those who say, ‘David is trying to harm you’? 11 You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you into my hand in the cave. I was told to kill you, but I took pity on you instead. I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my master, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 12 Look here, my father. See the end of your robe which I hold. I cut off an end of your robe and did not kill you. Now see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion. I have done you no wrong, though you are hunting me down to take my life. 1 Sam24:6–12 NAB-RE
Thus she came to understand Chesterton when he described men and women who, signed with Christ’s Cross, cheerfully walk through darkness. Finding this hidden life means releasing the sources of this world’s energy, linking the world to the power that can save it, giving it the resources for which it seeks in vain within itself. It means digging for and uncovering the wellspring of joy which can save and transform things and people and which has the power to undo and make good past suffering. (1)
The line from King Saul typifies the battle that so many “first-world” Christians have to face today. “I thought I should…” Saul was trying to be ready to fight the enemies of God, things weren’t going well. He knew things would change with the sacrifice that was to be offered by the prophet-priest, but he wasn’t there. Saul was King, didn’t that give him the right to take any role in his kingdom?
And so, in thinking, in following and obeying his own mind, rather than the command of God, he lost everything he was trying to protect.
We do that, we enslave ourselves to our logic, to our reasoning. We listen to what we think, rather than what God reveals. We will dismiss what God reveals in scripture, we will dismiss what He commands us to do, and we will find a way to see disobedience and dishonoring God as logical.
We will set our logic, our reasoning in the place of God, make it an idol, and worship it by obeying what it teaches.
Well, maybe it won’t be our reasoning, as in yours and mine. No problem, we can all find brilliant theologians and philosophers whose brilliance is proven by the fact they agree with us. We can find a way to avoid hardship, to avoid self-sacrifice or suffering. We can justify our own pleasure, and we can do it with the resonance of righteousness.
Well at least self-righteousness.
Even as we contend that scripture isn’t as reliable as it should be. Or that it is outdated or outmoded.
Compare Saul’s obedience to his reasoning to David’s obedience ot God. There is a price on David’s obedience, the price of discomfort, the price of being hunted, the price of even being an outcast and an exile. He had the power to change that, one quick action would have given him the kingdom. But he chose to disobey the wisdom and reasoning that would call him to disobey God.
He embraced the darkness, the hardship, the pain. And he worshiped and obeyed God. God brought him through it, and through other challenges. Sometimes David would see it right away, sometimes he too would forget and need to be called to repentance. The key is to find the humility to remember that God is God. To live in the grace of a life forgiven, a life where we hear the Spirit, and the Spirit draws us into obedience, into a life of awe, not matter how dark.
Like the lady in Pope Benedict’s story, David cheerfully embraced the darkness, knowing that God had promised and God had commanded. It was a willingness to obey even though life may have looked freer, and more joyful, had he simply killed off those trying to kill him. He loved instead, and at great personal cost, and cost to those who were loyal to him.
I am not sure what your wisdom and reasoning calls you to dismiss from God’s word. Maybe it is sexual issues, maybe it is a call to servanthood, to give up your “rights”, in order that someone else may benefit. Maybe it is simply accepting that His word is His word.
I know this, it is a temptation for all of us, a chance to say, “I thought”, and in that thought, contradict what God has commissioned. A temptation that can only be overcome by looking to Jesus, and letting His love cleanse us from it.
Together then, let us cry out to God to have mercy on us.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 26). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.