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“After Saul’s appointment as king over Israel, Samuel instructed him to go to Gilgal and wait for seven days. Samuel promised to come at that time and offer sacrifices, which was right and duty as a priest. While Saul waited the situation grew tense. The Philistines were ready to attack and Saul’s troops began to disperse. It was then that Saul took matters into his own hands and offered the sacrifices himself. For this he had no warrant from God.

It should be carefully noted that this was not a case of disobedience to a clear prohibition in the law of God. Nowhere is it written ‘a king shall not offer sacrifices before Me.’ The law of God merely mandated that the offerings were to be performed by the priests. It did not explicitly forbid their being offered by a king or by anyone else. This was clearly a case of Saul going beyond the prescribed will of God in worship and it could not be excused on the ground that as long as something is not clearly forbidden it is permissible.

No sooner had he completed the offering then Samuel arrived and required an explanation for what Saul had done. The king was at a loss for excuses.

a. He justified his actions on the grounds of necessity. The people were scattering while the enemy was advancing and something had to be done.

b. He justified his actions on the grounds of Samuel’s failure to arrive in a timely manner.
c. He justified his actions on the ground of piety, claiming that he dared not enter into battle without first seeking the Lord.

Yet all these reasons were merely pragmatic, based on circumstances and not on the authoritative Word of God. Samuel’s pronouncement of judgment highlights the condemnation of Saul for putting pragmatism ahead of principle: ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you.’

Brian Schwertley writes: ‘The story of Saul’s improvising in worship and God's displeasure at such an act is important because almost all the innovations that are occurring in our day in worship… are based solely upon pragmatic considerations. When people say, ‘But look at the number of people that are being saved; look at the wonderful church growth we are achieving,’ we must respond by asking for scriptural warrant.

The question that God asks is not pragmatic but principial: ‘Who has required this from your hand. ‘(Isaiah 1:12)”
(Comin, 83-84)

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