Israel was bound and determined to have a king like the other nations (1 Samuel 8). Now they would get their desire. At the same time God makes His choice for their king. The people were all about appearance qualifications (Saul was an impressive guy). God was all about heart. David was all heart.
1 Samuel 9:1-2
Now there was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor. He had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.
Humans are obsessed with outward appearance. God is able to see our hearts. When we take the time to discern the inside as well as the outside, we are blessed in our alliances.
1 Samuel 10:6-8
Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you. And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.”
It appears Saul had every chance to become a heart-King. But though his intentions were often lofty, his actions belied a carnal heart. Bad news for Saul – and all who follow in his footsteps.
1 Samuel 11:14-15
Then Samuel said to the people, “Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
So much hope and promise. But the people had rejected God as their king, and wanted to be like the other nations. Bad and sad.
1 Samuel 12:22-25
For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.
I love this. It is in my nature to write people off when they strike me as rebellious or stubborn. But God is gracious. And a true spiritual leader will never forsake the people God gives to his or her care.
1 Samuel 13:8-14
Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.”
Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”
It is almost as if Saul was blind to the way God did business. Remember, Saul grew up under the judges. “In those day there was no King in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
1 Samuel 14:52
Now the war against the Philistines was severe all the days of Saul; and when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff.
Saul had all the makings of a great warrior. He knew how to build an army. He just struggled to rule over his own spirit.
1 Samuel 15:22-23
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen and obey than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination (stubbornness) is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
This is chilling fo anyone who thinks that God can be pleased by doing the correct religious things. Without heart we simply cannot please God.