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Leaders In The Bible – Saul



By Tima Hiba

Saul is commonly known as the first king of Israel; personally appointed by God after Israel rejected Him as their one true King. Despite coming from the smallest tribe, he was a man that stood out from the crowd, being handsome and a head taller than everybody else. With all the positives on the outside, his character left him wanting in several aspects. His story is one that offers many teachings on leadership, mostly, how easy it is for a great leader to fall.

The first lesson we learn from Saul is that the quality of leadership depends on one’s submission to God as the ultimate king. God does not lift us up in order for us to do things on our own terms. He lifts us up to show others how to follow. Rather than obeying God’s instructions to wait for Samuel to perform a sacrifice, Saul got impatient and decided to do it himself. God made His dislike for this prideful act very clear in 1 Samuel 15:22,23 – “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Saul was rejected as king for doing things his way instead of God’s. What God expects from a leader before anything else is submission and obedience.

Another lesson we learn from Saul’s rule is the folly of jealousy. Saul was driven mad with jealousy because David was receiving more praise than he was from the people. Instead of taking him in and mentoring him, or at least allowing him to offer what help he could, Saul sought to crush him down. He did not understand the value of diversity. Not to mention the huge chunks of time he wasted chasing after the man instead of building the kingdom. His jealousy brought uncertainty to the people as well. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, we are told that though there are many members of the body, we are still one body. Years before, Moses understood this and raised Joshua up instead of trying to clip his wings, and because of that, he was able to be a more effective leader. Imagine how different things would have been had Saul done the same thing with David. As a leader, one must not be intimidated and put off by a promising person. He must lead him, just like the others. That way, everyone grows, even the leader himself.

Finally is the question of approval. To seek approval is to behave in a manner intended to gain respect from others, though actually what people respect is you being true to yourself. People-pleasing can only lead to disaster. A leader must never fear those under him more than he fears God. When Saul disobeyed God by sparing the livestock and the Agagite king, he attributed his actions to his fear of the people (1 Samuel 15:24). Proverbs 29:25 says, “the fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” When a leader listens to his followers out of fear, and things go haywire, it is not the people that will be held accountable, but the leader.  One must not lead by seeking the approval of his followers because to chase after the approval of men is to miss out on the approval of God.

The truth is we cannot really tell what the story would have been like had Saul remained obedient to God. It is clear, however, that his disobedience made him miss out on all the amazing things God could have accomplished through him. Perhaps David’s story was originally meant to be Saul’s story; ‘Saul and Goliath’. There is no way of knowing. What we do know is that when God makes you a leader, He expects you to remain His follower. He wants to lead through you, not alongside you. Leaders should have the same attitude that John the Baptist had towards Jesus, who came after him and seemingly ‘brought competition’ (at least according to some of John’s followers): “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).