The Art of Blame-Shifting

1 Samuel Ch. 13 is a fascinating account of blame-shifting.

Saul is king and has 3000 fighting men, according to v2.

In v3, Jonathan, Saul’s son – the crown prince – defeats a Philistine garrison and the Philistines gather to march on Israel.

The Philistines, however, have 30 000 chariots (the equivalent of having tanks in World War I), 6000 horsemen and infantry that number like the sand on the seashore.

Not only that, things are worse than they seem.

According to v19-21, the Philistines have been so powerful that they have not allowed any blacksmiths in Israel.  Israel has no swords or spears.  If an Israelite wanted their farming implements sharpened they had to pay the a Philistine to do it.

Saul is at the town of Gilgal, vastly outnumbered and facing massive odds.

However, if you read your Bible, you will know that’s not a massive problem.  

God has often intervened on behalf of his people when the odds are overwhelming – God opened up the Red Sea for the Israelites to walk through on dry land,  manna fell from heaven as the Israelites traversed the desert, and the walls of Jericho collapsed after the priests simply blew some trumpets.

God has been in the business of fighting for and providing for his people.

Yet, humanly speaking, Saul is in a tough spot.

Here’s the important part: Samuel, the prophet, had previously told Saul (10:8) that he was to go to Gilgal, wait for him seven days and then he (Samuel) would offer the sacrifice and tell Saul what to do next.

Samuel, as a prophet, spoke God’s word to God’s people– that’s what prophets did.

Samuel’s words to Saul were thus God’s word to Saul.  Even the king – the highest office in the land – had to listen to the prophet.  The king was to submit to the Real King.

In the meantime, things were getting tense at Gilgal:

When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan (going A.W.O.L.) to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 

1 Samuel 13:6-7

The enemy was coming and the army was leaving.  What would Saul do?

He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 

1 Samuel 13:8-9

In desperation, Saul did an illegal and foolish thing: he offered the sacrifice himself.

Samuel arrived and Saul did what we all tend to do, he started blaming everyone – everyone, except himself.

Notice who all Saul blames:

Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me (blames the army), and that you did not come within the days appointed (blames Samuel), and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash (blames the Philistines), I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favour of the Lord’. (blames God)  So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 

1 Samuel 13:11-12

Saul says he is the victim of circumstances and blames others. He blames the army, the prophet, the Philistines, and the Lord.

God has spoken 

God is our Creator and Sustainer (Revelation 4:11) and therefore has the right to rule over us.  We don’t have prophets today; the Bible is God’s Word to us that we are called to obey.

However, we naturally reject, ignore and disobey God’s word.

The Bible calls this sin.

We, like King Saul, have mastered the art of blame-shifting. We blame our current government, our previous government, our husband, our wife, our upbringing, our employer, our employees, our finances, our children, our parents, our internet connection, and we even blame God.  We say, “God you made me like this, with this personality.  It’s your fault I sin.”

We can,of course, understand Saul’s reasoning: the army was going A.W.O.L., Samuel was late, and an offering to God needed to be made.  All of this was true.

Nevertheless, even though all of this was true, Saul was still responsible for his actions before God.

Likewise, our circumstances may be true and influence us in all kinds of ways. We may have a terrible upbringing, a nasty employer and a tough financial situation.  

However, we are still accountable before God for our sin. We stand guilty before a holy God. 

Taking responsibility 

Are you tempted towards a victim mentality, to blame your circumstances or others for your sins and shortcomings?

God requires that we take responsibility, not make excuses.

King Saul refused to take responsibility for his disobedience to the Word of the Lord. 

Therefore, there was no true repentance.  There was no mourning of sin, no turning from sin, no turning to God.

As a result, there was no forgiveness, no hope, only judgement. (v13-14)

V15 is one of the saddest verses in 1 Samuel: 

And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal…. 

Saul is left on his own. There is no prophet with him. No Word of God to guide, direct and save.

What a terrible fate awaits those who shift the blame and refuse to take responsibility before God for their sin.

Yet, for those who take responsibility and acknowledge their sin, there is forgiveness, help, restoration and hope. (cf. 1 John 1:8-10)

It’s never too late to take responsibility.

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