If you ever have to make decisions, there are a couple of contrasting templates in the Old Testament you can use as a reference. King Saul of Ancient Israel made decisions very differently than David. They also had very different outcomes.
Consider the Source
Saul sometimes used consultants when making decisions. He went to the witch of Endor to use occult means to try to contact Samuel from beyond the grave. (Lest you scoff, or think “how ancient is THAT?”, people are still delving into the occult TODAY.) Saul may have been seeking help from a spiritual advisor, but he failed to consider for whom the spirit might be working… Creepy, yes; successful, not so much.
Asking the wrong consultants for help was disastrous. “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, NIV)
There’s an old saying: “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” If you reflect on your life, you have to smile at that one and acknowledge its truth. However, the Bible points out that there are decision-making alternatives…
Yep. Saul Made Poor Decisions
When David had decisions to make, he used a different method: “So David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, I will deliver them into your hands.” (1 Chronicles 14:10, NIV) Obviously, David approached decision-making differently than Israel’s first king. When Saul died, David succeeded him on the throne. Saul was moody and erratic, and often allowed his impatience and insecurity to lead him into making bad choices and bad decisions.
Before you judge him too harshly, does YOUR impatience ever prompt you to make a poor decision? Do you ever get tired of waiting for God to do something and then take matters into your own hands? The Bible points out that this is a fairly common human trait. It’s essentially what Adam and Eve did in the garden. Impatience is what led Abram and Sarah make the disastrous decision of having a child with Hagar. It’s what Saul did when he consulted the witch of Endor.
The Secret About Decision Making Everybody Should Know
Saul’s kingdom ended in defeat and disgrace, while David passed his on to Solomon, attended by promises about God’s eternal kingdom. Saul was alienated from God, but David received the promise of an eternal covenant. When you think about their lives, David and Saul were both sinners. (Remember the whole Bathsheba/Uriah thing?) Both kings committed egregious sins against the Lord, but their lives had very different outcomes.
While these two kings shared the ability to commit big mistakes, there were significant differences in the way they made decisions, and in the way they did business with God. The writer of Chronicles said Saul “did not inquire of the Lord”. David did. This one thing changed the way their kingdoms played out, and arguably changed the course of history. This may seem like a small thing, but the whole process of making inquiry is more involved than it seems at first glance. Take a closer look.
When the Process is the Lord, Trust the Process
First of all, in ancient Israel there was sometimes a ceremonial process attached to inquiring. This would mean that it involved your intimate leaders and associates. They would know you held it important to ask God about strategy. That infers that your leaders would be like-minded men who also trusted God enough to go along with what might seem illogical to most warriors.
The fact that you would ask God for permission meant that your leadership team would look and act differently than most of your competition. It would also be a somewhat public process, so that people would know you were asking God what to do. That suggests transparent, humble leadership before the people. How much credit can you take if the Lord is the one who determines the outcome? It also speaks to God’s sovereignty, since the king would be humbling himself before God and doing what God tells him to do. You would be most likely to inquire of the Lord if you knew him, trusted his judgment, and were walking with him regularly. So…
When YOU have a decision to make, How often do YOU inquire before the Lord? How often do you ask Him for strategy, consult with him about budget, or ask for permission to make the next move? How often do you inquire of the Lord before disciplining your children, planning that vacation, or deciding whether to take a place of service in church? If your answer is “not too often”, then remember these two kings, and remember to inquire. It might just change the course of history. (It has before!)
There are so many things in life that each of us must choose,
And there are many processes that anyone can use
In making good decisions. Some rely on common sense,
And some will weigh the outcome and expected consequence.
You can weigh the pros and cons, or ask folks for advice;
Some folks call on random chance, and then just roll the dice.
You might use a legal pad with columns, yes and no,
And then compare the columns to determine how to go.
Some decision-makers fear they will not get it right,
And worry so about it that it keeps them up at night!
Some are self-sufficient, and take pride in their decisions,
But still it’s hard to guarantee an outcome with precision.
King Saul’s anxiety led him to find a witch and ask her,
But his decision-making only led him to disaster.
David faced decisions in a different kind of way:
He inquired before the Lord, to see what He would say.
When you face decisions, here’s a method tried and true:
Go ask the Lord. And Listen. He will tell you what to do.
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