Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands
Here’s what I know about all the miracles God has done for me over the years: the hardest part of a miracle is always in the waiting. You see, the temptation of taking matters into our own hands when God promised to come to our rescue and He ends up being a no-show is disappointing, to say the least. However, it’s not that God isn’t going to show up for us, it’s just that crucial moment within our waiting where we find ourselves in a conundrum. The familiar rock and a hard place is the test of truly believing that God is as faithful as He says He is and He can do what He said He would do. However, it’s in the lingering and the wondering, the gap in between the prayer and the promise where things can go south for us. And in that moment, do we stick with the strategic strategy of God and wait on His timing to access the path toward the miracle, or do we take matters into our own hands?
In 1 Samuel chapter 13, we find King Saul waiting for a miracle. I’ll set the scene for you. Israel was seriously outnumbered in troops compared to the Philistine army, and so out of fear, they chose to hide in caves, holes, rocks, tombs, and cisterns. But King Saul remained with the people who were left standing because he had been told by the prophet, Samuel, to wait seven days as this was the time set by the prophet.
‘Saul waited for Samuel for seven days, the amount of time he had been told by Samuel to wait. But the prophet did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away. A few more days and Saul would have no army left, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.’ 1 Samuel 13:8
It’s easy to say, “Saul, just wait. Your miracle is on its way, Samuel is going to show up and you’ll defeat the Philistine army!” Hindsight is great isn’t it when we are reading Bible stories? But aren’t we the same as King Saul? Wouldn’t we start to panic as we watched what little army we had left slip away, leaving our miracle hanging? I think we would if given half a chance.
Like Saul, we are obedient in the waiting; we find ourselves following the last instruction but when we feel like we’re on our own we let fear and doubt and worry crowd our thoughts, it is then that we decide to take matters into our own hands.
‘Although Saul was not a priest, he offered the burnt offering himself without waiting for Samuel. Immediately after Saul finished the offering, when the aroma of the sacrifice lingered over the land, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him and pay his respects. But Samuel knew Saul had overstepped his bounds. “What have you done?” “The people were deserting me! You didn’t come when you promised, and the Philistines were gathering for war…so I took matters into my own hands – I didn’t want to – but I offered the burnt offering myself.”’ 1 Samuel 13:10-13
Samuel told Saul how foolish he had been, but more importantly, he hadn’t kept God’s commandment because he feared what man would do to him more than God. He didn’t trust God enough to come through and so he took matters into his own hands and from that day his kingdom, his dynasty were not going to last. Saul’s weakness right throughout his kingship was fearing man rather than God. He had a performance-based mindset which leads to fear of losing your position, fear of what people will think and fear of your inadequacy and not looking good. I know because I’ve been there, seen it and done it and it never ends well.
Instead of obeying God, we fear man, and even though it looked like it was all going to go pear-shaped for Saul, he just kept taking matters into his own hands in his calling which eventually led to his demise.
‘Does the Eternal One delight in sacrifices and burnt offerings as much as in perfect obedience to His voice? Be certain of this: that obedience is better than sacrifice: to heed His voice is better than offering the fat of rams, rebellion is as much a sin as fortune-telling, and wilfulness is as wicked as worshipping strange gods. Because you have rejected His commands, He has rejected you as king.’ 1 Samuel 15:22-23
It’s in the waiting for the miracle that the true test of obedience is. When we pray and ask God for something and we get a command from Him to do something, then we need to not break that command and take matters into our own hands. We need to revere God more than man and be obedient to what He has asked us to do and trust that the miracle will happen. Ever since the Garden of Eden, man has decided that a direct order from the God of the Angel armies isn’t a strategic element in His battle strategy. We feel it’s more of a soft request, a sort of take it or leave it kind of suggestion rather than a command we must be willing to obey to see the breakthrough.
But the thing is, He is God and we are not, and it’s when we fill the void of waiting and take matters into our own hands, doing it our way with our burnt offerings of religion that look good on the outside, however, the aroma we are sending up to God stinks of self-preservation. And this is where we become stuck. God’s commands are for our protection and safety not because He likes bossing us around. Obedience, as far as God is concerned, is better than sacrifice.
The void between the prayer and the miracle where we decide that we may just as well take matters into our own hands is where ritual interferes with God’s strategy of timing. The dictionary definition for the word ritual means, an established or prescribed procedure. We can send up the aroma of our petitions all we want but it’s our obedience God is looking for, not rituals that look good to other people.
A lack of obedience to what God is asking us to do is a lack of trust, (believe me, I am preaching to myself here). We dislike that freefall feeling that is between the asking and the answer where we’re trying to fill in the gaps in God’s plan by taking matters into our own hands. And all our ceremonial formalities, if done in a self-serving way, are just trying to bend God’s command which means we aren’t trusting Him completely for the outcome.
We believe our faith-filled-longing-for-a-miracle-gut-wrenching-prayers are like rubber balls bouncing right off the ceiling and back into our laps, so best if we take it from here, God, thanks very much. Sometimes faith feels more like a white-knuckle ride rather than a play-it-safe ride and we get scared in the loops and turns of our faith, so what do we do, we take matters into our own hands!
Take my advice, trust in God’s timing, and believe that He’ll turn the situation around and bring the miracle when the time is right. God longs for us to put our trust in Him rather than ourselves and when we’re obedient to His command and decide to not take matters into our own hands that’s when our obedience is better than sacrifice.
Where have you found you prayed for something and the timing caused you to take matters into your own hands? How did it turn out?