Tuesday, December 15, 2015


In the NY Times Bruce McCall instructs in the art of The Perfect Non-Apology Apology.
"Caught red handed... It wasn't me" pleaded the philosopher Shaggy...

1 Samuel 13:8-14. It's early in the reign of Israel's first king, Saul. Around 1000BC. They've rejected God by wanting a king like the nations around them. And they get Saul, an impressive figure. He's just getting started but here it all goes wrong.

He was the King the people wanted, but not the King they needed.
The Sin (v8-9)
The Enquiry (v10-11a)
The Excuses (v11b-12)
The Judgement (v13a)
The Sentence (v13b-14)
Saul's fall begins with him waiting. His people are nervous and deserting him. The enemy is near. The prophet hasn't shown up yet. Impatient Saul takes matters into his own hands and seizes the prophet/priest office for himself, making an offering to God. And then - in perfect tragic/comic timing - Sauel turns up. "What have you done?" What indeed. What were you thinking Saul?

Saul had been given a set of responsibilities but this wasn't one of them. He stepped out of what was asked of him... and then didn't take responsibility for what he should've done. Ever done that? 

(a) Folly
What's the word for this? Samuel calls him a fool, and a breaker of God's command. He;s failed to trust The Father, and his spiritual father Samuel. 

(b) Blameshifting
Saul having taken responsiblity for things that weren't his responsibility is passing the buck like a hot potato.
I blame the people for being scared. 
I blame the enemy for being nasty. 
I blame the prophet for not being here.
And given all of those circumstances I was forced into making an offering to God. Forced. O yes, forced. Reluctant, but y'know: I did it for God. I blame him too. This problem you put here, God...
I blame God.
There are always circumstances, but it's never really the circumstances. They just provide the context, the trigger, the situation. Caught red-handed Saul dives into cover-up mode. "Saul is not the second Adam, he's the first Adam revisited." (Tim Chester)

Scapegoating. Irresponsible. Feckless. Saul, instinctively answers being caught with a non-apology apology.
"Every leader sins. But those leaders to fail to take responsibiltity for their sin and turn from it will find that they have nothing left to lead." (Peter Leithart) 
Here, and again later, the problem isn't so much the initial sin - that was bad - but the failure to own it. The story of Israel isn't a story in which salvation is found by covering up your sins - fig leaf style. The story is setup to give the freedom to be honest about everything - and to find one who will cover you. Saul tries to be the king of kings and save himself, instead of bowing to the real king who will be his scapegoat

And, as the King, so the people. And Saul leads his people round and round in circles, down and down into deathliness. But this will not go on forever. Like Adam, Saul throne cannot be allowed to go on forever - it will be given to another, a King of God's heart. "David is not even in the frame of the story...Samuel is speaking of Jesus" (Jacky Lam).

The true and better king is needed, pictured by Saul's heir David, realised in Great David's Greater Son, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Where Saul was a fool who deflected responsiblity for mistrust of God, King Jesus is wise and trusts his Father, and in that take responsibility for my folly and mistrust.

I shift the blame to keep myself out of trouble... and in the short term that might work but in the long haul this fecklessness will ruin my life. Lies catch up with us. Failing to take responsibility means I don't learn, I don't grow. It's vulnerable to be exposed... and to trust that there is one sufficient for me.

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