"Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?
Or am I trying to please men?
If I were still trying to please men,
I would not be a servant of Christ."
Galatians 1:10 NIV
I memorized this verse in college, and it convicts me to this day because I am naturally a people-pleaser. I am more like King Saul than I wish to admit.
The story of Saul's second big blunder as king in 1 Samuel 15 strikes me as sadly humorous. Saul had clear instructions to completely destroy the Amalekites, and instead, he saved the best of the plunder for himself and his men and spared King Agag's life. When Samuel arrived the next day, while sheep were bleating and cattle lowing in the background "Saul greeted him cheerfully. 'May the LORD bless you. I have carried out the LORD's command!" (1 Samuel 15:13) A few verses later, he again insisted, "But I did obey the LORD." (v. 20) He even had a good excuse for saving the best of the sheep and cattle: to be able to offer a worthy sacrifice to the LORD.
Samuel, however, could see right through Saul's words to his heart and rebuked him: "Obedience is far better than sacrifice." (v. 22) So, "Saul finally admitted, 'Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the LORD's command, for I was afraid of the people and what they demanded." (v. 24)
Saul's first blunder had also been the result of fear in 1 Samuel 13, when he didn't wait the full seven days for Samuel to arrive before offering the sacrifice. Faced with the mighty Philistine army, Saul's troops were "trembling with fear" and "rapidly slipping away." (v. 7-8)
Saul was more concerned with what people thought than with doing what was right in the LORD's sight.
After Samuel had made it clear to Saul that the LORD had torn the kingdom away from him and would give it to someone else, Saul pleaded with Samuel, "I know I have sinned. but please, at least, honor me before the leaders and my people by going with me to worship the LORD your God." (1 Samuel 15:30)
Saul's main desire was to be honored in the eyes of the people.
I find this to be the biggest difference between Saul and David. While David is remembered as a great king with whom God was very pleased, he was far from perfect. His biggest sin was committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband Uriah murdered to try to cover up what he had done (2 Samuel 11). We have a wonderful psalm though that David wrote after he was convicted of his sin, which reveals his heart and his greatest desire. It wasn't to be honored in the eyes of people, but to have a clean heart and a restored relationship with the LORD.
"Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me-
now let me rejoice.
Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
renew a right spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me again the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to sinners,
and they will return to you...
The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit.
A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise."
(Psalm 51:7-13, 17)
Am I seeking the approval of men or of God?