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WALKING BY FAITH
Victor M. Eskew
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” These words were addressed to the church of Corinth in II Corinthians 5:7. Paul makes a clear distinction between two ways individuals can conduct their lives. Individuals can walk by faith, or, they can walk by sight. The Christian’s conversation is to be wholly a matter of faith.
What does “walking by faith” involve? Very simply it is a matter of hearing God’s Word and obeying it. Romans 10:17 states: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God speaks to us through the pages of the Bible. If we hear with an honest and good heart faith is produced. This faith is not a stagnant faith. Rather, it is an energetic faith. It is a faith that operates upon and changes one’s life.
To walk by faith seems so simple doesn’t it? All one has to do is hear God’s Word and obey it. That’s easy enough. The reality, however, is that it is not that simple. Saul, the first king of Israel, found this out early in his reign. Samuel anointed Saul in a private session. At the close of the ceremony, Samuel gave specific instructions to the Lord’s anointed. “And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal: and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee and show thee what thou shalt do” (I Sam. 10:8).
The instructions were simple enough. Saul, though, found them to be very difficult. While at Gilgal, the forces of the Philistines gathered against God’s people. “And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots: and six thousand horsemen, and the people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven” (I Sam. 13:5). This large gathering of enemy forces struck terror into the hearts of the Israelites. “When the man of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling” (I Sam. 13:6-7). As the captain of the host, Saul was in a predicament. His forces were quickly disintegrating. Verse 8 reveals to us that he was still trying to obey the voice of God’s prophet. “And he tarried seven days according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal, and the people were scattered from him.” Saul had patiently waited for the man of God. The seventh day arrived and Samuel had not come. Hour after hour Saul waited, but still Samuel was a no show. As he waited, the troops were departing. What was Saul to do? What would we have done under the circumstances?
Saul’s actions are revealed I Samuel 13:9. “And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.” Up to this point, Saul had been walking by faith. He had been obedient to the words of the Seer. Saul’s faith wavered at the last. He took it upon himself to offer the appointed sacrifices. At that point, he began to walk by sight.
Surely this was not such a big deal. Saul was in a desperate situation. He had waited and waited. Samuel had not arrived. The troops were departing. The enemy could attack at any time. Supplication had been made to Jehovah. Therefore, Saul did what he thought was necessary. He offered the burnt offerings himself. Can’t we all sympathize with this king’s circumstances?
“And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burn offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him” (I Sam. 13:10). Samuel finally arrived. Note, it was still the seventh day. Saul immediately went to greet him. After viewing his predicament, surely the man of God would understand Saul’s actions. Or, would he? “And Samuel said, What has thou done?” (I Sam. 13:11). Saul attempted to explain what necessitated his actions. His words found no justification in the mind of Samuel. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee” (I Sam. 13:13-14).
Walking by faith was a big deal to this prophet of Jehovah. It involved strict obedience to the commands of the living God. When Saul ceased his walk of faith, God announced that his kingdom would not continue. Eventually, Saul would be slain and a man after God’s own heart would rule in his stead.
This writer has talked with many of God’s children who do not take their walk of faith seriously. Compliance with God’s commands is not a top priority on their list. If it fits their schedule or their lifestyle, they will obey. If the commands of God inconvenience them or go against one of their desires, they immediately push the command to the side. This example from the life of Saul is a stern warning to all of us. When a man ceases to walk by faith, God can and will reject him.