“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you….”
-I Samuel 13:11-13a, NIV
Circumstances were dire.
The Philistine army was gathering to fight Israel. Such a massive build up of military might was terrifying King Saul’s army causing some to hide or depart.
King Saul waited the promised seven days for the Prophet Samuel to come to seek God’s blessing on their military venture. Samuel was a no show after seven days.
So, King Saul usurped the office of the priest by offering a sacrifice to God in order to prepare his trembling army for the Philistine attack.
When the Prophet Samuel does arrive–as we see in the above passage–he rebukes King Saul for this usurpation.
Notice that Samuel takes zero responsibility for Saul’s sin in offering the sacrifice.
The circumstances were very difficult. Everyone was expecting an attack from the Philistine army at any moment.
Plus, Samuel had not arrived in seven days as he had agreed to do.
Yet, Samuel still holds Saul completely responsible for acting wrongly.
Circumstances did not cause Saul to sin. Saul chose to sin, and God via Samuel held Saul completely responsible for HIS choices and actions.
Same goes for cheaters.
While a Christian counselor–or even a pastor–might buy the circumstantial excuses the cheater claims for why he or she cheated, the reality is that this cheater–like Saul–remains totally accountable to God for his/her sinful choices and actions.
Even difficult circumstances–as we see with King Saul–do not exculpate the sinner from choosing sin.
The decision to cheat is a chosen response to circumstances. Circumstances do not make that choice. An agent does–i.e. the cheater.
That agent–like King Saul here–is fully accountable to God for making that sinful choice (or choices). They own their response.
Pointing to difficult circumstances did not work for King Saul.