Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?
— 1 Samuel 15.19, NRSV

In the Bible, the parent/child relationship is one of the most pervasive metaphors used for how God relates to his people.

Like a parent, God sets limits. He puts boundaries in place for our own protection. He makes his expectations known. He voices his instructions.

Like a parent, when God speaks, he expects to be obeyed.

However, in revisiting 1 Samuel 15, we see this isn’t always the case. God gives explicit instructions to Saul, yet, Saul balks. The result: he forfeits the kingship.

This isn’t the first time Saul has failed to act in accordance with God’s directives though. Two chapters earlier, in 1 Samuel 13, Saul’s in hot water with God. In an attempt to secure his crown, retain Israel’s support, and protect his nation, Saul acts brashly. Rather than rely on God’s timing, Saul forces his own. Impatience and fear get the best of him. The result: Samuel informs Saul that his reign will eventually end and that God has already chosen a successor (David).

In light of this consequence, you’d think Saul would have course-corrected prior to chapter 15.

I think God had the same hope.

We often lament that God doesn’t speak clearly enough. We promise that if he would, we’d heed his voice.  However, many times, like with Saul, God speaks plainly; his commands are unmistakable. Yet, we still don’t listen.

The thing is, God expects us to learn from our past disobedient fits. Just like a parent, God doesn’t put up with 4-year-old behavior from a 33-year-old. God presumes that prior consequences breed spiritual maturity.

Therefore, when he calls us to repent, flee temptation, act on a command, or seek him, he expects a quicker turnaround time, a faster ascent up the spiritual learning curve.

Recently, like Saul, God gave me explicit instructions regarding a particular area of my life. I heard and stonewalled.

He spoke again. I listened and started bargaining.

He spoke once more. I heeded his voice and obeyed.

More often than not, when I hear distinct instructions from God, I fail to follow through in a timely manner. I erroneously assume that there is no statute of limitations on obedience. I mistakenly think that I can dillydally on the spiritual learning curve.

This time, I dangerously flirted with God’s hourglass. And, like Saul, the consequences may have been dire.

As we mature in our faith, as we learn from prior experience, we don’t need as many hints, reminders, or countdowns. When we sense God is speaking, when we can discern his request, we should respond promptly.

For, our divine parent isn’t pleased by his children’s rebelliousness; he’s not amused by our stall tactics.