King Saul’s Final Test of Obedience
Saul had been anointed King of God’s People, Israel. The Lord had given him victories over many of the people that would come into Israel and take their harvests, spoiling them.
But though Saul was king by God’s choice, he did not love the Lord.
He did, however love the power and accolades that it gave him, and his family.
Now, Samuel, the prophet, was sent to Saul to instruct him as to a certain errand God was going to send him on.
1 Samuel 15:1-3 “Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken to the voice of the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid in wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, oxen and sheep, camel and ass.”
The Amalekites were to suffer a complete destruction, because of the dispicable way they had killed Israelites, when they had come from Egypt.
The Amalekites would come up behind them and kill every lagging child, woman (old or young), or man.
They seldom fought outright, but killed the weakest without pity.
This, God remembered, and now he sends King Saul to destroy them.
[This is a picture of the commandment to each of us, about our old way of life:
Colossians 3:5,9-10 “Mortify (put to death) therefore your members (habits and sins) which are upon the earth;…
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:”]
But does he do as he is told?
He starts well:
He gathers his army and goes to the Amalekites. Seeing the Kenites there, as well, he warns them to depart, for they showed kindness to Israel when they had come up out of Egypt.
So when the Kenites left, Saul begins to do what he was told.
But somewhere along the way; God’s way of dealing with the Amalekites was changed to Saul’s way.
God’s way was to utterly destroy them, and all that they have, for it was defiled because it was theirs.
God’s way would not enrich any Israelite with that which was under His curse.
1 Samuel 15:8-9 “And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.”
To God, all of it was vile and refuse; but not to Saul, who took the lead in the separation, by saving Agag, the king of the Amalekites.
He would be a trophy of his great victory.
And the sheep, and animals that were spared, would be bounty and spoil.
But God wanted obedience, not trophies.
And God wanted obedience, not spoil.
What to do? How could he show this to His people?
He would speak to someone who would hear Him, and obey. And send him to speak to His king, and people.
1 Samuel 15:10-11 “Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel saying,
It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he has turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandment. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.”
Though Samuel was grieved by the continued disobedience of Saul, he asked for an extension for him, and prayed for him.
Yet when the morning came, Samuel arose, and went to seek the disobedient king of Israel.
He would show him his error, and tell him God’s Word faithfully.
1 Samuel 15:13-14 ” And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.
And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
Saul was so self-absorbed, that he actually thought he had “performed the commandment of the Lord”.
He thought that God would not mind that he took a trophy.
And the animals?
Well, God would like a sacrifice, wouldn’t He? That would be his excuse….a sacrifice!
1 Samuel 15:15 “And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Notice two things:
Saul is already blaming the people, not himself, though he was in charge.
(He doesn’t even mention Agag. He is beginning to sense something’s wrong)
And, Saul says: “to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God”.
Saul says……Thy God, Samuel….not my God.
So clear an intimation of Saul’s heart is seen here.
But faithful Samuel spoke clearly God’s Word. (though he never liked speaking this way; 1 Samuel 15:35)
1 Samuel 15:19-21 “Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord hath sent me, and have brought Agag the king of the Amalekites, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”
How could he still think he had obeyed the voice of the Lord?
But he did.
Sin blinds us.
So Samuel explains, and it is something every child of God should hear:
No amount of Religious activity will ever take the place of Obedience to the Lord; no matter what it costs the person.
1 Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
The Lord’s great delight, is in His people’s obedience to Him. That shows their love to Him.
And that is what the Lord wanted from Israel, and Israel’s king; loving obedience to Him, believing obedience to Him.
1 Samuel 15:23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
“The word of the Lord”, here does not mean just this time. Saul had rejected the Lord and HIs word, many times.
Rebellion in it’s root word, means to divide. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.(James 1:8)
Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye can not serve God and mammon.”
King Saul tried to serve himself (first), and God.
He had “rejected” the word of the Lord…..which means it was an active choice, one he had done for a while….now he was just being called out on it.
It was an act of his will against God’s Will.
To rebel is to stand and shake your fist in the face of God. “I won’t”.
(God showed me once, that I was doing that!!
I didn’t believe Him, either.
I said, “I believe in You, I would not be that stupid!”
But the Lord kept the pressure up….until, I saw, that is just what I was doing. And He made it clear to me, that it was to stop!
I asked Him to forgive me;
And I stopped.)
So, when Saul is confronted with the truth, what does he say?
Does he ask the Lord to forgive him? Acknowledge his sin and excuses, and submit to the Lord?
1 Samuel 15:24-25 “And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.”
He asks Samuel (not the Lord) to: “Forgive me, and forget it; let’s get on with what we were going to do.
After all it was the people’s fault, I just did what they wanted.”
Is this asking forgiveness? No.
God will have nothing to do with those who will not bow to His truth.
Samuel turns away from Saul, then Saul grabs his mantle, and tears it.
When Samuel turns to reiterate the tearing away of the kingdom from Saul; Saul again says:
1 Samuel 15:30 “And he said, I have sinned: yet, honor me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.”
What is wrong with this guy? Does he even hear what he is saying?
I think he finally shows what he really cares about:
“Honor me now before the elders of my people, and before Israel”.
And notice, it is “the Lord thy God”, not my God.
True, the kingdom was taken away; but Saul could have truly sought forgiveness from God, for himself, personally. (There would be years, before David was brought to the throne….Saul could have been forgiven and had a life before God.)
But he did not.
He chose to do his own will, and now, he chooses personal honor from the world, instead of humbling himself, and getting forgiveness from God.
What of us? How many times have we changed what we have been told by the Lord, or in the work given us?
How have we answered the Lord’s question about it?
Honestly seeking forgiveness? Or excusing ourselves?
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The Lord Jesus said that those who brought forth fruit for His glory, were these:
Luke 8:15 “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth with patience.”
It is those who hear God’s word….for themselves.
Then keep it…..obedience is here, of course; but it is the hearts attitude which is also spoken of…to keep it because we love the One giving it.
And we will bring forth the fruit of His life in our life.