The Bible is absolutely clear on how important obedience to the Lord is, and I Samuel 15 is an exceptional passage of scripture that details precisely why.
The Lord takes great pleasure in those who not only strive daily to understand His word, but more so those who actually do it, and do so with reckless abandon. The Bible is littered with prophets, apostles, and regular people who are written about as examples for us to learn from. We see great people morally fail, like David with Bathsheba, or someone like Peter, the rock of the church, who made many promises to Christ that he could never keep. Yes, all of these people are penned in scripture in order to educate us on the glory of God and the power of the grace of Christ, but secondarily, we can read about these people and with the power of the Holy Spirit, change our lives a little bit every day so we emulate the character and love of Jesus Christ more and more.
God speaks to Samuel, who relays the following command to Saul…
“Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (I Samuel 15:3)
Saul has already been on a warpath earlier in his kingship. Scripture says he defeats the Amalekites all over, however…
“And he [Saul] took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction 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 fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.” (I Samuel 15:8-9) [Emphasis Added]
God doesn’t “find out” about Saul’s disobedience because He is God. He already knows of Saul’s mistake, and he tells Samuel that he has regretted making Saul king over Israel, “because he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments,” (I Sam. 15:11). Samuel spends the evening crying out to the Lord in righteous anger.
In the morning, Samuel hears of Saul setting up a monument for himself and his victory, and he rises to go meet with him.
Saul says joyously to Samuel, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” And in a woefully comic response, Samuel responds, “Then what is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen I hear?”
Saul continues to believe he has done well in the eyes of the Lord, but Samuel rebukes him and says…
“The Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” (I Sam. 15:18-19)
Saul’s pride and inability to accept responsibility overtook his will to obey the Lord and he cared more for the approval of the people than service to God. This set cogs in motion for Samuel to deny Saul his kingship and anoint David as the future king of Israel in the next chapter.
I encourage you to read this passage and spend time meditating on its truths, however, I think it is good to summarize these truths for you to aide your study, so I have presented them here.
1. We cannot surprise God when we are disobedient.
We read I Samuel 15:26, where God says through Samuel, “For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel,” or in verse 11, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”
Perhaps at first glance it seems that the Lord was overwhelmed and surprised by Saul’s disobedience, as if man had control over God’s choices. This kind of regret is called anthropomorphism, and here the word regret is used only for God to explain himself to man in human terms so we can somehow get a glimpse into the heart of God.
Let’s make a point here, God does not make mistakes. God is the eternal creator and ruler of the universe. He breathed life into creation. He is purpose. He is will. He is existence. He is everything. It is impossible for an eternal, immortal, omnipotent being to screw up.
God, however, was grieved at the stubborn nature of Saul’s heart. Saul was the man to direct and lead God’s people, so for their leader to be so calloused and prideful brought much pain to the heart of God.
2. Failure in obedience does not equal rejection by God.
Capitalizing off our groundwork in the previous point, there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from the love of God.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39)
The purpose for God rejecting Saul as king of Israel was not Saul’s moral failure. Ultimately, Saul was rejected by God because his heart was in a place of deep, dark, pride. He sought out personal gain through approval and if it led the nation of Israel astray, he did not care. While it stings that Saul sinned against God, the worse sin was the state of Saul’s heart.
I think many Christians believe there is some level of perfection we can reach to be labeled as loved or accepted into fellowship with our holy and mighty God. Paul refutes this statement.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
No, there is nothing more or less we can do to be valued by God any more or any less.
3. Obedience to the Lord shows our rejection of man’s praise and approval.
This is a point that proves of utmost importance in United States culture. We find ourselves in a time where people walk around blindly believing that, “what’s good for you is good for you, and what’s bad for you isn’t necessarily what’s bad for me.” It is complete nonsense and these people will muddle around, living like vagabonds, in a dull, post-modern existence without any true sense of what is good and evil.
In I Samuel 15:24, Saul says, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Saul seems to show his apology here for what he says. However, in verse 30, he says, “…honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the Lord your God.” It is clear that there is significant cultural importance to Saul returning with Samuel, however, the state of Saul’s man-fearing heart is evident.
…these people will muddle around, living like vagabonds, in a dull, post-modern existence without any true sense of what is good and evil.
Until the day you die, you will constantly be bombarded by people who have different worldviews than yourself, as well as specific expectations of how you need to be living your life.
The good, good news of the Gospel is that we are no longer under the control of man and what he wants for us. We serve a holy and righteous God who asks us to do very difficult, counter-cultural things. Many people around you will tell you that you are insane for practicing celibacy. They will tell you how foolish you are for reading and observing obedience to ancient texts that are outdated and bigoted.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” “…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-18; 22)
Do not be surprised by persecution; for Christ has warned us, it is a necessary aspect of the faith.
4. We must be strictly obedient.
I worry for many people who call themselves “Christian” in our country, yet negate the importance of the holy scriptures. This passage makes clear the importance of following through with everything God calls us to. God has given us His inspired word to learn how He commands us to live.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)
This is not negotiable. Scripture is very clear on many, many issues. There is room for discussion on certain aspects of scripture, but ultimately, God has not included things in His Bible for confusion. It’s not as if God was unable to look into 2015 and see how horribly wrong He was on certain issues and somehow mankind has duped its creator. Please, that’s ridiculous. A thought like that would abuse the nature of God’s omnipotent character.
There is much to learn from this passage on the state of Saul’s heart and his reckless disobedience to God. I encourage you to read the scriptures, pray that the Holy Spirit would work in your heart to give you divine understanding of the Bible, and try to please the Lord through your obedience to Him.
Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.
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