Saul Disobeys the Lord
1 One day, Samuel told Saul:
The Lord told me to choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord: 2 “When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
3“Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don't have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
4Saul sent messengers who told every town and village to send men to join the army at Telaim. There were 210,000 troops in all, and 10,000 of these were from Judah. Saul organized them, 5then led them to a valley near one of the towns in Amalek, where they got ready to make a surprise attack. 6Some Kenites lived nearby, and Saul told them, “Your people were kind to our nation when we left Egypt, and I don't want you to get killed when I wipe out the Amalekites. So stay away from them.”
The Kenites left, 7and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur, which is just east of Egypt. 8Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag. 9Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn't want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.
The Lord Rejects Saul
10The Lord told Samuel, 11“Saul has stopped obeying me, and I'm sorry that I made him king.”
Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the Lord all night. 12Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal.”
13Samuel finally caught up with Saul, and Saul told him, “I hope the Lord will bless you! I have done what the Lord told me.”
14“Then why,” Samuel asked, “do I hear sheep and cattle?”
15“The army took them from the Amalekites,” Saul explained. “They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the Lord your God. But we destroyed everything else.”
16“Stop!” Samuel said. “Let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”
“All right,” Saul answered.
17Samuel continued, “You may not think you're very important, but the Lord chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel. 18When the Lord sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites. 19Why didn't you listen to the Lord? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?”
20“But I did listen to the Lord!” Saul answered. “He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation. 21All the animals were going to be destroyed anyway. That's why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the Lord your God.”
22“Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn't want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can no longer be king.”
24“I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead. 25Please forgive me and come back with me so I can worship the Lord.”
26“No!” Samuel replied, “You disobeyed the Lord, and I won't go back with you. Now the Lord has said that you can't be king of Israel any longer.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel's robe. It tore! 28Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. 29Besides, the eternal God of Israel isn't a human being. He doesn't tell lies or change his mind.”
30Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”
31Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
It was a second chance for Saul. He could have been a key player in God’s long term justice.
When God’s chosen people Israel were delivered from Egypt, the nation of Amalek was the first to attack them. God declared his enduring opposition to Amelek (Exodus 17:8-16), but gave them 400+ years to repent. They did not. The time of their destruction had come and God was going to use Saul to accomplish that task, just as he used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem many years later (II Chronicles 36:11-21).
How are we to understand judgments of God like this one? We don’t. Clearly we don’t have all the facts; those we do have leave us feeling troubled. Judgment is “on God’s level”. We must leave what we don’t understand with him and press on with what is clear to us.
Saul had every opportunity to understand that this was no ordinary battle. This was a mission of judgment from God on a persistently wicked nation. Samuel told him exactly what to do.
But Saul had motives of his own. He kept Agag the king as a trophy, some of the best livestock for questionable purposes and set up a monument for himself in Carmel. Saul just didn’t get it. The battle was about God’s glory and justice, not about his personal fame and gain.
Two famous declarations concerning the nature and ways of God follow in verses 22 (obedience is better than displays of worship) and 29 (the purposes and plans of the Lord are absolutely certain).
The shallow self-centeredness of Saul is further displayed in his attempts to blame the people and in his pathetic desire to appear in a positive light before them. The countdown on Saul’s days as king began.
Samuel had so much wanted to see Saul succeed. The text says, “He was angry and cried to the Lord all night” (v 11). Samuel even relented and allowed Saul to “save a little face” at the end of this sad performance.
My Lord and my God; help me to see the world and its affairs from your eternal point of view, not from my earthbound perspective. Amen.