Summary: What did Saul do that was so wrong? And if he was condemned for disobedience, what does that mean for us when we disobey?
OPEN: A mother was telling about her 6-year-old daughter, Lori, who was studying 1 Samuel 15:22—"To obey is better than sacrifice" for her Bible memory course. One day Lori observed her 3-year-old sister, Kristi, being disobedient, and she immediately took her sister aside and sternly admonished her:
“Kristi, if you don’t obey, you will be sacrificed!"
(Luella Bredin, Prince Edward Island, Canada)
APPLY: Now that wasn’t quite what her memory verse said, but it wasn’t far off. In our story today, we find that King Saul had not obeyed God’s commands, and because of that
• He sacrificed his entire kingdom
• He sacrificed his once close relationship with Samuel (Samuel never saw him again)
• And he sacrificed his relationship with God
But let’s revue.
About 40 years before this incident, Samuel had been the leader of Israel. He served as a prophet, a priest and a judge for the people before God. But as he grew older, his sons took over his responsibilities to be judges for nation.
Unfortunately, 1Samuel 8:3 tells us “(Samuel’s) sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”
Because of this, the Elders of Israel took Samuel aside and “said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’" 1Samuel 8:5
Now, there were a couple things wrong with that request:
1st – Samuel apparently hadn’t done anything wrong, but the Elders had decided to replace him anyway. They decided they wanted to reject Samuel as their leader. We know this because Samuel takes the issue to God and God says (in part) "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; IT IS NOT YOU they have rejected…”
The 2nd problem with their decision was that the Elders hadn’t bothered to get God’s input on this decision. And this error on their part deeply upset God. God’s full statement to Samuel about this was: “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected ME as their king.”
Now God HAD intended to give the people a King – it’s just that the time wasn’t right yet. The man that God wanted to anoint as King (David) hadn’t been born yet. But since the Israelites were clamoring for a King God gave them best man available for the job: Saul, son of Kish.
When Saul was first anointed King he seemed the ideal candidate
• He was athletic.
• He was humble.
• He was pious.
• And he stood a good head taller than everybody else (it made it easier for his men to rally around him on the battlefield).
But in time, Saul’s humbleness was replaced with pride and his commitment to God became about a mile wide and a foot deep. By the time we get to the incident recorded here in I Samuel 15, Saul has gone over to the dark side.
So, what did Saul do wrong?
Well, the most obvious problem was his concept of obedience to God.
God had given Saul some pretty simple instructions
1. go, attack the Amalekites and
2. totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. 1Samuel 15:3
Granted, that seems a little gruesome… but still, the instructions were pretty straightforward.
Destroy everything. Kill all the people and all the animals.
So, did Saul do that?
He spared the best of the cattle and sheep - and he spared King Agag.
But he killed everything and everybody else.
Now, in Saul’s mind this made sense.
He didn’t care about the Amakites – they were only getting what they deserved.
But why waste all those good cattle and sheep???
And King Agag?
Well, this was a powerful man. He knew people.
He may even have made a deal with Saul to make it worth his while to spare his life.
But other than that, Saul obeyed God… at least in his own mind.
ILLUS: I once read the story of an Elder who was trying to explain to a doctor the meaning and importance of consecration – the idea of giving his life completely over to God. The doctor was one of those folks who merely wanted to go to church and warm the pew and the Elder was trying to use his considerable talents to serve God. But the doctor balked at the idea. He liked how he was living. He figured God would overlook his desire to live his life his own way.
During the course of the conversation, the Elder said to him, "Suppose patient asked you to take charge of her case but refused to tell you all her symptoms, or to take all your prescriptions. She might say to you, ’I am willing to follow your directions when they seem sensible to me; but if they don’t, I will use my own judgment.’ What would you do in such a case?"