Today is the third message in the series titled, Genesis 3 made us “smart phones”. “Smart phones” describe who we were before we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Smart phones can “auto-correct” or change your text messages without your approval – a function first generation cell phones, or dumb phones, did not have.
Auto-correction, as a function, has a legitimate use: to save time by correcting commonly misspelled words. But sometimes what the smart phone auto-corrects is not what the sender intends. Dumb phones send what the sender types, including errors!
The smart phone analogy is one way of looking at how some Christians take God’s Word – the Bible – and re-define it to fit their personal beliefs. God initially designed us to be dumb phones – people who would believe His Word and follow it without doubt and without compromise.
Today, we will examine an event in the life of Saul, Israel’s first king. But first, we will look at a decision Israel made that forever took them out of God’s original will for their lives. Both are examples of the clay telling The Potter, “I know better than you.”
In First Samuel 8, the elders of Israel approach Samuel and tell him they no longer want God to rule over them. Let’s begin with verse 1 and read through verse 5.
“And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his first-born was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
What Israel does infuriates Samuel. Let’s continue with verse 6.
“But the thing displeased Samuel...” (The Hebrew said the thing “was evil in the eyes of Samuel.”)
“But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.”
Now what we’re going to read in verse 7 tells us what the children of Israel was really doing by asking for a king.
“And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
Do you see this ladies and gentlemen? The children of Israel was rejecting the God who brought them out of Egypt. They were rejecting the God who parted the Red Sea for them. They were rejecting the God who fed their ancestors in the wilderness with manna for 40 years. They were rejecting the God the brought down the walls of Jericho!
I can hear the sadness in God’s voice as he talks to Samuel. I can hear the disappointment. I can hear the pain.
So Samuel has a meeting with the heads of the 12 tribes along with other leaders and describes the “taxes” the king will demand from the people. This is found in verses 10-17. But I want you to see their response to Samuel. Jump down to verses 19 and 20.
“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”
The children of Israel tell Samuel – well, really the Lord – we don’t want you to lead us. We don’t want you to provide for us. We don’t want you to fight for us. We want to be godless like the other nations and follow someone who is like us.
Israel’s demand for a king exposes what has been in their hearts. Turn with me to Jeremiah 17:5.
“Thus said the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”
The word “departed” means “to turn off, depart, or walk away.” Israel had stopped listening to God long before they demanded a king. Ladies and gentlemen, let that sink in. Israel’s decision was not made in haste. They had been walking away from the Lord, little steps at a time for a long time.
But the Lord makes the best of a bad situation.
We are introduced to Saul in I Samuel 9:2. He’s described as “a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” In terms of “kingly material” he was the best Israel had to offer at the time.
So, the Lord appoints Saul, a man who First Samuel 10:23 describes as “higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward” as Israel’s first king. Notice this is repeated from First Samuel 9:2 where it says Saul “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.”
The Lord selects a man the people will have to look up to and, because of that, a man they would respect.
Let’s stop right here for just a moment. I want you to see the criteria God uses for selecting David, Saul’s successor. Turn to First Samuel 16:7.
“Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
Stature was not the criteria in selecting David. The Lord looks at the hearts of His servants while man focuses on what he sees. What does this tell us? At the time the Lord selects Saul as Israel’s first king, there was not a man in Israel who had a heart that would listen to God the way He desired. So He chose someone the people would “look up to”.
About 10 years into his reign as king over Israel, the Lord gives Saul an assignment that He’s had on the back burner for nearly 500 years – the complete annihilation of the Amalekites.
In First Samuel 15:2 we read: “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way when he came up from Egypt.”
In Deuteronomy 25:17-19 Moses gives us more details.
“Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”
Aside from occasional battles with the Philistines (and you can read this in First Samuel 14:52) Israel was at peace. It’s time for Israel to carry out the Lord’s judgment. Let’s pick this up with the first three verses of chapter 15.
“Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel how he laid 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, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
The Lord says, “Saul, if it’s part of the Amalekites and it breathes, I want you to kill it.”
The phrase “utterly destroy” means to “to ban, devote, consecrate, dedicate for destruction.”
God’s instructions are clear: “I want all the people wiped out – every man, every woman, every child, and every baby – and all of their possessions. Spare nothing.” Saul was to execute this ban as a sacrifice to the Lord.
(Now let me step aside for a moment. This may seem cruel when we don’t know God’s heart and how He operates. He’s always just in His actions. But I will say this: Pharaoh decreed death for all Hebrew males two years old and younger. His sister rescues one of them – Moses. What does God do to Egypt through this one Hebrew? The decision of one person bankrupts an entire nation. Do you hear what I’m saying? Okay, moving on.)
Now we’re going to see how the clay auto-corrects The Potter.
Saul gathers 210,000 of Israel’s and Judah’s finest soldiers and marches to the cities of Amalek. In verse six we read about the Kenites, “who showed kindness to all of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt,” who lived nearby. Saul says he will spare them if they leave before the destruction begins because they were not part of the ban. So they left the area.
Look at verses 8 and 9.
“And he (Saul) 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.”
Remember the Lord’s command – “Saul, if it breathes I want you to kill it.” Why? The Amalekites are to be a sacrifice consecrated or devoted to the Lord.
But to Saul, destroying the best of the animals is such a waste. Even more, he reasons, why defeat an enemy king if you can’t parade him and all his possessions before the people? After all, a king has to get his props!
Saul has just broken God’s heart. God tells Samuel in verse 11, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.”
Do you see the word “repenteth”? God’s repentance is different from our repentance. Look at what it says about God in verse 29: for “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man that He should repent.” Man’s repentance implies a change of mind, God’s repentance implies a change of circumstances and relations.
The Saul whom God appointed king made a purposeful decision to rebel against Him. Does this sound familiar? Israel did the same thing when they demanded a king.
After a night grieving and crying to the Lord, Samuel finds Saul, who says in verse 13 “Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
Samuel’s response in verse 14 is priceless: “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” “Saul, I don’t understand. If you did what the Lord commanded you, why am I hearing the sounds of sheep and oxen?”
Ladies and gentlemen, Saul is an excellent study of why Christians today auto-correct God. Look at verse 15.
“And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Here’s one reason why the clay auto-corrects The Potter:
Sometimes we allow people to influence our obedience to God with “it’s for a good cause”, in this case, a cause for the “church”.
Churches today do a lot of good things. They feed the hungry. They clothe the needy. They have various outreach programs etc. – that may or may not be part of God’s plan for them.
Doing something for God doesn’t mean we’re obeying Him and doing what He wants us to do.
When Saul makes excuses for disobeying God’s command, Samuel says in verse 17, “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel.”
“Saul, now that you are great in your own eyes and no longer humble, you have rebelled against the One who appointed you king over His people.”
A second reason why the clay auto-corrects The Potter
We begin to believe that, because our intentions are good and come from the heart, God understands and accepts what we do for Him.
That’s pride ladies and gentlemen.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
This death is not necessarily physical death. They are also ways that lead us away from God and everything He has promised in His Word. They are ways that kill us spiritually.
Samuel describes, in graphic terms, what Saul has done in verse 19: “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?”
Saul continues to say he has obeyed God’s command and again blames the people for taking the animals for a sacrifice to the Lord. We see this in verses 20 and 21.
“And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, 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.”
Samuel’s response in verse 22 should give us chills. “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 ram.”
A third reason why the clay auto-corrects The Potter:
We believe religious rituals – attending church, visiting the sick, attending Bible study, etc. – are just as important as holiness and obedience.
Many Christians think, for example, that as long as they “pay their tithe” God will bless them – regardless of how they live. This verse, ladies and gentlemen, says differently. Our Heavenly Father wants our obedience first and foremost.
In verse 23 Samuel tells Saul “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord (for us, the Bible), he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
God’s rejection was His response to the decisions Saul had made. Please let that sink in. How much of our kingdom authority have we forfeited because we have rejected God’s Word?
Saul finally admits why he sinned in verse 24 but it’s a little too late: “because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.” This is so important. He values the opinions of the people so much that he is not willing to make them unhappy by doing what God has commanded him to do. Read that again.
A fourth reason why the clay auto-corrects The Potter:
We seek the approval of people because we perceive the benefits to be greater than those gained from seeking the approval of God. Ouch!
At a family member’s funeral, I talked about behaviors that can jeopardize a Christian’s eternal life, for example, adultery, sleeping around, and not forgiving people. A gentleman approached me afterwards and said “You never hear preachers around here telling people they could go to hell for stuff like that.” That saddened me so much.
As you read the remainder of the chapter, you’ll see that Samuel has to carry out the Lord’s commandment. After cutting Agag into pieces, he leaves and never sees Saul again.
In this example, what is the result of auto-correcting The Potter?
When we constantly auto-correct God – refuse to live by His Word, written or spoken – we can forfeit our kingdom authority to speak on His behalf and our kingdom power to act on His behalf.
My prayer is that this message has blessed you and has given you some things to consider. If there is anything in you that has had a tendency to auto-correct God, I pray that you will go to your Father and apologize and repent for not loving Him enough to trust Him. You won’t be alone. I’ve had to do that also.
Until next time.