1 Samuel 15:10-26
10 Then the Lord said to Samuel, 11 “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the Lord all night. 12 Early the next morning Samuel went to find Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself; then he went on to Gilgal.” 13 When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!” 14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded. 15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the Lord told me last night!” “What did he tell you?” Saul asked. 17 And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and told you, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.’ 19 Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?” 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21 Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 24 Then Saul admitted to Samuel, “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 25 But now, please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel replied, “I will not go back with you! Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king of Israel.”
About 40 years before this incident with Saul, Samuel had been the leader of Israel. He had served as a prophet, a priest and a judge for the people before God. When he grew older and his sons took over these responsibilities 1 Samuel 8:3 says “his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” As a result 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” 1 Samuel 8:5. They desired to be like the other nations and their request revolved around what they wanted and what made sense to them, it was never filtered through what the Father wanted. Their request was actually a rejection of God, 1 Samuel 8:7-8 “the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods.” So God let them have their way, sometimes the worst thing that can happen in our lives is when God lets us have our way. At first everything seemed perfect, their plan came together and when Saul was first anointed King he seemed the ideal candidate. He was athletic, humble and a head taller than everybody else. Someone they could look up to and rally around on the battlefield. Yet over time Saul’s humility was replaced with pompous pride and his commitment to God crumbled. Instead of a life of obedient service to the true King he came to see self as the more important king, and by the time we get to the incident recorded here in I Samuel 15, life revolved around Saul not service. So, what did Saul do wrong? He was disobedient to God and the most obvious problem was his concept of obedience. God had given him some simple instructions: Go to war with the Amalekites and totally destroy everything. Regardless of how gruesome God’s instructions seemed, the command was clear, destroy everything. So the question is did Saul do what God instructed him to do? Well, kind of, he spared King Agag and the best of the cattle and sheep, but he did destroy everything else. But partial obedience is still disobedience. But in Saul’s mind what he did made sense, I mean why waste all those good cattle and sheep, and King Agag was a powerful man, he knew people and maybe even made it worth Saul’s time to spare his life. Other than a few seemingly minor things Saul seemed to obey God, well at least in his mind. But obedience is not filtering the Fathers commands though our common sense, it’s not following what we think or want. Consecration means putting your whole life in his hands and faithfully followed His instruction. Today there are many Christians who either don’t understand this concept or don’t care. The truth is that disobedience is easy to justify, it’s easy to feel like we have sacrificed time, talents and treasures for God, that we have been a good Christian, and somehow have earned a little leeway. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we don’t have to obey Him on certain matters, but God makes it clear that, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” God places obedience above everything else. When it comes to disobedience scripture gives a stern warning, comparing rebellion to witchcraft. When we rebel we need to repent, we need to confess and come clean, I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” When we fall into disobedience, we need to admit our failure and He will forgive. But Saul never really confessed his sin, when Samuel calls him to account for his disobedience he puts the blame on others: “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.” Saul never really took personal responsibility for his sin, he simply blamed others, and the more Samuel confronted him the more he countered. Again in verse 21 he tries to blame the soldiers and justify his actions by calling his disobedience devotion, instead of admitting his sin he claims it is his sacrifice. Even when he admits that he has sinned in verse 24 he tries to justify it by saying he gave in because he was afraid of the people, he is still blaming and justifying. How about you do you pass the buck? Saul was in essence saying that if it hadn’t been for the people he would have obeyed God. So why would he deliberately disobey God and then try to blame others, because long before this Saul had begun to edge God out of the picture. So that when we come to I Samuel 15:12 we discover what he was really putting his time, treasures and talents into: “Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, ‘Saul has gone to Carmel to set up a monument to himself.” Scripture only tells us of one other who built an altar to himself, Absalom, the rebellious son of David. Both of them did it to prove their power and position. Pride will always position us to promote self, it will always seek the place of prominence. Saul was only king because God had made him king, he had power because God gave it to him. But Saul had stopped looking to God as the source of his strength, and instead of building a monument to the one who was worthy he built a monument to exalt self. Saul’s pride left no room in his heart for God, Psalm 10:4 says: “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” This explains the most puzzling part of the story, where three times Saul says “YOUR” God. He says “Your God” in verse 15, 21, and 30, not “my God” or “our God” but “YOUR God.” The sin of pride not only promotes self but it demotes God. It separates us from the need for Him by establishing us in His place. Whoever or whatever is in charge of our lives becomes our God. Are you being fooled into believing that you can use your service or sacrifices for God as an excuse for disobedience? When you do disobey, learn to take responsibility for your sins, don’t pass the buck and blame others for your failure. Live with a heart of humility; don’t allow pride to poison your life. Because of his disobedience Saul sacrificed his kingdom, his relationship with Samuel, who never saw him again, and his relationship with God. What are you willing to sacrifice to disobey? Are there any areas where you need to come clean and confess? Are you committed to obedience or are you cutting corners for the sake of convenience?