Justifying your disobedience is futile

1 Samuel 15:10-23 SCC 1/11/15


Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin related to Ephraim through Joseph. One a brother, the other, Ephraim, a son. Thus Saul could count on substantial support from the House of Joseph. There is little made of Judahís attitude toward a Benjamin-based monarchy but Saul would take a political and military excursion to the south to gain Judahís backing to his monarchy. This concern forms the background for Saulís campaign against the Amalekites in v 2-3. The Amalekites seem to have made substantial inroads threatening Judahís southern flank. There was also an account to settle with the Amalekites who in the day of Moses and Joshua had attacked Israel on her way through the wilderness from Egypt up to this Promised Land. They had made cowardly raids against the weak and infirm of Israel in the Sinai desert (Ex 17:8-16). At that time, God commanded Moses to wrote a memorandum that he would someday completely blot out Amalekís memory. Four centuries later the time has come.



Command to Annihilate 1-3:

God directed Saul through Samuel. Consequently for Saul to disobey what Samuel said was tantamount to disobeying God. Samuel reminded Saul that God was the Lord of hosts, his commander-in-chief v 2. Saulís mission was to annihilate the Amalekites plus their animals completely. God had plainly commanded this destruction of the Amalekites through Moses (Ex 17:16; Dt 25:17-19). Thus there was no question what the will of God involved. The phrase utterly destroy occurs seven times in this account (v 3,8,9,15,18,20) showing that Godís will was clear and that Saulís disobedience was not an oversight.

God has a long memory. For the Amalekites it means judgment finally comes.


NB: We have God War or Holy War where God assumes the role as warrior. Holy war was necessary for Israelís escape from Egypt and it will be so to her conquest and settlement of Canaan. If Israel is to prevail it will only be with divine assistance. Principle: Once an enemy is delivered over by God to be to attacked the outcome is utter destruction. The option of making covenant with such cannot be entertained. No accommodation permitted. God war is unique war in defense of his unique relationship and demands on his people.

The extreme nature of God war was necessary for at least 4 reasons:

(1) The irremediable (impossibility of curing) hardness of the hearts of its victims.

(2) The need to protect Israel against spiritual corruption. (3) The destruction of idolatry.

(4) The education of Israel and the nations as to the character and intentions of the one true God.


PT: There is no holy war mandated in our age because Israel as a nation has been set aside. When this age transitions to the kingdom age we once again see the Warrior Christ coming to consolidate a re-gathered Israel and fight for her in Rev 19:11ff He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True: and in righteousness He judges and wages war. In the kingdom he will rule with a rod of iron. This will be possible because Israel is once again in the land served by her warrior king.


Call to Arms 4-8:

Saul calls the nation to arms v 4-5. The Amalekites v 6 were descendants of Esau (Gen 16) whereas the Kenites traced their ancestry from Midian, one of Abrahamís sons by Keturah (Gen 25:2). The Kenites had been friendly to Israel (Ex 18; Num 10) whereas the Amalekites had not (Ex 17). Saul defeated the Amalekites v 6 and captured Agag.


Compromise the Mission 9:

Saulís criterion for what he put to death was not part of Godís command but his own judgment. Again, Saulís defective view of his role under Godís sovereign rule is obvious. Saul misused some of what God had devoted to another purpose. Clearly Saul set his will against the orders of his Commander; he was not willing to destroy everything that breathed. His obedience was selective and partial.



God Regrets 10-12, 35:

This victory is outweighed by the sad dialogue between Saul, Israelís first king who wanted desperately to succeed and Samuel, the prophet of Israel who was requiring the leader of the nation to recognize who God is. God regretted that He had made Saul king v 11 because of Saulís actions, not because God felt He had made a mistake in calling Saul. Saulís failure to follow God faithfully also broke Samuelís heart. Samuel foresaw the consequences of Saulís actions. The monument Saul set up honored himself, not God who gave him the victory. When Moses defeated the Amalekites, he built an altar (Ex 17) but when Saul defeated them, he erected a stele, a monument commemorating his victory v 12.


Samuel Confronts Saul 13-19:

Consistent with his view of his own behavior, Saul claimed to have obeyed God v 13. Yet he had only been partially obedient v 14. Rather than confessing his sin, Saul sought to justify his disobedience v 15. Samuel had earlier delivered a message of doom to Eli in the morning (3:15-18). Now he delivered one to Saul on another morning v 16. Saul had formerly been genuinely humble. He had realistically evaluated himself before his anointing v 17. Yet when he became king he viewed himself as the ultimate authority in Israel. This attitude led him to disobey the Law of God who sent Saul on a mission to extermination the Amalekites v 18. God regards incomplete obedience as disobedience v 19.


Saulís Attempts to Justify 20-21:

Saul persisted in calling partial obedience total obedience v 20. He again placed responsibility for sparing some of the spoils taken in the battle on the people v 21 but as king he was responsible for the peopleís actions. Saul sometimes took too much responsibility on himself and at other times too little. He tried to justify his actions by claiming that he did what he had done to honor God. He betrayed his lack of allegiance by referring to the Lord as your God, not our God or my God, twice v 21, 30.


Samuel Corrects Saul 22-23:

Sacrificing things to God is good, but obedience is better because it involves sacrificing ourselves to Him. Sacrifice is one aspect of obedience, but obedience involves more than just sacrifice v22. We should never think that we could compensate for our lack of obedience to some of Godís commands by making other sacrifices for Him. Departure from Godís will presumes to control the future course of events, as divination does v23. Failure to carry out Godís will (insubordination) is wicked (iniquity) and puts the insubordinate person in Godís place. God would now begin to terminate Saulís rule.


Saul Desires to Save Face 24-30:

Saulís confession was superficial. Saul only admitted that he had overlooked some small and relatively unimportant part of what God had commanded v 24. What God called rebellion Saul called an oversight v 25. Samuel refused to accompany Saul because Saul had refused to accompany God v 26. Saul seized Samuelís robe in hopes Samuel would reconsider v 27 and Samuel used it as an object lesson to announce judgment v 28. This time it was irreversible v 29. God is initially open to changing His mind about how He will deal with people, but He does not remain open forever. He is patient with people, but His patience has its limits. God allows people time to make their choices, but then He holds them responsible for those choices. Saul has entered a contest of wills with God.


NB: Saul did nothing that would motivate the Lord to change His mind about the earlier prophecy. Saul subordinated the commands of God under his own will. The concluding words, emphasizing that the Lord will not lie or change His mind v29, formally mark Samuel's declaration as un≠conditional. The Lord had decreed Saul's demise and nothing could alter His decision. The first declaration in 1 Sam 13 was an implicitly conditional announcement and Saul's doom was not sealed until the sec≠ond speech. Several factors support this:

(1) David, Saul's replacement, was not actually revealed and anointed until after the second speech (cf. 1 Sam. 16).

(2) Also the Lord's declaration in 1 Samuel 15:11 and Samuel's response to it suggest that the earlier warning to Saul had not been final. If Saul's doom had already been decreed, why would the prophet experience such grief and spend the whole night crying out to God?

(3) The presence of today, v28 in Samuel's second speech indicates that God's decision was finalized at that point, not earlier.

(4) The switch from (you have not kept, 13:13) to (you have rejected, 15:23, 26) suggests that Saul's latest act of rebellion was the basis for the judgment pronounced in chapter 15, or at least the "straw that broke the camel's back."


Samuel Finishes the Job and they Depart Ways 31-35:

Samuel proceeded to obey God, as Saul should have, by slaying Agag v 32-33. The departure of Samuel and Saul to their respective hometowns pictures them going their separate ways v34. They had little in common since their allegiance to the Lord was quite different. Their homes on the CBP (Gibeah and Ramah) were just minutes apart. However, we read that Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death for Samuel grieved over Saul v 35.



1. God has feelings about our responses to Him. He is not a machine but a Person. God regretted that He had made Saul king because of Saulís decisions, not because God thought He had made a mistake by choosing Saul. God felt about Saul the way we feel when someone whom we have favored greatly disappoints us greatly. Saul did lose his opportunity to serve God by ruling over Godís people.

2. Donít be guilty of the sin of presumption. Saul believed he knew better than God how to prosecute the war against Agag and for that God denied Him a dynasty. Nothing he could say or do would change that decision. He entered the road of no return. God will not overlook your sin and rebellion.

3. Donít have an argumentative spirit toward God. It seems no matter what God asks we want to argue with Him. When he tells us that details are important, we want the freedom to improvise. When he allows improvisation we argue over the details. Handling instruction from God with frivolity is dangerous. The wise servant of God calls essential what God deems essential and non-essential all else.

4. Leaders are not sinless people. Saul just could not bring himself to acknowledge his sinóhis alone. Eventually he would have to confess ĎI have sinnedí. But not before he offered excuses or blamed others. In the final analysis he was more concerned about saving face than being forgiven clinging to the prophet to accompany him in front of the people. It is only when there is genuine contrition over sin that service of the Lord is sustained. True servants of the Lord will confess their sin in deep contrition so that they will abandon it. And the evidence of true contrition will be a changed heart.