Once again Saul is not quite getting it. He just doesn’t seem to care that he is disobeying God at every turn. This time we start with Saul battling people left and right. It seems he has finally caught the fire to fight that God had tried to tell him to do before. However, when Samuel comes to him with specific instructions to wipe out an evil people who are against God and God’s people, Saul cannot follow through. The key verses I picked reflect Saul’s deafness when it comes to listening to God, he just can’t seem to get it. God tells Samuel, who tells Saul that the kingdom will be torn from him. God has given Saul enough chances and has chosen another who is better than Saul to be the king of Israel.
In my own reading plan I was reading Matthew as well, and a verse that Jesus was using from Isaiah to explain the hypocrisy of the Pharisees also seems to fit here. “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of man.'”” (Matthew 15:7-9 cited from Isaiah 29:13)
Saul, people of Israel, his enemies: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings of Zobah, the Philistines, the Amalekites; the sons of Saul: Jonathan, Ishvi, Malchi-shua; the daughters of Saul: Merab and Michal; the commander of Saul’s army: Abner son of Ner and uncle of Saul; Saul’s father: Kish; Ner’s father: Abiel; Samuel; the Lord; Agag the king of the Amalekites; the one who will be king next; and the Glory of Israel.
15:13-15, 20-21 “And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction….And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.””
Isaiah 29:13-14 “And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.””
Ruth 2:20 “And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.””
1 Samuel 15:9 “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and f the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.”
When Jesus comes and does great signs and wonders among the people it puts to shame the Pharisees. Their wisdom and discernment are not very great when they do not even recognize the Messiah, in fact they do not have wisdom or discernment. When Saul speaks, his words are empty. He comes saying “Blessed be you to the Lord” while not really even believing in that Lord. The example from Ruth shows two women who strongly believed in the weight their words held in saying “May he be blessed by the Lord”. And the triple description of his sin in bringing home the goods just show his lack of understanding. God had said that all the Amalekites had was no good to Him, and here they come bringing “the best” for God. In reality, any offerings they offer, they will get to share in eating, so they are doing this out of selfishness and greed, not out of loving devotion to God.
It can be hard for a Western mind to wrap around this concept of utterly destroying this other people. It seems like God is crazy or angry all the time in the Old Testament. God is a God of grace both now, in the New Testament, and in the Old Testament. God knows people’s hearts, and He knows the pain that will come later on when these people are not destroyed: Look at that part of the world now.
There are times in our own life that God has asked us to cut things completely out, and we merely move them to the backs of our closets (figuratively or actually). This displays our own lack of trust in God and in so doing we place ourselves above God. What is it that God has asked you to get rid of that just keeps coming back? Pornography, Pills, Eating Disorders, Rage, Self-Mutilation (not just cutting, but putting yourself down, taking on guilt, thinking poorly of yourself), Isolation, OCD, Idolatry of any kind, Friendships that are Poisonous to you. This is just a short list of things that God has healed and removed or is in process in my own life. Take an honest moment, or day, or week, or month to pray through your own veil keeping you away from the fullness of God’s Glory in your life.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18 “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Jesus in the Old Testament
“That Saul receives yet another chance to hear and obey God’s instructions (v. 1) is remarkable evidence of God’s grace. After Saul’s repeated failure in the preceding chapters, beginning with his failure to step out in faith and “do what his hand found to do” at the time of his anointing (cf. 10:7), Samuel stresses the importance of Saul’s paying very close attention to the word of God (15:1). Sadly, Saul’s conduct in the battle against the Amalekites (quintessential enemies of God; see Ex. 17:8-16) removes any doubt that Saul’s main concern is not with God’s honor but with his own. His obedience is partial at best, which is tantamount to disobedience (1 Sam. 15:8-9); he builds a “monument to himself” (v. 12); he attempts to shift the blame for any infractions from himself to the people (vv. 13-15; 20-21); his first confession is insincere, as evidenced by Samuel’s reaction (vv. 24-26); and ultimately Saul admits that all he actually cares about is his own honor (v. 30).”*
Exodus 17:8-16 “Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, saying “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.””
Also, another thought that I have for us to pray about in our own lives: How connected do you feel to these stories in the Bible? Saul was not alive when the Israelites met the Amalekites in the desert, and so he does not seem to feel particularly wronged by them, or any connection to or memory of God’s promise to wipe the Amalekites out. However, knowing our past, our history and keeping our historical memory strong is how we can understand the bigger picture, and also not remain ignorant. There are many pieces of Biblical history that I feel convicted about not knowing more about. I pray that God shows me the resources to learn more, and that I continue to read the Bible so that I can become even more connected to these stories. These are real stories, not fairy tales.
“This episode, and indeed the entire career of Saul, has much to teach us regarding what it means to be a godly leader. First and foremost, as was explicitly stated in the story of Eli, it means giving God proper honor, that is, giving God ultimate weight in every circumstance and in every decision (cf. 2:29-30).Our obedience to God is not to be trimmed down to our own liking. And we are not to assume that God can be manipulated: “he is not a man, that he should have regret” (15:29). Despite the finality of Saul’s failure, this episode also teaches us something about God’s gracious provision of leadership—specifically, the “neighbor” better than Saul, whom we meet in the next chapter. And ultimately our hearts are brought to rest in the Leader who was descended from David and who, unlike even David, unfailingly and sinlessly leads his people as their champion (Acts 5:31; Heb. 2:10; 12:2).
Acts 5:29-32 “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.””
Hebrews 2:9-11 “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,”
We are united with Christ! He is not ashamed to call you a brother, a family member, a part of His family! Own that! Dance, jump around, and sing about it, for it is Amazing News!
Hebrews 12:1-6 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.””
I just have to comment on the beginning of Hebrews chapter 12. If you go back to chapter 11 and read through the names, do you know the stories? And yet the author of Hebrews is telling us that these are the cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and yes all the men and women of faith you have known who have died, too. This is a great beginning in expanding our Biblical Historical Memory, to connect with these stories, to know just by the mention of a name the heritage and legacy that comes with it.
Secondly, in removing sins and disobedience from your own life, keep this verse in mind because it is true that we have not suffered anywhere near as much as Christ, and yet that is what we deserve for our sin, so in the struggle against sin, it may be hard, but it is worth it. And here again we are reminded that the struggle, the pain that we do have to endure in fighting sin, is the discipline of a Father, our Lord! We are sons and daughters of the King!
*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Old Testament section, so these are paraphrases and quotes from the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.
Thank you for reading. I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please take a moment to leave a comment to share them with us.
Next Week: 1 Samuel 15:31—16:30
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