Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has again refused to obey Me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard what God was saying, that he cried to the Lord all night. (1 Samuel 15:10-11)
I wonder so much about why God condescended to the Isralites and allowed them a king. I wonder how God could say to Samuel that He regretted appointing Saul. Some might ask, “Didn’t God know Saul would turn away? How can He act like this was unexpected?” These are valid questions. I don’t know the answers, but I think about it and wonder.
And, I wonder at Samuel’s grief. After hearing God’s regret, he cries out to God all night long. What is he crying out? I don’t know. Why is he so troubled by this?
The Bible says that in the morning Samuel went to Saul. Saul is in high spirits and he announces to Samuel that he has done as God has told him. To celebrate his achievement, he has already erected a monument to himself on Mount Carmel!
Now, God’s instructions to Saul were to completely destroy the Amelekites, a judgment for thier mistreatment of the children of Israel. Samuel told Saul that God said nothing was to survive. Every one and every thing was to be destroyed. However, Saul disobeyed God. He and his men kept whatever appealed to them—the best of the livestock, in particular. So, when Saul brags to Samuel that he did all God had required, Samuel says, “Oh, really? So, why do I hear all these bleating sheep and lowing oxen?” (See verse 14.) This is Saul’s reply:
“It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep and oxen,” Saul admitted, “but they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God; and we have destroyed everything else.” (1 Samuel 15:15)
I don’t know about you, but that voice, that reply, sounds very familiar! It’s this idea that if we obey some of what God tells us, it’s good enough. And, if we can find any way at all to justify the part that was actually disobedience, we think God won’t notice or won’t mind. It’s like Adam and Eve explaining to God they were just covering up their nakedness. “See? We’re being good. Right, God? We didn’t want to be naked.” They hoped He wouldn’t notice the pile of apple* cores. Listen to Saul:
“But I have obeyed the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I did what He told me to; and I brought King Agag but killed everyone else. And it was only when my troops demanded it that I let them keep the best of the sheep and oxen and loot to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:20-21)
We humans don’t change. Not from Adam to Saul, and not from Saul to Caroline. I mean, I get it. God’s expectation of absolute obedience feels a little intense. He’s expecting an awful lot of us! We are just dust, after all. Right?
No. God does not see us that way. He did not send Christ Jesus to die for dust. He did not choose a people, the people of Israel, to carry faith in Adonai into this world, because we are mere dust-lings. Do not forget that His divine breath of life animated that first man and first woman. He created us in His image. That He used dust, well, He made the dust! Of course, He did know we would fall. He knew we would fail. This is why He did send His only begotten Son, because He knew we would need the abundant grace and mercy that only can be found at the foot of the Cross. We are a dusty flesh enveloped around the eternal, a spirit that will abide forever. A flesh that will be tranformed in the twinkling of an eye into a glorified body!
Let’s get back to Saul. In the very next section, Samuel tells Saul that his offerings and sacrifices are nothing compared to his obedience. Can you imagine? He speaks of that disobedient heart in a way that makes an honest person shudder.
“For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, He has rejected you from being king.” (Verse 23)
Saul is devastated by this. He pleads and begs, but Samuel tells him it is too late. He lost it all, because of disobedience to a clear instruction from God. He tried to blame his men. He tried to say he did it for God Himself to be honored. God cannot be deceived or manipulated.
So, I think about Saul—his bloodlust for David; his calling forth the ghost of Samuel; his son, Jonathan; his spiritual demise—so much to think about Saul. So much to learn from his life. I am sad for how many Sauls I know.
If you are struggling to obey some instruction from the Lord—maybe, you rejected His word from the beginning; maybe, you think a partial obedience should be adequate; maybe, you say you’ll obey once this or that happens—it doesn’t matter what reason you may have, or what excuse you can conjure. Disobedience is rebellion against God. That stubborn will to have your way is a sin. You might take offense at being compared to a practioner of witchcraft or worshipper of idols, but the Word of God says it. Not me. If we don’t come into agreement with the Lord, my dear friend, we will lose that divine purpose He has given us. Does that mean a ministry calling, a talent that would bring you before world leaders, an opportunity to glorify God, the blessing of raising our family, our eternity in Heaven? I don’t know what divine purpose God has given you, but I know that it is worth much more than the cost of humbling yourself and repenting, and then obeying God without delay.
Please, turn away from disobedience. That is my sincere hope and prayer for you today.
*No, we don’t know if the fruit was an apple. It’s just a proxy.
This post is for Blogtober Day 13: Politics.