THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL | Week Eleven

Obedience or Sacrifice |  1 Samuel 15

1 Samuel 15:13-23 - 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.”

I. Background on Amalekites

A. So-called Amalekite Genocide of 1 Samuel 15.

1 Samuel 15:2-3 - This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

  • People argue, with a fair bit of justification, that this looks like God is commanding genocide, and therefore that this creates some problems for our understanding of God’s goodness.
  • The standard evangelical response appeals to the sovereignty of God and to the depths of human sinfulness.

B. Who were they

  • The Amalekites were the descendants and followers of Amalek, grandson of Esau.
  • Coming out of Egypt the Amalekites attack them when they were tired and had no water.
  • God never forgot what they did. Deuteronomy says that once you get to the land I have promised you will blot out the Amalekites from under heaven you will not forget what they have done. 
  • Even though Israel never attacked them. They attacked Isreal. (Numbers 14:45, Judges 3:13, Judges 6:3, Judges 7)

C. Why is God so sick of them?

  • If God is going to bless the world through Israel it has to exist. The Amalekites decided not only to not be a part of blessing the world but to oppose it.

D. Let’s not believe they didn’t have a choice

  • Saul sent this warning to the Kenites V6: “Move away from where the Amalekites live, or you will die with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites packed up and left.
  • So if the Amalekites wanted to deny who they were they could have slipped out with the Kenites and some probably did.
When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword… (Deut 20:10-13)
  • If the Amalekites had surrendered, they would have been spared. But once again, they would have had to renounce their identity as Amalekites and become vassals of Israel. 
  • So the command in 1 Samuel 15:3 looks a lot less like genocide, and a lot more like “If anyone—man, woman, child, whoever—doesn’t take the chance to give up their identity as Amalekites and therefore also their opposition to Israel, then kill them. And make sure that you don’t profit from doing it.”

E. The theme of Israel as God’s means of blessing the whole earth finds its fulfillment in Jesus. 

  • Jesus is where God reveals himself perfectly; Jesus is the one who obeys God perfectly. Again and again, the gospels present Jesus as the True Israel. 
As Jesus says, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. (Matt 5:17)
  • As the Bible goes on, it becomes clear that the enmity to God and his plans which were so clear in the Amalekites is found in each individual person. 
  • We all try to resist God’s plan, to reject our part in it and oppose Jesus’ lordship. And the Bible calls that sin. But in one of the most shocking verses of the Bible, we read this:
For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
  • Jesus is made the true Amalek Jesus became the personification of all opposition to God. 
  • He became the one who had to be killed so that God could bless the whole world.

That is the true and lasting significance of the sentence to destruction in 1 Samuel 15. It is the sentence that God himself in the person of Jesus chose to take on himself for us. Jesus becomes the person whom God destroys so that in him we can become the people whom God defends. God did not desire the destruction of the Amalekites. It was their decision to resist Him that brought it on themselves. Forgiveness was always available, but since they chose not to repent, God did not repent (Jeremiah 18:7-8, Jonah 3:1-4,10).

II. Back to our Story, Many years past now Saul is King

A. God decides the iniquity of the Amalekites has come to full fruition

  • He tells Saul to execute the judgment he made so long ago.

1 Samuel 15:2-3 - This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”

  • Saul tells the Kenites to move away and Saul attacks.

1 Samuel 15:8-9 - He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. 9 Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.

B. God repents

  • When God repents it’s not like human repentance.
  • Even though God knew beforehand what Saul would do Saul still had the chance to obey Him.

1 Samuel 15:10-11 - 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.

  • Samuel Loved Saul. He wrestles in prayer against God’s decision.
  • This time God does not relent.

1 Samuel 15: 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.”

  • He disobeys and loses the kingdom for himself.

1 Samuel 15:28-29 - And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. 29 And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”

  • Be careful not to put God in the same category as a man. 
  • When the Bible says God repents what it means is that God is expressing a different attitude than he expressed before. Not because something was unforeseen but because now for human understanding this new expression or attitude relates to us in a way we can understand. 
  • God anointed Saul. God knew what Saul would do but he gave him the option to do right anyway even though he knew what would happen. How else would he deal with man? How could he deal with us in any other way?

C. The Lord your God

  • We find this disturbing change and repentance in Saul.

1 Samuel 15:30-31 - Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel finally agreed and went back with him, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

  • He acknowledges that God wasn’t his God. He told Samuel, let me worship the Lord your God.

III. Why does God delight or is pleased in obedience?

1. Because disobedience is a misplacement of fear (V24). Instead of fearing God he feared the people.

1 Samuel 15:24 - 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.

  • He fears the people’s animosity more than God. 
Matthew 10:28 - Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

2. Because disobedience is a misplacement of pleasure.

1 Samuel 15:19 - Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?”

3. Because disobedience was a misplacement of praise.

1 Samuel 15:12 - 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.”

  • Saul looked for praise for himself. He has this bad self-image that we thought was humility. It is not. Be careful those of you with inferiority complexes it will lead you into stealing God’s glory!

1 Samuel 15:17 - 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.

  • You are King is that not enough. Get your self-worth from the fact the God of the universe died for you. You are the son and daughter of the King of glory but we disobey to hear the praise of man…

4. Because Disobedience is a misplacement of trust. 

1 Samuel 15:22-23 - 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.”

  • Divination is turning away from God for another source to tell you which way to go in life.

5. Because disobedience is a misplacement of worship.

stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
  • When we disobey we are stubbornly making ourselves god in our life. We become our own authority.

IV. Is it good for us that God delights in obedience?

1. Because He is praise worthy and reliable.

  • If He ignores disobedience He becomes unreliable to us.

2. Because it shows that grace is a power not a tolerance of evil.

  • God’s grace is a sanctifying power in my life. My sin will be eradicated.  I will be holy

3. Because none of His commandments are hard.

1 John 5:3 - Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.
Matthew 11:30 - For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

4. Because everything He asks me to do is for my good.

  • When He says He delights in my obedience He is saying He delights in my happiness.
Deuteronomy 10:12 - “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. 13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.
  • There is not a commandment in the word of God that is not for your good.
  • The pursuit of obedience is the pursuit of happiness.

5. Because the obedience in which He delights is faith.

  • Faith is banking our hope on the mercy of God.
  • Mercy means that we don’t have to be perfect it means we have to be repentant.
1 John 1:8-9 - If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Summary

Obedience is not that absolute power of the will to choose what God demands. It is the overwhelming outflow of people who have tasted the Lord and found that he is good. It is not the burden of a bucket brigade trying to put out the flame. Obedience is a spring that wells up in the souls of those who trust the Lord.