1 Sam 15:1-35 – The Lord Rejects Saul

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1Sam 15:1-3

  1. In Exodus chapter 17, we read how the Amalekites were the first people to attack Israel after their exodus from Egypt. Even then, God promised Moses that he will punish the Amalekites for this (Exodus 17:14-16).
  2. The reason for God’s tremendous wrath and punishment on the Amalekites was that they unnecessarily attacked Israel at its weakest, and also attacked the weakest part of Israel; the rear guard, which consisted of the weak, weary and exhausted (Deuteronomy 25:17-19).
  3. God hates it when the strong prey on the weak, simply because they want to take advantage for their own gain.
  4. God waited 400 years to execute his judgment on the Amalekites. This deadline gave the Amalekites plenty of time to repent and appeal to God for mercy.
  5. It is not uncommon for God to judge in a way that corresponds to sin. Therefore, it is also understandable that the Amalekites’ war sin against Israel now means a military judgment carried out by Israel.
    1. Does this mean that God still allows his people to carry out similar judgments against other peoples? No, because we Christians live in a new covenant in which we are clearly urged not to take up the sword (Matt 26:52) but rather to hand over judgment to the Lord (Rom 12:19).
  6. “Cherem” is a Hebrew word that can be translated as “annihilation”, “destroy”, “exterminate”, “wipe out” and is used when it is not just a question of ordinary war but of a “holy war of extermination”.
    1. An example is from Deuteronomy 7:2: “When the Lord your God delivers them to you, and you defeat them, you shall consecrate them to destruction.”
      1. A second example is found in 1 Samuel 15:3: Go out and strike the Amalekites and destroy all they have. Do not spare them, but kill both men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
    2. God sometimes commanded Israel to perform cherem because of the sins of different peoples, but not because they were of a different race, but because of their sins (Deut. 9:5). Since only God can know a person’s sin, only God can command cherem.
    3. Since only God can command cherem, and since sin has been resolved by Jesus’ death on the cross, we now live in an age when cherem is no longer relevant. Now a completely different solution than cherem is offered to the problem of sin. Today God has given a new commandment to us humans, now we live in a new age, “now is the day of salvation”.

1Sam 15:4-6

  1. Saul prepares the attack in a very good and exemplary way. He gathers a large army, ambushes them and warns the innocents to leave before the battle begins.

1Sam 15:7-9

  1. In a normal war at that time, the plunder after a victory was often the reward for the soldiers. But this was not a normal war, but a judgment of God on the Amalekites. Therefore, according to God’s command, everything was to be destroyed.
  2. Saul did obey God’s command, but only partially. Saul destroyed the Amalekites but pardoned the Amalekite king Agag on his own initiative. Perhaps Saul didn’t want to kill another king because he was king himself, or perhaps Saul wanted to be able to show Agag off as a triumph to the people.
  3. Because of Saul’s disobedient leadership, the people do the same. God had commanded that everything be destroyed, but because Saul let Agag live, the people let the best livestock live.
    1. Neither good leadership nor bad leadership should be underestimated. People see their leader and are inspired to do what the leader does.
    2. A leader needs to set a good example. One personal decision I have made is to abstain from alcohol for as long as I work as a pastor. Not because it is a sin in itself to drink alcohol, but because I do not want to lead anyone to ruin by inspiring them to start drinking. If people see their leader drinking alcohol in moderation, it might lead them to start drinking alcohol too but not really knowing how to drink in moderation. On the other hand, if people see their leader abstaining from drinking alcohol, it may lead them to abstain from drinking alcohol and thus inspire other people around them.
  4. The people of Israel obeyed God half-heartedly, as long as it suited them.
    1. Before we sneer at the Israelites’ half-hearted imitation, we should consider that we are probably doing exactly the same thing. We obey God, but only as long as it suits us. But when God shows us something in our lives that he wants us to stop doing, we hide it from God rather than sanctify ourselves. How many times have we passed by a fellow human being in need, even though God has commanded us to love our fellow human being? How many times have we failed to praise God with all our heart, even though Jesus has commanded us to do so? How many times have we stayed home on Sunday because we did not feel like going to church, even though God has told us not to abandon our gatherings? How many times have we skipped Bible reading and blamed it on being too tired? And so on…

1Sam 15:10-11

  1. God has feelings, and here God shows that he regrets making Saul king because Saul disobeyed his command. Saul started out very well as a humble and good king, but became more and more self-centered and eventually stopped obeying God.
    1. When God gives us a call, it is still up to us and our free will to obey God or not.
  2. The prophet Samuel was very close to God and it pained him that God had been so disappointed in Saul. Being close to God leads to feeling the same things that God does.

1Sam 15:12-13

  1. Samuel, the spiritual leader of Israel, goes to Saul, the political leader of Israel.
  2. Both King Saul and King David made mistakes and sinned, but the difference between them was that when Saul sinned, he erected a monument over himself, but when David sinned, he repented (2 Sam 12:13). David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), but Saul was a man after his own heart.
    1. It is important to try to avoid sins and mistakes, but when they do occur, it is important not to try to hide your sin or be proud of it, but instead to humble yourself and repent of the sin you have committed.
  3. When Saul became king, he was a humble man who did not necessarily seek his own glory (1 Sam 9:21), but after many years as king, something has happened to his heart. Perhaps his ego has been strengthened? Perhaps he has allowed the bad aspects of his heart to flourish? Perhaps he has neglected time in prayer before the Lord?
    1. All people, even pastors, have bad sides. But if you spend a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading, your heart is shaped by the heart of God. You become who you are around, and the bad parts are allowed to recede and make room for what God gives. But if you as a spiritual leader do not spend time in prayer and Bible reading, there is a risk that the bad sides of your heart will flourish and make room and eventually take over completely.
      1. Sometimes it’s important as a spiritual leader to step back, go away and spend time with God in solitude. Then you can humble yourself and find your way back to the heart of God.

1Sam 15:14-15

  1. As Saul tells Samuel that he has carried out the Lord’s command to destroy the Amalekites and their livestock, Samuel hears the Amalekites’ livestock roaring in the background!
  2. First Saul blames the disobedience on the people when he says “them”, and then he highlights himself in obedience when he says “we”. Then he blames the disobedience to God on the fact that he did it for God. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see that his defense speech is flawed!
  3. When Saul describes God as “YOUR God” to Samuel, it reveals Saul’s own poor relationship with God. Of course, God should also be Saul’s God, but since Saul has no personal relationship with God, he describes God as “Samuel’s God”.
    1. Who is YOUR God? Who sits on the throne of your heart? Who do you obey? Who do you serve? Who comes first in your life?
  4. That Saul has killed all the Amalekites and given them “to waste” was a lie:
    1. David had to fight against the Amalekites (1 Sam 27:8, 30:1, 2 Sam 8:12).
    2. Haman, the man who tried to exterminate the Jewish people during their captivity in Babylon, was a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites (Est 3:1).
    3. Ironically, the man who later killed Saul was an Amalekite (2 Sam 1:8-10).
    4. When we do not fully deal with sin in our lives, it will continue to plague us in the future. It is better to confess sin and spend time with God so that we stay close to God’s heart.

1Sam 15:16-21

  1. Samuel has had enough of Saul’s poor excuses and outright lies and tells him to shut up!
  2. Samuel returns to the moment when God chose Saul to be king over Israel. At that time, Saul was “small in his own eyes” and an excellent tool in God’s hands. But now Saul has become great in his own eyes and raises monuments above himself.
  3. Saul is so caught up in his lie that he can say in the same sentence that he has obeyed God’s command to kill all the Amalekites while there is an Amalekite standing next to him.
  4. After Saul has tried to prove his innocence, he blames the people. It is true that the people let the cattle live, but they did so because Saul let Agag live. Saul, as king, is responsible for what the people do and should have stopped the people when they disobeyed God’s command. But by not doing so, he shows that he accepted what they did.

1Sam 15:22-23

  1. Religious acts are meaningless when one lives in disobedience to God. In that case, it is better to obey God than to perform religious acts.
  2. You are not a Christian because you go to church once a year at Easter. You are a Christian when you have repented in your heart and confessed your faith in Jesus.
    1. You don’t obey God by going to church more, but by repenting your heart.
  3. Because Saul has rejected God, God consequently rejects Saul. God’s rejection of Saul was not because Saul spared Agag, but because Saul had rejected God.
    1. God does not turn away from us because of the sins we may commit. God turns away from us because we have turned away from him.
    2. Saul is like a dog on a leash, constantly pulling and refusing to walk beside his master or mistress. Eventually you get tired and let go of the leash and let the dog go where it wants.
  4. God rejected Saul as king, but it would be another 25 years before David was anointed as the new king. Saul thus had plenty of time to repent of his egocentric heart.

1Sam 15:24-25

  1. Faced with this fact, Saul is forced to admit that he has sinned, but cannot help but still blame his own sin on the people, showing that his confession is empty words.
  2. If Saul had loved God more than himself and feared God more than the people, he would never have found himself in this precarious position.
  3. Saul wants God to forgive him for letting Agag live, but doesn’t understand that the real sin is Saul’s disobedient heart.

1Sam 15:26-31

  1. Although Saul has now learned that God has rejected him, he is more concerned about his own image and how the people will view him.
  2. This chapter contains two inexplicable contradictions. The first contradiction is that Samuel tells Saul in verse 26 that he will not return with Saul, only to return with Saul in verse 31.
    1. My interpretation of this contradiction is that Samuel will not return to legitimize Saul as king over Israel, but he might consider returning to help Saul worship the Lord. Even though Saul has lost his kingship, there is still the chance to have peace with God.
  3. The second contradiction is found between verse 11, where it says that God “repents” of making Saul king, while in verse 29 it says that God is not a “man, so that he could repent”.
    1. The word “regret” can mean both “mourning” something or changing your decision. My interpretation of this contradiction is that God shows in verse 11 that he is emotionally grieving over making Saul king but that in verse 29 he emphasizes that he will stand by his decision that Saul’s time as king is over.

1Sam 15:32-33

  1. God’s command stood firm, and even though Saul had not obeyed God, Samuel was now going to obey God. Samuel makes it clear to Agag that he is not an innocent man who is now being punished, he is the leader of a people who have committed many atrocities against Israel.
  2. Having escaped alive from a war with the warrior Saul, Agag thinks he has escaped death when he now happily walks up to meet the old prophet Samuel, whom he probably thinks poses no great danger. But what Agag doesn’t know is that Samuel is a priest of God who is both zealous of the Lord’s commands and knowledgeable about how to sacrifice animals to the Lord. Samuel knew exactly how to dismember a sacrificial animal and now uses those skills on Agag.

1Sam 15:34-35

  1. Ramah and Gibeah were only 1.5 miles apart, yet Saul and Samuel never visited each other again.
  2. In the 25 years that remained of Saul’s life, he had the opportunity to repent of his heart and return to Samuel. It would not have led to his regaining his kingship, but it would have led to his being forgiven for his sins and re-establishing his relationship with the Lord.
  3. But the fact that Saul did not go the 1.5 miles to Samuel proves that God did the right thing in rejecting Saul. Saul’s sin was that he had rejected God and made himself his own god. Saul had turned his heart away from God and did not want to establish the relationship with God, and therefore God could not restore the relationship with Saul either. God’s rejection of Saul was thus a consequence of Saul’s rejection of God.
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