When it comes to the Old Testament a theme that seems to leap off the pages for me is the lessons of what true obedience to God looks like. I’m not shy about saying that obedience is hard! It’s been a journey of surrender to live out the discipline of obedience, and I still fail more times that I follow in my opinion!
King Saul wasn’t great at obeying either. When the prophet Samuel anointed Saul he was not only physically attractive, but he is described in 1 Samuel 9 as displaying the characteristic of humility.
In chapter 15 of 1 Samuel we find that Saul’s character is not what is used to be and as he is commanded to go to war by God he’s given specific instructions to kill everyone. God didn’t want to influence of the Amalekites on the Israelites, but Saul had another opinion. Saul kept the best of the Amalekites goods and even allowed people to live directly disobeying God’s command.
Samuel comes to call Saul out on his disobedience and this is the exchange:
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
“For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has also rejected you from being king.”
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.” But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you.
So, not only did Saul disobey God, he then throws his soldiers under the bus. Verse 22 makes my heartache. My heart’s desire is to delight the Lord, and here Samuel clearly lays out what that entails. Obedience is more important than intention.
It’s actually pretty insulting if you think about it. God says destroy that animal and instead, it’s taken and then used as a sacrificial animal. A sacrifice animal that was not raised by the person offering it up. It’s kind of like regifting an unusable gift!
There were some pretty harsh consequences for Saul. This is the moment when kingship is taken away from him. Verse 35 is the one that absolutely kills me though.
Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. Can we agree this is a statement we never want to be a part of our history? The Lord regretted entrusting two sons to Beth. The Lord regretted entrusting a ministry to college women to Beth. Oh, how I ache to consider these statements!
If the cost of obedience is God’s regret than I must commit to striving for full obedience at all times.