1 Samuel 14:31-15 - Skip Heitzig
Calvary Church is dedicated to doctrine, and we want you to experience the life change that comes from knowing God's word and applying it to your life. So we explain the Bible verse by verse, every chapter, every book. This is "Expound."
Father, thank you for your word. Thank you for the opportunity we have to gather. And thank you, Lord, that the way we are discipled, the way we grow is by giving heed according to your word. Thank you, Lord, for this group, those who come, who gather, who think it's important to come in the middle of their week and devote themselves to the public reading and study of scripture.
We pray, Lord, as you are a rewarder of those who diligently seek you, would you reward those who have gathered by speaking to every heart? You know the conditions we are in. You know the situations that we face. You know the decisions we are up against. We commit them all to you. I commit every person here to you and pray that you strengthen each one. In Jesus' name, amen.
The book of 1 Samuel is primarily about four people, a priest, a prophet, a politician, and a poet. And we get them revealed to us in that sequence. Begins with the office of a priest by the name of Eli, who is ministering at the Tabernacle when a woman named Hannah who went there to the Tabernacle for the annual feast cries out to the Lord that the Lord might give her a son.
The Lord answers that prayer. The son is the prophet Samuel. So we go from beginning with a priest to a young boy named Samuel, who turns into a prophet. She, Hannah, brings that young boy to the Tabernacle after he's weaned to be dedicated to the Lord to serve in the Tabernacle. Samuel becomes the prophetic voice to the nation.
He raises a couple of his own kids. His kids aren't great. And because of their failure, the people clamor for a king, which introduces us to the third personality of the book, the politician, politician by the name of Saul. Saul is a failure as a king. He's not the one that God chose, a man after his own heart, which brings us to the fourth who will succeed the politician.
And that is a poet by the name of David, David a shepherd boy, who is also called the sweet psalmist of Israel. And so he is a musician, a poet. He's also a warrior. We'll be introduced to him if we get that far tonight if I don't drone on and on. We'll get to that section. So we have those four personalities, and we've already passed the ministry of the first, the priest. But the prophet, the politician, and the poet are all present in the chapters we are dealing with tonight, Lord willing, if we get to it.
But King Saul is somebody who starts out with a bang, but he ends with a whimper. He had such promise. He had natural characteristics and capabilities. He had supernatural enablings. Everything was given to him for success, and he did start off with a bang. I mean, he fought against the people of the Eastern regions that had attacked Jabesh-Gilead, the Ammonites. He soundly defeated them. So he started well. He started humbly, but he started powerfully.
But already, in chapter 14, we start seeing him take it from a bang to a whimper pretty quickly. And as they're fighting a battle that Jonathan has largely won, his son Jonathan, he starts seeing the stupidity and the infantile pride of this politician named Saul. Saul gives an order, which wasn't a wise order for any king to make. His troops are fighting a battle, but he gives a command that no one in his army can eat anything at all even through and before-- and through the battle until Saul has been avenged and his enemies are defeated.
Well, that's just a dumb decision because the troops need energy. The troops need fuel. And they were tired. Jonathan was not present when that order was given. Jonathan was feeling his reserves being emptied, and he sees honey in the forest and being in a state, I presume, of being hypoglycemic at the time, low on blood sugar, he takes the honey and grabs a bunch and scarfs it. And his eyes brighten. You know, it's like eating a Snickers. He gets a sugar high.
And it gives them the needed energy to finish the task. The troops see the honey. They don't take it. So something happens, takes us to verse 31 of chapter 14. "Now they had driven back the Philistines that day from Mikmash to Aijalon. And so the people were very faint. And the people rushed on the spoil and took sheep, oxen, and calves and slaughtered them on the ground and the people ate them with the blood."
Now this is problematic. It's problematic not only from a health standpoint and from a gross standpoint, eating bloody raw meat, but from a religious standpoint, from a levitical standpoint. For you remember in our study of the book of Leviticus, in chapter 17, God said, "You shall not eat the blood." It's forbidden. When you eat meat, you make sure it's totally drained. But you don't eat the blood. "Anyone who eats the blood, I will cut off from my people." For, God says-- here's his rationale-- "the life of the flesh is in the blood."
There's a sermon right there in that verse. The life of the flesh is in the blood. And God said, "It is the blood that I will use to make atonement on the altar for your sins." So as just a matter of sacred ritual, you don't eat the blood. But the people are just famished.
So they take the spoil, they take the animal. Once it's killed, they just start eating the raw meat. So watch this. "Then they told Saul, saying, 'Look, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.' So he said--" this is now the king, King Saul said, "You have dealt treacherously."
Now he's yelling at the people for eating the blood because somebody snitched and said-- rightfully so-- snitched and said, these people are sinning against God. They're breaking Leviticus 17, man. God said you can't eat the blood. They're doing it.
So Saul, instead of going, man, that was a dumb thing to tell them not to eat. He takes it out on the people. Says, "You have dealt treacherously. Roll a large stone to me this day." Then Samuel said, "'Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, bring me here every man's ox and every man sheep. Slaughter them here and eat. Do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.' So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and slaughtered it there, and Saul built an altar to the Lord. This was the first altar that he built to the Lord."
So evidently, it would seem to counteract this sin against God in eating the blood, he commands the people to bring their animals, slaughter it, and have just one gigantic barbecue on this rock that has been rolled to him for that purpose, and he made an altar to the Lord. Now, the fault wasn't the people. The fault really lay with Saul for giving such a dumb order. So the stupid rule eventuated in this stupid sin.
But Saul is not one to take any blame for it at all and say, well, these people are sinning. Actually, you've sinned against them, Saul, in the way you have taken them out to battle and said that they need to avenge you of your enemies.
Now, this whole idea with the blood is an Old Testament kind of a thing. But it is a Jewish sensitivity, even in the New Testament. I'll refresh your memory. In the book of Acts, in chapter 15 when there's a council in Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem believers, the Jewish believers have heard that the Gentiles have come to faith in Christ. And Peter even attests at that council say, look, I was there, and Cornelius saw this vision, and I saw a vision. So I preached the Gospel to them, and they believe, and they're saved.
And so there's this growing Gentile problem in the early church. The early church up to this point has all been Jewish believers. But now you have Gentiles with their unique practices, their different backgrounds, their different ways of eating things. Gentiles don't keep kosher like Jewish people. So the Jerusalem council had to know what to do. And Peter said, look, my council-- and James took it, James, the leader of the church-- my council is that you don't lay a burden on these Gentile believers that neither we nor our fathers were ever able to bear.
And James, the leader, said fair enough. Let's write a letter, and let's tell all the Gentiles this, that it's your faith in Jesus Christ alone that saves, not by works. But tell them to not eat any animal that's been sacrificed to an idol. Don't eat blood. No sexual immorality and nothing strangled.
Now, sexual immorality is something that would be understood. No Christian should get involved in that. But the idea of no blood and don't have anything strangled, these are Jewish sensitivities. You don't want to do something that's going to offend Jewish brothers. So if you just watch yourself in these four areas, you'll do well. God bless you.
And that's how they resolved the issue. So that little letter was read to the Gentile congregations in the early part of the church. So it became and remains to this day an issue among Jewish believers. But here's the point. Here's the point of King Saul, back to our text.
Saul was the kind of leader that intimidated people. He could have been a different kind of leader. He could have been a leader that inspired people. Nehemiah was a leader that inspired people. He came back, gave his heart to the work, and because he did that and set the example and encouraged and enabled people and gave them the tools that they needed, instead of giving out these dumb dictates, like Saul, the people were inspired.
And it says in Nehemiah, "The people had a mind to work." And the reason they had a mind to work is because they had a leader who inspired them to the work. But not Saul. Saul was a leader who intimidated them. And so the work was difficult.
So nonetheless, Saul built an altar. It was the first altar that he built to the Lord. Don't think he's getting all spiritual. It's all a show. "Now Saul said, 'Let's go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light. And let us not leave a man of them.' And they said, 'Do whatever seems good to you.' Then the priest said, 'Let us draw near to God here.'"
I know you're going to war, but as your chaplain, Saul, I recommend that we pray about this. Let's draw near to God. Let's seek the Lord. "So Saul asked council of God, 'Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you deliver them into the hand of Israel?" Notice this. "But He, the Lord, did not answer him that day."
Presumably, the priest took out the Urim and Thummim, those two stones, one white, one black, kept in the breastplate of a high priest, worn on the ephod of the high priest to discern the will of God and special situations. It was brought out to determine the will of God. God was not answering God had nothing to say to this man.
"And Saul said, 'Come over here, all you chiefs of the people, and know and see what this sin was today.'" God isn't answering because somebody sinned. There's sin in the camp. "For as the Lord lives who saves Israel though it be in Jonathan my son he shall surely die, but not a man among the people answered him."
So Saul is interpreting God's silence to be because somebody else, besides him, sinned. The reason God isn't answering is because he is the one that brought this stumbling block that caused the people to sin.
In Psalm 66 it says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." If I am living a life of unrepentant sin, God has nothing to say to me. He's already said what he needs to say. I need to deal with what God has said and respond in obedience before God is going to give me any more information.
So God is done talking to him because he is regarding iniquity in his heart. James says something very similar to that Psalm. In James 4, He says, "You have not because you ask not, and you ask and you receive not because you ask amiss that you might spend it on your own pleasure." So God is not speaking to Saul. Saul wants to find who sinned.
And then he said to Israel, you be on one side and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other side. He has an inkling that his son Jonathan has done something. "And the people said to Saul, 'Do what seems good to you.'" So far, they keep saying this. Saul does things are kind of questionable, but the people go, you know, you're the king, whatever you want, whatever you say. They're just acquiescing rightfully so. He's the king. He's the one in charge. He's the government.
Now, that won't continue. So just hold on. But they say, "'Do what seems good to you.' Therefore Saul said to the Lord God of Israel, 'Give a perfect lot,'" again, a lot referring to the Urim and the Thummim, those stones, the lots. "So Saul and Jonathan were taken but the people escaped. And Saul said, 'Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me.' So Jonathan was taken. And Saul said to Jonathan, 'Tell me what you have done.' And Jonathan told him and said, 'I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hands, so now I must die?' Saul answered, 'God do so and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.'"
He is willing to kill his son, who wasn't there when he gave the dumb order, so he isn't culpable of any wrongdoing since he was unaware. But Saul says, "'You shall surely die, Jonathan.' But the people said to Saul, 'Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not.'"
Up to this point, there's a do whatever seems good, do whatever seems good. Now, they go, uh-uh, King. We've been acquiescent. We've been following you. We've been obeying your orders. But this, we won't stand for. This, you've crossed the line.
Thank God they had enough sense to stand against the overreach of their government at that time. To obey the laws of the land, to give honor to Caesar, like Paul said in Romans 13, but there comes a point when the government oversteps and starts dictating things like this, and people go, that is blatantly against the command of God. That's not going to happen. And they fought it.
Now, what's interesting is that Saul is angry. He's angry that somebody didn't obey his voice, his command. He should be angry that somebody didn't obey God's voice, God's command, which wasn't Jonathan. It was himself. But his anger is that they haven't done what I said.
Yeah, but what you said isn't what God said. And because what you said happens to contradict what God said, we must obey God, rather than man. And that's where that law comes clearly into play. And I love what the people say, "Certainly not." Watch this. "As the Lord lives not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground for he has worked with God this day." Look, the only reason we have the victory is because your son, Jonathan, took a venture of faith with his arm bare and defeated the Philistines. Had enough guts while you're sitting under your pomegranate tree to go over into the enemy camp and trust that the Lord could deliver the Philistines into their hands. And he did. He's not going to die. "For he has worked with God this day. So the people rescue Jonathan, and he did not die. Then Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their place."
I love how they phrase that. "For he has worked with God this day." IT'S a great thing to work with God. It's a great partnership. Find out where God is working and be His partner. Find out where God is fighting the battle and join the troops. Fight with God. Work with God. Don't ask God to work with you or fight with you, your cause. Lord, this is a worthy cause. You should get involved.
No, you should get involved in His cause. Fight with God. Find out where God wants to work. Find out where God wants to fight and join that.
One of my favorite stories in all the Scriptures in Joshua chapter 5-- I'll remind you. You know the story. Joshua is about to fight the Battle of Jericho, actually march around Jericho. He really didn't do much fighting. But he's the general. So right before what he thinks is the Battle of Jericho, he is alone, and he sees a man with a drawn sword.
Joshua looks at him, and naturally the military impulse within him thinks, you know, friend or foe? You know, is this fight or flight? What am I going to do here? So he sees a man with a sword, and he didn't recognize him. So he said, "Are you for us, or are you for our adversaries?" And the man with a drawn sword said no, which is an odd answer.
Now the question is are you for us or are you for our enemies, no. But he says, "No. But as the commander of the Lord's armies, I have come." So what that means is are you for us, are you on our side or you're on their side, no. Wrong question. Are you on God's side? I'm the commander of the Lord's hosts. I'm the commander of the Lord's army. You want to make sure you get on my side, our side.
So Joshua says, what should I do. Joshua first bowed down and worshipped. And then he said, what must I do, and the man with a drawn sword, whom I believe is a pre-incarnate apparition of Jesus in the Old Testament, said, "Take your shoes off. You're on holy ground."
So I love this wording. I love the wording of saying, "For he, Jonathan, worked with God. He's on God's side working as the Lord wanted him to do." Because remember, Jonathan said, to his armor bare, "What restrains the Lord from saving by many are by few?" Let's just go over and see if you and I can just take the whole army down, which they did, because they were fighting with God.
So we're going to end this chapter, and we're getting a good profile of this man, Saul. It ends sort of summing up by saying "Saul established his sovereignty over Israel and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom," sort of summing up his military exploits so far, "against the kings of Zobah, against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. And he gathered an army and attack the Amalekites and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them." The Amalekite battle will be featured in the next chapter.
"The sons of Saul were Jonathan, Jehushi," which is a nickname for Abinidab. We'll meet him again later. "And Maliki-Shua." The names of his two daughters were these, the name of the first born, Merab, the name of the youngest, Michal, which will become David's wife. "The name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz, and the name of the commander of his army was Abner, the son of Ner," not the son of a nerd, but the son of Ner, Saul's uncle. "Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner, the father of Abner, was the son of Abiel. Now there was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul, and when Saul any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself."
So we have gotten a pretty good profile, and it's going to continue into the next chapter. Here's the profile. Saul, who started out right, started out with a bang, started out in humility and strength, fell into arrogance. He became an arrogant person, prideful person. It was all about him.
The arrogance led to indifference. He didn't care about his troops. They're fighting a battle all day, but I make a decree, you can eat anything until you win the battle. That's just indifference, being indifferent to your troops needs. So his arrogance led to indifference.
Now we will see that his indifference leads to his disobedience. He's just blatantly going to disobey what God said and that his disobedience will lead to violence. He'll try to kill David for about a decade. And then finally his violence will lead to irreverence. Didn't care about God anymore. If God's not going to listen to me. I'm going to get a witch from Endor and call up anything that can give me direction for the future. So we just see a man going downhill rather quickly.
Now chapter 15 verse 1, "Samuel also said to Saul, 'The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people, over Israel. Now therefore heed the voice of the words of the Lord.'" God sent me to anoint you. Now obey him. Now he's going to give them an order, and I'll explain the order. But that's the preamble to the order. I've done what God called me to do. I've selected you as the king. You're the people's choice. But you need to remember that you have to obey, listen to and obey the voice of God.
And he won't. He will say that he will, but he won't. Now, let me just set it up this way. You remember in the New Testament, Jesus gave a story, a parable? He said there was a certain man who had two sons. This is found in Matthew 21, a certain man with two sons. And he told one of his sons, "Go out and work in my vineyard." And he said, "I will not." but later, he regretted it, and he went out and he obeyed his father.
He said to his second son, "Go work in my vineyard," and he said, "I go, sir." But he didn't go. Jesus asked the audience which of the two sons did his father's will. They all said the first one. The first one said he won't go, but he eventually did go. The second one said, sure, I'll go, Dad. I'll do it. You can count on me. But he disobeyed. He didn't do it.
It's a story of two sons. Do you know the Bible also gives us a story of two Sauls? There's the Saul in the Old Testament. There's a Saul in the New Testament. The Saul in the Old Testament is like the son who says, sure, Dad, I'll go, but he doesn't go. The Saul in the New Testament resists Jesus's call in his life at first but eventually is conformed and obeys Jesus. That's Saul of Tarsus, Paul the apostle. So just like there's a parable of two sons, the Bible portrays with the Old and New Testament the story of two Sauls. And this is the one who said he would obey, but he did not.
Now look at verse 2. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel and how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant, nursing child, ox, and sheep, camel, and donkey.'"
Oftentimes, this text has been pointed out as being incompatible with any kind of a God of love. And people who want to dispute the Bible, if they know the Bible, will point this out and say what about this commandment? Why would God ever give a command to a king, one of his own people, one of his own leaders to go and utterly wipe out an entire race of people, an entire group of people, everyone, even including their animals.
Well, let me give you a little bit of background first of all on the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a descendant of Amalek, and Amalek was the grandson or one of the grandsons of Esau. Amalek settled in the Negev, the southern desert, the southern region of Israel, the desert regions between Canaan, the promised land, and Egypt.
They were nomadic. They were like Bedouin tribes today, living in tents and going from place to place, depending on the seasonal rains so that their flocks could have pasture land. But they were known in the ancient world as brutal, ruthless, marauders, attackers, plunderers. Their name shows up in several places in antiquity. In fact, there was a discovery in Egypt called the Amarna tablets, and the Amarna tablets give them the name that is translated, plunderers.
They were known for their vile worship. They sacrificed their children and babies in their worship of their gods, their false gods. So they killed their babies, and they were brutal. When Israel left Egypt on their way to the promised land, the Amalekites staged an unprovoked attack against those in the rear part of the children of Israel's ranks, the rear ranks, where the older people were, where the slower and infirmed people were, so attacked all the sick people, all the old people and just killed them, willy nilly for no reason at a place called Rephidim as soon as they were entering into the land.
So in Deuteronomy chapter 25, God said there's going to come a day where I am going to require that you exterminate them from the face of the Earth. Now this was a judgment of God, and people said, why would God do that? First of all, I never feel like I have to give explanations for anything God does. I'm not God's apologist. I don't have to, oh, I better come up with a good answer for that because look, that's not my task. I don't know honestly why God gives a lot of things.
But I do know that the Amalekites were like a cancer and that if you don't remove the cancer, it's going to grow. And here's what God said. Deuteronomy 25, "You will execute vengeance or judgment upon the Amalekites, for war with the Amalekites is going to continue from generation to generation." if you don't deal with it, they're going to plague you and attack you and kill you from generation to generation.
So that's the order. God is making good on the order. I told you that years ago. Now, wipe out the Amalekites. Saul won't do it. Saul will disobey God. And because Saul disobeyed God, fast forward into their future. David will be living in an area of a town called Ziklag. You'll read about that later. He has property and holdings and family there in Ziklag. He goes out to fight a battle.
While he's gone, the Amalekites come in, torch the city, burn the city, take every child, every person captive as plunder. Fast forward again to the book of Esther, when a man by the name of Haman-- remember Haman-- comes up with an idea that every Jew in the entire Empire be exterminated, totally killed just because they're Jewish. Kill them.
And you know the story of Esther. His name was Haman, and it says Haman was an Agagite. An Agagite was a member of the royal family of the Amalekites. Almost all of the Jews were exterminated generations later because of Saul's disobedience.
So verse four, "Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in 200,000 foot soldiers, sizable army and 10,000 men of Judah. Saul came to a city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, 'Go, depart. Get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them, for you, the Kenites, showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt.' So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites."
Now, do you remember the Kenites? Some of you might remember that the father-in-law of Moses by the name of Jethro was a Kenite. They lived in that same region, that desert region. These tribes often mingled together. But notice that this attack is a judgment of God, and it's a very precise judgment. It's not going to be for anybody who gets in the way. But not the Kenites, only the Amalekites, only those who are sacrificing their children in false worship, who will continually plunder and kill until they're taken out of the way.
So the Kenites are separated. It becomes a very surgical strike. "And Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is East of Egypt. He also took Agag." And remember Haman, later on in the book of Esther is an Agagite. Comes from this. It's just a hard name to say, Agag. But his name is not Agag. Agag is a title.
Just like Pharaoh is the title of the leader of Egypt or was, Agag is a title of the leader of the Amalekite clan. That's what most scholars believe, so from the royal class. "He took the king of the Amalekites alive and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag the best of the sheep and oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good and were unwilling to destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, they utterly destroyed. So he disobeyed God. Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel saying, 'I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as for he is turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.' And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night."
I really like Samuel. I really can't wait to hang out with Samuel because I see in Samuel a man who even though he told the people, look, don't ask for a king, the Lord will be king, he gave in to the will of the people and brought in Saul. I believe, even though Samuel knew that God's heart was to have a theocratic kingdom, where God would rule over them, I believe he really truly in his heart wanted Saul to be a good king. He wanted him to succeed.
And so when he saw him being a bonehead, failing at all this and disobeying God, it really grieved his heart. And it wasn't like, oh, what a shame. I mean, he really poured out his heart and cried over him. He cried out to God all night. "When Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel saying, Saul went to Carmel. And indeed he set up a monument for himself." I mentioned this last week.
Now, Carmel, if you've been to Israel, you are thinking of Mount Carmel up in the North. This is not that Carmel. This is another place called Carmel way down South in the desert, down in the Negev, down by Beersheba, down by Arod, and those desert enclaves. It was that Carmel because that's where the battle was taking place.
So he's coming back up from that battle, stops at that place called Carmel. Says this is a nice place to make a statue of me, so that people will admire me because I am so awesome. So he does. And Samuel went to Saul verse 13, "Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, 'Blessed are you of the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.'"
Did he obey the commandment? No, he disobeyed the commandment. But notice how spiritually he couches his words, his response to the prophet. Praise God, brother. God bless you.
When you travel with us to Israel, and you go to certain places like the Mount of Olives, and there's people selling postcards and beads and a number of trinkets, they will know that you're an American. They will know that you're a Christian tour, and they're going to come to you, "God bless you. Jesus is Lord. Hallelujah. Isn't God good?" You know, they know your language.
They're ready for you, and you'll go, oh, they're believers. I got to buy those dumb postcards or that jewelry that will fall apart before it gets to the hotel. I got to do it. Saul's got it down pat. "Praise God. Blessed are you, Lord. I've done all that God said." So Samuel said, OK, if that's so, "'What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and lowing of the oxen which I hear?' Saul said, "They--'" again, he's pointing to others. It's not, well, I figured-- it's they, those people, those guys. "'They have brought them from the Amalekites for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord, your God.'" Very telling. "'And the rest we have utterly destroyed.'"
"Then Samuel said to Saul, 'Be quiet.'" I like Samuel. You know, he's a man of God, and he does not have the fear of man. He fears only God. He respects the king, but he is representing God, and so it's only right in representing a disobedient king to tell him be quiet, button it, zip it. Don't want to hear from you. Quit talking.
"'Be quiet. And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.' And he said to him, 'OK, speak on.' So Samuel said, 'When you were little in your eyes, were you not the head of the tribes of Israel?'" One time you had humility. One time you saw yourself as not worthy. "'And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission and said, go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed. Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?''
That's what he told him before he gave them the order. The Lord sent me to anoint you king. Now listen to his voice and obey it. Why didn't you do that? "'Why did you swoop down on the spoil and do evil in the sight of the Lord?' And Saul said to Samuel, 'But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.'" Liar. "'And gone on the mission which the Lord sent me.'" Liar. "'And brought back Agag, king of Amalek. And I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.'" Again, all lies.
"'But the people took of the plunders, sheep, and ox and the best of the things.'" Well, you're their king, dummy. If you're obeying God, why don't you say, hey, I'm the king, stop doing that? "'But the people took of the plunder of the sheep, the ox, and the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.'"
So Samuel said, one of the classic passages in all of scripture, one that should be memorized, "'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed then the fat of rams, for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'"
Let this be a Warning to all of us. Saul heard the word of the Lord. Saul knew exactly what God commanded. We know the word of the Lord. We know what is required of us from God. He heard, but he didn't mix it with true faith, and he didn't act in obedience. He couches it in spiritual talk. A lot of people do. Praise God, hallelujah, bless God. They know all the Christian talk, I love the Lord. God and I, man, we're like this. We're friends.
And I've had people who want to talk about people they know are relatives who are living in disobedience. And they'll say, oh, but they love the Lord. They do? They love the Lord but they're walking in blatant open disobedience sleeping with that person, doing whatever they're doing. But you're going to tell me, oh, they love the Lord, or they pray to receive Christ. Oh, they love the Lord. Oh, God and I, we're like friends.
Jesus said, if you love me, you'll do what I say. You'll obey my commands. That is Saul. Saul had all the right speech but not the right lifestyle. You know God is not impressed with pageantry. To obey is better than sacrifice. You know, God didn't go, oh, man, that worship service, that song in that A minor key, that moved me. I dig that. I love that. Those people, man, they put on a good production.
You remember in Isaiah chapter 1 God said to his people who were worshipping in the temple and sacrificing, He said, "'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?' says the Lord. 'I've had enough of burnt offerings of Rams and the fat of fed cattle. Bring no more ablations. Incense is an abomination to me.'" Whoa.
When Cain killed Abel, it says before he did that, he was angry because God didn't receive his offering of worship. But he did respect Abel's, not Cain's. But he did respect Abel's. And it says that Cain got angry with God, and his countenance fell, meaning he was mad and mopey, pouting. God said, "'Cain, why are you angry, and why is your countenance falling? If you do right, will you not be accepted? But if you don't do right, then sin is lying at the door. But you must master it.'"
Cain, it's not about your sacrifice. You're all bummed out that I didn't like your sacrifice. I don't like your sacrifice because I don't separate the sacrifice from the one who offers the sacrifice. You're not living right. You're bringing a sacrifice. You're bringing an offering. You're saying hallelujah, praise God. But look at your life. If you do right, will you not be accepted? I'm not accepting your sacrifice because I'm not accepting you.
God never separates worship from the worshipper. He's not asking for perfection. He's asking for reality, authenticity. "'To obey is better than sacrifice. To heed than the fat of rams, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he's rejected you from being king.'" And Saul said to Samuel, "'I have sinned.'" You think?
I mean, I admire his confession. And we all hear that, and we go, see. He's trying. I'm not convinced. I don't buy it. "'For I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words because I feared--'" here's the problem-- "'I feared the people. I feared the people and obeyed their voice.'"
The fear of man brings a snare. The Bible tells us that. The fear of man brings a snare. Pontius Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, wanted to let him go. But it says the voices of the people prevailed. Crucify him, crucify him. And that is often our problem. We have so many voices of people telling us we have to think this way and think that way and say this and say that. And it's just so hard to fight against that.
So the people's voice often prevails. You just give into it. You don't want to fight it any longer. "'Because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the Lord.'" OK, I hear what you're saying, but at least let's go back to where the people are. This is evidently a private meeting. Let's go back to where my troops are, and let's have a little worship ceremony there. They can see you and I there together, and it's good PR. That's the idea of this, "'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.' And as Samuel turned around to go away, 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 a neighbor of yours who is better than you.'"
And that is David, and he's introduced the next chapter, which I wanted to get through, but I obviously can't. And also notice this name for God, also the strength of Israel. That's the name of God. The Lord is our strength. "'The strength of Israel will not lie nor relent or he is not a man that he should relent.' Then he said, 'I have sinned. Yet honor me now--'" you see the problem here? OK, I sinned. I blew it. But honor me. You know, still go back. Don't leave. I want people to see you and me together. Honor me, me.
"'Honor me now please before the elders of my people and before Israel and return with me that I may worship the Lord, your God.' So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshipped the Lord. Then Samuel said, 'Bring Agag, the king of the Amalekites here to me.' So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, 'Surely the bitterness of death is past.'"
Usually kings were slaughtered immediately after a battle. There was really no lag time, but there has been this conversation between the prophet and the politician. And so it's been a while. Agag thinks he's in the clear. He's going to be fine. He's not going to be executed. So he says to Samuel, "'Surely the bitterness of death is past.' And Samuel said, 'As your sword has made women childless.'" Again, they were Amalekites. They were marauders. They went willy nilly and killed people all the time, slaughtering them.
"'As your sword made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.' And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." Yeah, that's a right reaction. It's a brutal scene. The prophet takes out the sword, executes him, hacks him up.
But that is what happened. Now, I'm going to do this briefly, but I just want to weigh in on something. If you were to read this in like the New International Version and a lot of other versions, it doesn't say this. It just says Samuel put him to death. The text doesn't say that. The Hebrew doesn't demand that. The Hebrew is very clear. He hacked him in pieces and the New King James is accurate.
So there's been a longstanding in-house debate among Christian scholars as to which Bible version is best. I get asked that. Which is the best version of the Bible to read? And I tell people, get a literal translation. Get something that translates the sense of the text.
But in Bible translation, there are two philosophies. There's the word for word literal approach. We call that formal equivalence. And then there's a sort of what is called dynamic equivalent, where it's not word for word, but a sort of idea for idea or thought for thought to make it more understandable to the modern reader, so that when you pick it up, you go, gosh, this reads so much easier than reading that other version, which seems really exact, but a little bit wordy and cumbersome and hard to understand. So I prefer that.
Not only is there that translation debate-- and again, I'm not going to get too much in the weeds. I just want to touch on this, and we're closing. But there's two sets of manuscripts, in New Testament manuscripts at least that have divided people. The King James, New King James, and a couple of others take one set of manuscripts. The other take another set of manuscript.
But I'm going to push that aside and just say if your version says he put him to death, it's not telling you how he put him to death, and it's not giving you the exact sense that should cause that reaction that somebody just had when they went, wow, heavy. The actual Hebrew says he hacked him to pieces. Now, as gross and brutal as that is, that's the reality of the text. And I think it is meant to make that kind of an impression on us.
So I prefer a Bible translation that doesn't hide that nugget of translation. OK, enough said on that. Let's finish the chapter. So again, that's just sort of a little hobbyhorse of mine, translations and philosophies of that. But most people aren't interested-- I won't delve into it.
OK, let's close it off. "Then Samuel went to Rama." That's his headquarters. "And Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul, and Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that he made Saul king over Israel."
It says he saw him no more until the day of his death. Actually, he'll see him another time after that. I'll let you figure out when that is. Some of you already know the answer, right? Witch of Endor. OK, let's pray, and then we'll close out.
Father, we want to thank you for the opportunity to just dig deep and soak these things in your word, into our souls, into our hearts. Learning from history, learning from the good example of Samuel and the bad example of King Saul, as they are both honestly displayed before us. Thank you that we have a book that gives biographies of men and women that doesn't hide the truth, doesn't hide the facts, doesn't embellish, but tells it like it is, tells us exactly who they were, what decisions they made, and what happened.
And Paul, we know, Lord, referred to that in the New Testament, saying, all these things that were written before were written for our admonition, for our learning, for our encouragement. So we learn from good and bad. We pray that we would take it to heart. Lord, that we will be authentic and honest in who we are before you. Thank you for the mercy in the New Testament, Lord, the grace in the New Testament, that when there is true repentance, there is an absolute and total forgiveness eradication of our sins before you. You hold nothing against us.
May we be more like the Saul of the New Testament than the Saul of the Old Testament, that even if up till now we have disobeyed, we would go into your vineyard, we would go work. We would work with you. We would obey you, rather than just going through the motions and hiding behind platitudes and hallelujahs and praise Gods. But in honesty, we would be in sync with you. In Jesus's name we pray. Amen.
For more resources from Calvary Church and Skip Heitzig, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us from this teaching in our series "Expound."