Samuel gives Saul a direct command from the Lord to “totally destroy” the Amalekites. He is told to not spare them. “Put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (v. 3)
Saul assembles his men — 200,000 men plus 10,000 from Judah. Saul spares the Kenites, then attacks the Amalekites, taking Agag the king alive. He destroyed all the people with the sword. But Saul and the army spared the best of the flocks — “everything that was good” (v. 9). “These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (v. 9).
Samuel is informed by the Lord of the Lord’s regret that He had made Saul king “because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions” (v. 11). Samuel was angry and cried out to the Lord all that night.
Samuel goes to meet Saul who is setting up a monument to himself at Carmel (v. 12). Saul greets Samuel with the words, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions” (v. 13). Samuel then responds, “What are these animal noises that I hear?”
Saul passes the buck and blames the soldiers — “They spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest” (v. 15).
“Enough!” Samuel says. “The Lord told me last night that you’ve changed from the time you were ‘once small in your own eyes.’ The Lord anointed you king — and you’ve not obeyed the King! You didn’t fulfill your mission. Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” (vv. 16-19).
Saul defends himself, thinking he had obeyed the Lord. He uses religion as an excuse for the choices he made.
Some takeaways for me today:
1. The original temptation in the Garden of Eden was to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). In Saul’s situation, he and his army decided what was good and evil. They spared “everything that was good” (v. 9) and totally destroyed everything that was “despised and weak.”I am falling into the sin of Saul, his army, and the original first couple when I make myself the final determiner of what is good and what is evil.
2. The Lord is grieved by disobedience. And we should be as well (Samuel became angry and stayed up all night crying out to the Lord, v. 11).
3. Sin is self-deceptive. Saul thought he had obeyed the Lord (v. 13).
4. It is quite easy to play the blame game — and to take the credit for anything good that is done (v. 15).
5. Humbleness is not a permanent quality. Saul lost his humility when he became king; he was no longer “small in his own eyes” (v. 17).
6. We must never underestimate the power of greed. We, too, “pounce on the plunder,” don’t we? (v. 19).
7. We can use religion as an excuse for the bad choices that we make (v. 21).