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1 Samuel 13:5, 7b13b; 15:711, 2223 comment (0)

October 2, 2008

By Doug Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:5, 7b13b; 15:711, 2223

Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

1 Samuel 13:5, 7b–13b; 15:7–11, 22–23

Israel’s King Saul either could not or would not obey instructions. Either he was an unbeliever whom God used, and even anointed for service, or he was a believer who chose expediency over obedience. The bottom line was Saul did not obey Samuel’s instructions regarding atonement sacrifices. The result was that God gave Saul’s kingdom over to David.

Many church members are ignorant of God’s Word today. Some take Bible instruction from the pulpit or the classroom as optional information. Others view devotional reading like taking a daily vitamin supplement. The problem with this approach is Christians are called to love God with all our minds, to renew our minds and to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. How can one do this without spending time reading, meditating on and applying the Scriptures to everyday circumstances? We must be growing in our Bible knowledge in order to grow in our obedience to God. Ignorance was not an excuse for Saul, nor is it for us.

Overcome Fear (13:5, 7b–13b)
Army troops were gathering. The presence of the cavalry and chariots of the Philistines filled the hearts of Saul’s men with fear. Day after day, they waited for the prophet Samuel to arrive and offer a sacrifice to God on their behalf but he did not come. Finally, as an act of desperation, Saul determined he would offer the sacrifice himself. After all, his men were deserting him and he feared they could not wait any longer for the elderly prophet. He wanted to make sure he received the Lord’s favor by offering the sacrifice.

To Saul, it did not matter that God’s directions were to be obeyed nor did it matter that he was completely unqualified to make such a sacrifice. What mattered to him was that the Philistines were growing in number and the Israelites were diminishing. He equated presenting an offering with honoring God when God was actually looking for obedience. Saul’s fear of men led him to a foolish decision, and Samuel informed him that his disobedience was to result in another man replacing him as king.

Overcome Partial Obedience (15:7–11)

My wife and I have six children. Early in our family life, we determined that our children’s partial obedience and delayed obedience were forms of disobedience. Saul seems to have acted like a big child, trying to find ways to explain how his rebellion was actually a form of obedience. 
Samuel was incensed that Saul paraded Agag the terrorist around, rather than executing him, and that he saved his animals for sacrifice when they were to be destroyed. Even in this, Samuel made a point to pray for Saul and for the situation throughout the night.

Overcome Ritual (15:22–23)
Saul failed to learn his lesson. In Chapter 13, Samuel told Saul his impetuous and unauthorized sacrifice would cost him the kingdom. Saul seemed to think following the ritual of offering a blood sacrifice was sufficient for winning favor with God. Somehow God would be satisfied with Saul’s religious activities, whether he walked in obedience or not.

In this passage, we find that Saul was planning to make another unauthorized sacrifice. To him, it did not matter that he was instructed to destroy all of the Amalekite king Agag’s livestock; he wanted to make a sacrifice anyway.
Samuel indicated that Saul’s intended sacrifice was along the lines of idolatry and sorcery. Rather than following directions, Saul chose to make his own rules. Samuel stated: “rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.” The end result of Saul’s disobedience was his loss of the kingdom.

God’s plan is for us to follow His directions. No amount of religious activity or ritual practice can take the place of surrender and obedience. Jesus once asked: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” This is the ongoing question for everyone who names the name of Jesus. We must lay aside ritualistic approaches to God and religious ceremony when what He truly expects is for us to trust and obey.

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