1 Samuel 15
-Samuel re-enters the scene in this decisive chapter in the kingdom of Saul over Israel. Just as the LORD sent Samuel to anoint this leader as the man of His own choosing, He comes again with an order to go and punish the Amalekite enemy for setting themselves against Israel 400 years prior when they were coming up from their captivity in Egypt. The command was clear, “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Saul gathered 200,000 foot soldiers and numbered them in Telaim, which included 10,000 men of Judah. The king came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. Beforehand, he warned the Kenites who were living among the Amalekites to depart so that they would not be destroyed. They had shown kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came out of Egypt (Numbers 24:21, Judges 1:16). So the Kenites followed through and did depart safely (1 Samuel 15:1-6).
-Saul did fight with the Amalekites and defeated them soundly under the direction and providence of the LORD. From Havilah as far as Shur, east of Egypt, the Israeli army prevailed in a decisive blow. Agag, the Amalekite king, was captured alive, and the rest of the people were utterly destroyed with the edge of the sword. However, in direct contradiction to God’s orders, Agag the king was spared along with the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good. So the worthless things were done away with, but the best things were not destroyed completely (1 Samuel 15:7-9).
-Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel indicating, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” This news distressed the prophet, and he cried out to the LORD all night long. Then, as a faithful spiritual soldier, he rose early the next morning to meet Saul, who he heard was at Mt. Carmel, where he had set up a monument for himself. But Saul had turned and headed back east to the Jordan River Valley in Gilgal. This is where Samuel comes to the king. Saul, in arrogance and cockiness, greets the prophet of God with these words, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.” Samuel sarcastic response is classic, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul tried in vain to justify and vindicate his position by letting the prophet know that he brought them back for a sacrifice to the LORD God of Heaven and earth, but Samuel was having nothing to do with this after hearing directly from the Almighty. He stated, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” After Saul told him to speak, the prophet and former judge of the land continued, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ Why then did you not obey the Voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” Saul continued to make his defense in partial support of God and His program, and then began to accuse the people of talking him into taking some of the spoil, sheep, oxen, and the choice things. He again tried to justify this with the fact that they were going to sacrifice these things to the LORD in Gilgal, even though God had told them to do something completely different. Saul’s compromising leadership was once again dragging him down. This time it was pivotal. His kingdom never recovered. Samuel protested, “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." At this point, Saul acknowledged his sin and transgressions against the commands of the LORD. He admitted that he feared the people and listened to their voice above the Voice of God. He asked for pardon and for the prophet to return with him in sight of the people that all may be shmoozed over and that they worship the LORD together in ungenuine repentance. The discerning prophet was unmoved. He maintained, “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 depart, Saul seized his robe tearing the edge of it. Samuel reiterated with this prophetic sign, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” In desperation now, the fallen king reached out again to the prophet to curry his favor in the situation if not just to pacify the moment and make him appealing to the masses of people who had expectations for him. He said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your (interesting here it’s not “my” or “our” God) God.” Samuel obliged this request, and Saul did worship the LORD in front of the people in a ceremonious act (1 Samuel 15:10-31).
-There was one more matter that needed to be cleared up by the man of God. Samuel had Agag, the Amalekite king, brought to him. Agag came cheerfully, the Bible denotes, thinking that the time for violent action had certainly passed. In fact, he said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But Samuel had other thoughts planted by his Sovereign LORD. He told the vanquished king that he indeed had made women childless, and now his mother would be childless as well. Samuel finished the orders of God by cutting up the king in pieces before the LORD there at Gilgal. Then he returned to his home in Ramah. Saul went back to his house in Gibeah. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death. Samuel grieved over Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had entrusted the kingdom of Israel to such a man as this (1 Samuel 15:32-35). But even through much depravity, God was still working out His salvation plan through the life of the nation of Israel. Soon a premiere king with an enduring kingdom would arise with a heart after the LORD.
-*Application* Fear of man verses the fear of God. This is always the great dilemma in life. Who are we going to listen to? Who are we going to worship? Who is our God, or god? Don’t let God regret choosing us for a call or position. We need to follow Him completely and genuinely all the days of our lives to hear “well done good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21, 23).” We should take notice of all the leadership qualities, good and bad, that are display in this lengthy sequence of events between Eli and Samuel, Samuel and Saul, and Saul and David. Much can be learned inductively from a deep character study on these men.
Verses to Memorize: 1 Samuel 15:11, 22-23, 28