And the downfall of Saul continues.
God commands Saul through Samuel to wipe out the Amalekites because of how they had attacked the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert during the time of Moses. The Amalekites were apparently still around, making trouble for the Israelites, and undoubtedly for the other people around them, and so God told them that they were to be utterly destroyed. Nothing was to be spared, not even their animals.
That may seem harsh, and it was. But the Amalekites had had more than enough time to repent of their ways, and it had only gotten worse. And so God was bringing judgment on them, just as he will judge every person some day, good or evil.
But Saul disobeyed. He spared the king, and kept all of the sheep and cattle because “they were too good to waste.”
And so God told Samuel,
I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions. (11)
At first, when Samuel confronted him, Saul denied any wrongdoing. He said,
The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions. (13)
One gets the impression that Saul was kind of hoping Samuel didn’t know about the sheep and cattle. But when Samuel asked why the sheep and cattle were still there, Saul just said, “Oh that. The men wanted to keep them to sacrifice to the Lord…but we destroyed the rest!” (15)
But Samuel replied,
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king. (22-23)
Only then, did Saul admit his wrongdoing, but even so, he continued to try to pass the blame to his people. “I was afraid of them, so I gave into them.” (24)
The problem with Saul is one that’s very common today. He paid lip service to serving God, but in his heart, he was serving only himself.
Earlier, when Samuel was looking for Saul, he found out that Saul had gone off to a mountain to build a monument to honor his own greatness. And although Saul said he planned to sacrifice the animals to the Lord, it’s pretty clear he had no such intention.
His “repentance,” as mentioned before, also wasn’t very sincere. Rather than taking responsibility for his own actions, he tried to pass the blame to others.
And even his worship of God seemed to be more of an outward show than anything else. When Samuel turned to leave, Saul begged him to stay, saying,
Please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God. (35)
He seemed more concerned about his personal reputation before the people than his reputation before God.
And so God rejected him as king.
How about you? Do you merely pay lip service to God? Do you only say religious things and do religious thing to impress people? Or does God truly have your heart? God isn’t so much interested in your words or actions as he is your heart. And if he doesn’t have your heart, then nothing else matters. That’s what he had in David, that he didn’t have in Saul.
Does God have your heart? Or does he merely have your lip service?