And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”
17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction.21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
22 And Samuel said,
“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 listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam 15:13-22 ESV)
This passage follows Samuel’s instructions to King Saul to completely wipe out the Amalekites,
Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt.3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destructiont all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’
But Saul failed to follow his command to the letter. We may try to argue Saul’s case, “but he did kill all the Amalekites, all but the king and the best sheep.” That’s exactly what Saul tried to do. The fact is, obedience is all or nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I tell my children to do something and they do it mostly or most of the time and try to reason that they obeyed. We learn here that is not the case. Saul went a step further in his argument saying that he saved the best sheep for sacrifice to the Lord. It’s kind of like a child getting caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar and saying, “I got the cookie for you!” There is no justification for mostly obedience. There is no justification for mostly discipleship or mostly following Jesus. We give all of our hearts to the Lord or He will have none of it.
This is a constant battle in the life of the Christian. We are constantly facing the weaknesses of our flesh and giving into the alluring taunts of our culture that tell us we need this or that to be happy. It is why we need to walk daily in our devotion, live in an attitude of repentance, and attend faithfully to all of the means of grace God has granted to us.
Where are you in your obedience? What means of grace are you neglecting?
Chronological Reading Plan plus Psalms: 1 Sa 15-17, Ps 102