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A Regrettable Situation - 1 Samuel 15
Let’s begin with a good story as a “hook” to draw you in so that you will stay attentive and awake.
Oh look, we’re in narrative in our text of study.
:-) Let’s read this interesting episode together.
Read 1 Samuel 15
PRAY
I’d like us to look at this text this morning in three ways.
(Feel free to use this same approach in your own Bible study.)
What happens here?
[or What does it mean?
depending on the kind of passage…]
What’s hardest to understand in this passage?
What’s hardest for us to apply?
What happens here?
(Outline)
God Tests Saul (vv.
1-3)
Through the punishment of the Amalekites (fulfilling the prophecy against them) - In their wilderness wandering, Israel had been savagely attacked in the rear of their traveling troop by none other than the Amalekites.
devote to destruction - to give over completely to God with the implication that it must be utterly destroyed to avoid human use
Giving Saul a chance to change his ways and prove his worship of God through obedience
Saul (Partially) Obeys (vv.
4-9)
He musters a large force and goes into battle against the Amalekites.
He even shows kindness to those who had shown kindness to Israel.
(the Kenites, the family line of Moses’s father-in-law Jethro, who had supported and even journeyed some with Israel)
Saul and his army does soundly defeat the enemy, but their destruction is not complete - Twice in a row it mentions that Saul took/spared Agag.
Not only that, but they keep the best of the spoil.
- What were they supposed to do with it?
Devote it ALL to the Lord by destroying ALL of it.
(We also know the Amalekites aren’t fully annihilated because it’s a group of them later in 1 Samuel who attack David’s town of Ziklag and kidnap his wives and children — along with everybody else’s!)
The problem is incomplete obedience, an evidence of insincere worship.
Partial obedience is in fact disobedience.
And we soon learn that Saul’s motive is not as pure as he might like Samuel to believe.
God Regrets, Samuel Rebukes, & Saul Makes Excuses (vv.
10-21)
God regrets here means that God grieves (expresses genuine sorrow) - Anthropopathism (explaining God’s emotion in human terminology)
Samuel is angry.
First he prays (which exactly fits what we’ve come to learn of him), then he goes to confront Saul.
Saul has already moved on from Carmel, I place where he decided to make a monument to himself! … before going on to Gilgal, which at this time was an important place of worship to God.
There Samuel confronts him, and before he can even get a word out, Saul is touting his obedience.
Samuel’s response is, “Are you kidding me right now?
I can hear the blooming sheep and oxen!”
Saul lays the blame on the people, “they,” and he feigns sincere devotion, making the excuse that the best of the sheep and oxen were kept to sacrifice to God.
As Samuel’s rebuke gets more pointed, Saul’s excuses dig him into a deeper hole, only proving his failure more.
(17-21)
God Rejects Saul (vv.
22-23)
Samuel’s words are piercing and timeless:
“Clearly the Torah integrated sacrifice into the life of obedience to God; however, it never envisioned it as a substitute for obedience.”
- Bergen, R. D. (1996).
1, 2 Samuel (Vol. 7, p. 172).
Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Religion without relationship is just religion.
We get a glimpse also in v. 23a of the sins in Saul’s heart.
- He is guilty of rebellion and presumption (or arrogance).
To reject God’s word is to reject God.
Such faithlessness God rejects.
Saul Pleads in Desperation (vv.
24-31)
But what seems to be his motivation?
Ramifications for Sin Get Ugly (vv.
32-35)
Samuel, yes Samuel, hacked Agag to pieces (for everyone to see God’s judgment)
Samuel never goes before Saul again in a formal capacity.
The split between them is symbolic of the the separation with God, and indicative the Samuel, as God has indicated, already views the end of Saul’s reign as having begun (even though it’s completion may take as many as 15 years yet).
What’s hardest to understand in this passage?
What are the most difficult elements in this passage for us to comprehend regarding God’s actions, his commands, etc. I’ve chosen two.
[But just briefly, before I get to those…]
Sometimes there are questions within details of the text itself, such as how we translate a given phrase in its context.
- In 1 Sam 15:32...
...Agag’s response to being brought before Samuel can be understood, and therefore translated, in two different ways.
It can mean that he came confidently and cheerfully, thus his thinking is that surely the bitterness of death is past (as here in ESV).
Or it can mean that he came bound (as in chains), thus altered in the Septuagint to mean he came haltingly or trembling, making his statement more of a question, “Would death have been as bitter as this?” - So Agag either came expecting not to be killed (perhaps because they now brought him before a priest), or he came expecting death or worse.
Such instances almost always end up being minor in terms of their overall affect on the main thrust of a passage, as is the case with this example.
Other times, as is the case with the word regret used several times in our passage, the word and the corresponding concepts involved take more interpretive work.
(That one will be my second point here.)
1. God’s justice in wiping out the Amalekites and in rejecting Saul
We must understand the severity of sin or else we cannot comprehend the justice of God.
How serious is sin?
We are told in God’s word that the wages (earned payment) for sin is death in Rom.
6:23.
Said death is not merely physical, but also spiritual, and it’s results are eternal: (the wicked, who are faithless toward God, will be separated out as goats and separated from his true sheep)
And who is under the reign of sin and therefore deserving of God’s just judgment?
To tolerate evil is to deny justice.
So God may choose patience, God may provide opportunity for repentance.
But God will not ultimately turn a blind eye to evil.
Justice will be served.
But even with solid sense of justice, we still must admit a level of difficulty to our sensibilities with God wiping out entire cities.
God’s “ban of holy war” judgment against the Amalekites can be traced to at least three points:
God had said to Abraham and his descendents “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Gen.
12:3)
Then through Moses after the Exodus he told his people Israel:
More specifically regarding the Amalekites, he said:
The time had come to fulfill that command, and God assigned the task to Saul.
But even with that understanding of God’s program for Isreal, I don’t want to pretend like this is easy.
It’s not.
For a few reasons that I can think of:
Can you fathom being Joshua (or Saul here) and those with them, who are actually responsible to carry this out?
After all, respect for the value of human life has been placed within us by God.
(as he has commanded against murder, for example)
We must also admit that it is our NT perspective that makes this extra difficult for us, because we feel abundantly certain that God has no such program for his people in the church era.
Christ said that his current program for his kingdom was not earthly but spiritual:
Furthermore, Christ not only died for his enemies but has essentially called on his people to be willing to suffer like him so that others may come to Christ by faith, not by force.
So… the issue remains… —> Is God justified in putting sinners to death?
Is he justified in rejecting those who reject him?
(v.
26) Why is death the penalty?
Did God arbitrarily pick death to be the penalty?
- God gave us life so that we would see him as he is, worship him for who he is, have sweet fellowship in relationship to him.
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