We started this series with the foundational thought that all people compare themselves to others. Now the response we get back from others or how we perceive them stirs emotions. The strange situation is that our emotions don’t always align well with what we portray our morals to be.
The nasty situation is when we review someone we knows behavior and/or character and they make us look good. You know they ones I am talking about. There are “those people” that do not even measure up to our morals, and we hold their portrait up against our own and we feel pretty good about ourself. These situations do not create any stirring of desire for change or attention to our problem areas. It is generally a justification for who we are. In many cases we actually celebrate another person’s mishaps and conditions because they keep us in the state of acceptance, at least in our mind.
What then happens when the scale swings the other way? When we happen to compare ourselves with that guy that seems to be doing quite well? When he has a great job, seems like a great family, going on vacations, throwing parties and everybody always wants to invite him to their parties. Generally this guy is repulsive. We generally jump to the conclusion that he is not a good example to compare ourselves against. We discredit the individual and not even take their good attributes into account when we look for areas of opportunity in our life.
This sure seems messed up, but we do have to be honest with ourselves, if we want to be transparent and we want to learn grow and let the Holy Spirit transform us into a better person. When we get a lot of feedback that we don’t care for we can get moody, irritated and even down right mad. We can be upset with the bad hand we have been dealt, the people that did us wrong and even sometimes God. The reactions actually come from insecurity. I know, I know, men don’t have insecurity issues. None of us guys can ever admit to being insecure, but the truth is the truth.
The root of all sin
At the root of insecurity — the anxiety over how others think of us — is pride. This pride is an excessive desire for others to see us as impressive and admirable. Insecurity is the fear that they won’t, but instead they will see us as deficient. We have been raised in America with the concept that we are going to be successful, we are going to be worthy. Our worth is based on society’s acceptance of us.
The first king
The most dangerous situation when we have insecurity issues, because they generally lead to disobedience. One of the great biblical characters of the bible gives great illustration of this exact situation is King Saul.
In 1 Samuel 10, Saul is anointed king by Samuel. He was blessed by God and told of the things to come.
Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. – 1 Samuel 10:1 ESV
Samuel goes on to explain the battles and the plans that will occur in the next week and how he, Samuel, would join Saul after the victory to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. (v.8)
Just like us, we get direction and we get instruction. We are told what to do and we go forward. We know the details of what is going to happen and we feel wise because we are on the “in”. We know the secret, the surprise, the plans. As we get caught up in doing our part, we rush forward with excitement, with anticipation of what is to come. Many times as we get excited we actually forget some key parts of the instructions.
Have you ever been instructed to do something or lead others and get caught up in the anticipation and forget to do some of the details initially instructed?
Saul is no different. Or is it that we are no different than Saul? Let’s pick up the story in chapter 13:
8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. – 1 Samuel 13:8-9
What do we have going on here? Saul, being the leader right? He got instructions and he is in execution mode. He has taken the Philistines as outlined and gathered the people as instructed. Saul is in the middle of carrying out his duties and then is caught off guard.
As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him.– 1 Samuel 13:10 ESV
Isn’t that just how it goes? We get involved in the actions, the instructions and get caught up in the moment and then a situation like Saul’s happens. We are reminded of a key portion of our instructions. We vividly remember what we were supposed to do. Almost like the child caught with the hand in the cookie jar. Saul, just like us, uses a common tactic, he justified his actions. Trying to explain why he did what he did.
11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” – 1 Samuel 13:11-12 ESV
Saul actually tries to pin his disobedience on Samuel, “you did not come within the days appointed“. Then he declares that he was forced to take action; “So I forced myself…“. There is no where in the recorded story where Saul gathers himself and seeks wisdom from the Lord on what to do. He does not ask for guidance on what to do, “Samuel is not here Lord, what should I do?”.
What follows is what is known as a prophetic judgment speech, similar to what was expressed to Eli earlier in chapter 2:27-36. The following speech emphasizes the contrast between the Lord’s grace and disobedience. Other examples of prophetic speeches of this type are illustrated later in 1 Samuel 15 and then again in 2 Samuel 12:7-12
13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” – 1 Samuel 13:13-14 ESV
You would think after such an incident Saul would have grasped the whole situation of who the Lord is, who he is serving and learn from this experience, but just like us, Saul is weak. Let’s catch up to Saul in chapter 15 where Jonathan and him are still battling the opposition of the Israelites. Samuel gives Saul some specific instructions one more time.
1 One day Samuel said to Saul, “I crowned you king of Israel because God told me to. Now be sure that you obey him. 2 Here is his commandment to you: ‘I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for refusing to allow my people to cross their territory when Israel came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalek nation—men, women, babies, little children, oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys.’”
4 So Saul mobilized his army at Telaim. There were two hundred thousand troops in addition to ten thousand men from Judah. 5 The Amalekites were camped in the valley below them. 6 Saul sent a message to the Kenites, telling them to get out from among the Amalekites or else die with them. “For you were kind to the people of Israel when they came out of the land of Egypt,” he explained. So the Kenites packed up and left.
7 Then Saul butchered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. 8 He captured Agag, the king of the Amalekites, but killed everyone else. 9 However, Saul and his men kept the best of the sheep and oxen and the fattest of the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. – 1 Samuel 15:1-9 TLB
[NOTE A at the end or this article referring to utterly destroyed]
What jumps out at you in this part of the story?
So quickly we can get a second chance, we can begin going through the motions of doing what we are supposed to do. In all of us, we have a conscious compass that warns us when we are off track, when something needs attention, when we can proceed on our own.
Our flesh is selfish by nature, it wants to please itself. It wants to be the center of our life. That is why it is so hard to “deny self”. The minute we kick ourselves off of the throne, it is like a cat, we turn around and we are back on the throne again.
Besides not following through on the specific instructions of “go and completely destroy the entire Amalek nation” (v.3) Saul’s self jumps back up in the chair.
Do you see in the section where his rule over the situation takes the front row. Do you see where there is pride in decision and arrogance?
When we know who is in authority we make decisions based on our commitment to that authority. We consider what our actions show towards the one in authority. We will also take the lead and give an example to others of who is in charge and who gets to rule. The scriptures tell us where Agag was spared. We don’t know what they did to Agag, but there was a decision made to spare him. It could be many reasons why they did not slay Agag the minute the found him. There might have been some grace given, but I think that there was a big lump of pride in the decision. We will not give Agag an easy way out. We are going to make a mockery of him. We are going to show the other tribes that oppose us who they are messing with. We will show them who is King.
Another, more alarming, note in these scriptures is the later part of verse 9:
Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. – 1 Samuel 15:9 NLT
We must note that Saul did not do these actions all by himself. He was the leader of many, over 200,000, and he was an influence. His men looked to him for guidance, for instruction. Saul begins to lay out his own rules; kill them, kill them, and them; but not him. Destroy all the animals you see, but not that one, or that one.
Saul had gotten to a point where the troops were looking to him in authority. That if they did not please Saul, he might have them killed. It was not clear what his motives were, except he had the authority.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to work for someone or serve under someone where you were really not sure of their foundational thinking? One day they are wise the next they are opposing their own instructions from the day before? How did you feel about answering to that authority?
Well, we can see this situation is not playing out the way God intended it and he will use people to carry out his story. In this case, he uses Samuel. We must remember Sameul was a prophet, meaning he heard from the God and communicated to His people His message. So when we read the next line in scripture, we have to understand that Samuel got the message before hand and was instructed to go correct Saul, once again.
10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night. – 1 Samuel 15:10-11 NASB
I can believe that we have all been in a similar situation where we are just brokenhearted, dismayed. Do you ever find it strange that in these situations it always seems like we are given the message ahead of time and we have to deal with the emotions prior to taking actions?
Getting a call from the school principle about your child, while they are at school, then you get to wait until they get home to discuss the situation.
We can get mad, even nauseous and it just infuriates us. The scriptures say that “Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night”. He was impacted by what Saul did, and not only that, but who he did it to. See, the broken relationship between God and Saul has directly impacted Samuel. This is a truthful illustration of how one persons actions impact others that don’t even seem involved.
Samuel goes to Saul… again
Samuel’s heart was broken and heavy as he neared Saul’s camp at Gilgal. Israel’s first king had failed so soon and so seriously.
And Samuel was tired. He’d been up all night prayerfully mourning the Lord’s words. He was not only tired, but I believe he was angry. The Lord had already severely disciplined Saul for officiating the burnt offering when he knew it transgressed the Law. But God had been gracious in giving him another chance by sending him to carry out judgment on the Amalekites. The instructions could not have been clearer. Yet, they had not been obeyed.
The old prophet trembled at the word he must deliver to an armed king who feared public humiliation more than the Holy One. What might this prideful King do to this man who had to correct him? He has the power and the men behind him. He may be disgarded and put into custody with Agag or even just taken behind the wall and killed. We know first hand that when people are in sin and doing what is wrong, they don’t want to hear the truth. Plus, the message was not Samuel’s but of the Lord. Samuel was just the messenger, don’t shoot the messenger!!
Saul’s arrogance spills all over the valley as he sees Samuel and puffs his chest out with pride…
“Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 15:13 NASB
Samuel had to bite his tongue. “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”
Saul felt immediately exposed. Alone he had figured that fudging some on the instructions really wouldn’t matter. But now he knew he had gravely presumed. He fumbled for words. “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.” – Just digging deeper
This was a smoke screen. “Stop!” Samuel cried. He could not bear Saul trying to cover disobedience with cosmetic righteousness. Nor his cowardly hiding behind the people, and blaming them for his own decisions. “I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.”
Saul was defensive in his guilt. “Speak,” he said with a bravado disguise.
17-19 And Samuel told him. “When you started out in this, you were nothing—and you knew it. Then God put you at the head of Israel—made you king over Israel. Then God sent you off to do a job for him, ordering you, ‘Go and put those sinners, the Amalekites, under a holy ban. Go to war against them until you have totally wiped them out.’ So why did you not obey God? Why did you grab all this loot? Why, with God’s eyes on you all the time, did you brazenly carry out this evil?” – 1 Samuel 15:17-19 MSG
Saul was defiant in his denial.
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21 Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” – 1 Samuel 15:20-21 NLT
Isn’t that just like our sinful behavior as well. When the best thing to do would be to admit our wrong. That is so difficult.
Samuel just hung his head in disappointment. And he shook it with a subtleness that stung Saul as much as anything the prophet had said…yet. These words are so raw, we should adhere to them today as we would expected Saul. With teary eyes on the ground, Samuel said,
22 Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 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. – 1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV
We don’t know what the exact scene looked like, but we can presume that there were many witnesses of this moment. We may have even been in situations where we are called out in public and we know what has just been told to us is truthful, painful and appropriate. There comes a time when we have to admit our wrongs…
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”
27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But 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.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”
Agag came to him in chains. And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
33 But Samuel said,
“As your sword has made women childless,
so will your mother be childless among women.”
And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. – 1 Samuel 15:24-35 NIV
A life to learn from
Saul is a sober reminder to us that we obey the one we fear. He feared the people — he loved his reputation — and despised God. Being little in our own eyes can be either righteous or ruinous. It’s righteous if we see God as big and us as small. This actually frees us from fear. But it’s ruinous if the approval of man is what’s big to us because it always leads to disobeying God.
When we fail in this area, and all of us do at some point, God calls us not to remorse but to repentance. Saul was remorseful, but not repentant. He pursued the god of his own glory over the God who gave him that glory right to his death on Mount Gilboa. And he became lethally paranoid with insecurity.
So let us repent of our insecurities and say with Peter and the disciples,”We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). For the wise and humble “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
We must also remember that the Lord is faithful on His part. Even though Saul was anointed King and he was given a great opportunity, it does not mean that he did not have responsibilities and that what God gave him could be taken away. We are not talking about our salvation, but our worldly positions and situations. There is much talk about how God blesses us and we can get a bit entitled. But just like Saul. If we disobey, there will be consequences to pay. In this case, Saul was dethroned.
We also need to take note that Saul, followed through on what the Lord had commanded when he executed Agag. See the note below for more biblical overview of why. But as mentors, leaders and even parents, we have to follow through on what was not completed appropriately.
What are some of your gleanings from the character of Saul this morning?