Just a couple of weeks ago we used the account of Saul and his disobedience in the matter of destroying Amalek as found in I Samuel, chapter fifteen. Today we wish to use the same text to note a number of important lessons that we should apply concerning our obedience to God. Though we have not been commanded to go and destroy a nation as did Saul, Paul did say that these things were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4). Samuel said to Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (I Sam. 15:23). Samuel said that Saul was guilty of rebelling against God by rejecting the word of God. We wish to examine these events so as to learn just how Saul had rejected God that we not fall prey to the same error.
Saul had been given orders (I Sam. 15:1-3). Those orders were simple; Go and utterly destroy Amalek. Even a child could understand that. There is no doubt that Saul understood them. Even while trying to defend his sin of sparring the best of the flocks, he referred to it as “things which should have been utterly destroyed”. Those simple instructions from God were all that Saul needed. “Go and utterly destroy Amalek”; was a command that was sufficient for Saul to obey God. God did not have to say, “Saul, don’t spare the king. Saul, don’t spare the best of the flocks”. When God said “Go utterly destroy Amalek”, nothing else was needed. God said what He meant and He meant what He said.
Now, consider the obedience to that command as offered by Saul (I Sam. 15:4-9). First, to his credit, Saul offered prompt obedience. He did not question God concerning the reason or necessity of the destruction. It would seem that procrastination was not one of his shortcomings. However, the obedience that he offered was presumptuous. Saul decided to take things in his own hands and change the command of God, just a bit. Though it was not wrong to offer sacrifices to God under the Law of Moses, it was wrong to disobey God, even if it was for the purpose of offering sacrifices. Saul was not at liberty to change God’s word in any way. The obedience he offered was then a partial obedience. He did part of what God commanded, in fact, most of what God commanded. But, he didn’t do it all. He did like many people do, he did what God commanded as long as what God commanded was what he wanted to do, but when what he wanted to do differed from what God commanded, his obedience faltered.
So, what was the outcome of Saul’s version of obedience to God (I Sam. 15:10-23)? First, God reminded Saul of his responsibility to God. He reminded him of the many blessings that Saul had received and that those very blessings had come from God. Then God reproved Saul for his failure to obey Him. He said, “Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams” (I Sam. 15:22). And, then God rejected Saul. He said, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (I Sam. 15:23).
Obviously, the commands given to Saul are not binding upon us any more than the commands of God to Noah are. We are not required to build an ark or utterly destroy Amalek. However, we need to apply Saul’s form of obedience, or lack thereof, to the commands God has given to us that we too are not rejected by God. God has given us commands that must be obeyed. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). The commands of God are simple, sufficient and sure, just as they were to Saul. One must simply learn the commands as provided by inspired New Testament writers and then obey them. They are all that is needed to reach heaven. Paul told Timothy that if he would take heed to the doctrine and continue in them, he would save both himself and all those who would hear him (I Tim. 4:6). God said what He meant and meant what He said. Our obedience should be prompt, not presumptuous and not partial. We have not the right to change God’s commands in any way. We are to abstain from adding to or taking from what God has commanded (Deut. 4:2; Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19). Good intentions or righteous motives do not negate the necessity of obeying the commands of God as given. We have not the privilege of picking and choosing those commands we agree with and casting aside those that we do not particularly like if we would see an outcome that is favorable. Always remember what the one who has given the commands has already done for us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). To disobey these commands is to rebel against God, and the end result of that is to hear the Lord say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Remember, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (I Sam. 15:23).
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