Yom Shishi, 27 Tammuz 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי כז תַּמּוּז ה' תשעז Friday, 21 July 2017
1 Samuel 15

Introduction:

My younger brother Sean was always up to tricks. I remember one day he was playing in the garden when suddenly his David fighting Goliath instincts kicked in. He picked up a stone, placed it neatly inside his blue plastic spade, pulled back the head of the spade and before you knew it the stone went flying midair right into our kitchen window. Crash!

Of course I ran into our home wanting to be the first to share this news with my mother, but my brother beat me to it. If I was shocked at what had just happened I was in even greater disbelief at his grand explanation. "Mom, mom" he exclaimed, "you will not believe what just happened, our dog Waldi just took a stone and spat it right into the kitchen window."

Now granted at the time my little brother was probably the age of Kaylie Levitz; but I think sometimes our justifications and blame shifting must sound just as ridiculous and silly to God. And yet some of us have really mastered this art, if one can actually call it an art. And of course the consequences for justifying and blame shifting may vary from person to person; depending on the actual offence and whom we have offended.

For my brother the consequences were not that bad but there is someone else in Scripture who did not get off that lightly. We are talking about King Saul whose offense against God and subsequent justifications and blame shifting lead to some very grave consequences. If you have a bible please turn with me to 1 Samuel 15.

Let's pray trusting God will have a message for each one of us

Retelling of the story:

Though I do not watch much television, Garrett and I occasionally watch CSI Miami. I find it fascinating to see how Horatio and his team dissect the different aspects of the investigation and then figure out what actually happened and who is guilty. This morning I want each one of us to play Horatio¡s role as we dissect this passage and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

1. God's specific command

Let's begin by taking a look at God's specific command

In Verse 2 & 3 we see the specific instructions, which came directly from the Lord Almighty, who said:

"I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

We find further clarification in verse 18, which reads:

18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, `Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.'

The command was that the Israelites were to totally and completely destroy the Amalekites.

That the command was understood is evident from the fact that it is repeated 7 times in this passage. And lest we think it may not have been clear what it meant to totally destroy, lets take a look at verse 3, which uses the following words in connection with the command to totally destroy.

• Attack
• Destroy everything that belong to them
• Do not spare them
• Put to death men and women, children & infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

So I believe there was no ambiguity here. They were to destroy everything among the Amalekites that had breath. The Expositors Bible commentary explains that the Hebrew term, "to completely destroy" refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them. That was their marching order, nothing more and certainly nothing less.

It's interesting that this is the only place in the entire books of 1st and 2nd Samuel that this specific command to "totally destroy" is found.

And while we do not know all the specifics of what the Amalekites did to actually cause God to want to completely blot them out, we do know from Exodus 17 that long before the time of Saul, in the days of the wilderness wandering, the Amalekites savagely attacked the Israelites from the rear. At that time the Lord judged them for this act, and we read in Exodus 17:14

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

And so here over 400 years later God entrusts this command to King Saul.

2. Saul's disobedience

Yet as we investigate further we see that Saul disobeys God.

In verse 9 we read:

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs-- everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Saul and his men were unwilling to fulfill God's command. And why? This was not because they felt that God's command was cruel or unjust. No the reason they disobeyed God was based 100% on self-centered reasons. It was about:

• greed,
• the fear of man
• and pride & arrogance.

Allow me to substantiate:

Greed: Firstly, their greed.

In verse 9 we see that they destroyed everything despised and weak but they spared the best. And lest we are inclined to sympathize with them and believe that they actually intended to give the best to God. Take a look at verse 19 where Samuel rebukes Saul and says,

19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?"

What a picture of greed - They pounced on the plunder! The best was not for God. No! They wanted the best for themselves. Just as their greed had dictated in their defeat of the Philistines in the chapter just before.

In Chapter 14 we read from verse 31:

31 That day, after the Israelites had struck down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, they were exhausted. 32 They pounced on the plunder and, taking sheep, cattle and calves, they butchered them on the ground and ate them, together with the blood. 33 Then someone said to Saul, "Look, the men are sinning against the LORD by eating meat that has blood in it."

Because of disobedience and greed Israel had failed in their calling. God had called them to be his instrument of judgment. They were to specifically take nothing because this was God's judgment on these nations. Instead by using this as an opportunity to pounce on the plunder, the whole incident became just one nation conquering another nation. What God was trying to accomplish, what he was trying to illustrate to the world through his vessel Israel was now lost.

Fear of man:

And perhaps at this point you are feeling sorry for King Saul. After all he was not the one pouncing on the plunder it was his army. But he was their leader and he was the one who received the clear command from God. And instead of fearing God, he feared his men. We see that he was afraid of his people and so he gave in to them. (vs. 24)

In Proverbs 29:25 God warns: Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

Pride & arrogance:

But Saul's snare was not just that he feared man, it was not just his greed. It was also about his pride & arrogance. Instead of recognizing God's hand in all this, instead of honoring the Lord for this victory he honored himself. In verse 12 we read that Saul set up a monument in his own honor. It's ironic that the Hebrew word for monument used here is "Yad", meaning hand. He was recognizing his hand in this and not God's. Wow, now that's what I call arrogant! The Bible says that pride comes before the fall. And that is exactly what happens here.

Samuel confronts, Saul's response: Saul's greed, his fear of man and his pride and arrogance invoke the anger of God. The Lord is grieved that he made Saul king over Israel and so he sends his faithful servant Samuel to confront Saul.

And when Samuel finally catches up to him, what are the first words out of Saul's mouth. "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions." Yeh right!

Samuel, must have been a very patient and righteous man. Because it seems that in a very calm and collected fashion he inquires of Saul,

"What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears?

What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"

And Saul's response?

Justifications and blame shifting!

• The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest."

That one doesn't fly with Samuel and so Saul tries again with that all to famous word, BUT. Cant you just see him say;

• But I did obey the LORD, I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

And now Samuel lets him have it.

"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."

And now for the first time, after he hears that God has rejected him as king, Saul shows some remorse.

• "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions.

And if only he had stopped there. But no the justifications and blame shifting continues and Saul explains,

• I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

He couldn't do it. Saul just couldn't own his stuff. If only he had relented and said, "Lord I blew it, I am sorry! Forgive me! But Saul's greed, his fear of man and his pride and arrogance got in the way. And so God removes His hand of blessing from Saul and rejects him as king. And even after the dial is cast, Saul is more concerned about his own honor than about doing the honorable thing before God. For me the saddest words in this passage are found in verse 30, where Saul says,:

"I have sinned. But please honour me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God."

No humility, no remorse, no regret. Even after all this Saul wants Samuel to honor him before the leaders and people of Israel. It's still all about him.

And why?

I believe the reason is found in verse 30 where Saul says so Samuel, Come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord YOUR God.

This was Samuel's Lord, not His Lord. He did not have that personal relationship. He had not surrendered his life to God. God was distant, He was the God of Israel, He was the God of Samuel, BUT He was not the God of Saul. And because Saul would not acknowledge the Lord God as his King, God's favor departs from him and Saul is rejected as king over Israel.

Our passage ends with the words: And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.

What a tragic story!!

And what's even more tragic is that this pattern has been around from the beginning of time.

• Adam did it in the garden when confronted by God. He actually had the audacity to blame God. It's not my fault; it's yours God. It's the woman you put here with me.

• And Eve in turn shifts the blame onto the serpent. It's not my fault; it's the serpent who deceived me.

• And then in the very next book of the Bible we see Aaron, our first high priest, do exactly the same thing in the sin of the golden calf. When Moses confronts him by asking why he had led the people into such great sin he does it too. He says, It's not my fault Moses, don't you know how prone these people are to evil. It's not me; it's them. And lets be very honest with ourselves we are just like Saul. And we are just like Adam and Eve and Aaron.

And let me tell you I am the leader of the pack. One thing about speaking here at Sar Shalom is that my husband gets to listen to me and I am sure he must be smiling right now because this one is a real struggle for me. I grew up in a home where I was never ever corrected. No one ever pointed out my faults and now that I am all grown up I really struggle with this. Every time Garrett tries to correct me my immediate instinct is to justify and blame shift. And it's amazing how I can look at Saul and say, "How could you?" and yet I do it all the time myself. And let me tell you in God's eyes there is no difference. To him my blame shifting sounds just as ridiculous.

And if nothing else Saul's life should serve as a rude awakening. For God is God, and what should stop him from dealing with me in the same way as he dealt with Saul? What stops him from saying to me, "Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, I have rejected you?"

I know I don't deserve God's favor, it's a free gift and it's purely by his grace. And while I know that God is a gracious God, I also know that He is a holy God, and He will not tolerate sin. As proverbs 15:10 warns us: Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.

The book of Proverbs is rampant with verses that call us to be open to correction. One that we should all probably commit to memory is Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Wise words!

CONCLUSION

So where do you stand today?

Are you a Saul too? I think if we are all honest with ourselves there is a little bit of Saul in each one of us.

• Perhaps we have a bit of Saul's greed?
• Maybe like Saul we are proud and arrogant?
• Or perhaps we fear man more than God?

• Or maybe, just maybe, like Saul the Lord is distant. We talk about the Lord your God, but we know he is not the Lord my God. We don't have that personal relationship with Him yet.

Well folks, I think it's time we obey. As his word reminds us, "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. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

You and I have the choice. To be a Saul or to be a David. When God rejected Saul as King, his favor fell on David, son of Jesse. And while King David was far from perfect unlike Saul:

• he was giving
• he was humble
• he feared God more than man
• he knew God face to face, he knew God personally

• and when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his adultery with Bethsheba, rather than justifying or blame shifting he owned his stuff and repented. In humility he cried out to God

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. excepts from Psalm 51)

There you have it, the key difference between King Saul and King David - their heart attitude towards sin. David understood that what God is looking for is a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. And as a result God's favor never departed from David.

In fact David found such favor in God's eyes that the Lord makes an eternal, an everlasting promise to David. In 2nd Samuel we see God make the following messianic promise to David:

12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. ™ My love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'" (Excerpts 2 Sam 7: 12-16)

Because David was a man after God's own heart, God promises that Davidic kingdom will endure forever and that there will always be a King from the line of David seated on the throne. The Brit Hadashah, the New Testament, opens with the following words in Matthew 1:1

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.

You see our Messiah, Yeshua is from the line of David. God kept his promise to king David.

And God's favor will rest on those of us who are willing to have a broken and contrite heart like David. My prayer for you and I, is that we will take honest stock of our lives and instead of rationalizing, justifying and blame shifting we will come before God and acknowledge:

• our greed
• our pride and arrogance
• our fear of man above God
• and our lack of personal commitment to the Lord

It's time for you and I to rise up and follow in the footsteps of David. May God grant us the resolve to do just that!

Let's pray