1 Samuel 15:1-26
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Saul was never supposed to be the king. No man was, really. As Samuel the prophet, who had led Israel for his entire life, grew old, he set up his sons to continue his work as judges. But when they didn’t follow their father’s example, instead using their position to get whatever they could for themselves, taking bribes and corrupting justice, the elders got together and confronted Samuel. “Appoint a king to lead us,” they said, “just like everybody else.” The problem was, Israel was not supposed to be like everybody else. God was King, the ruler of his children, or was supposed to be.
So when Samuel went to God in prayer, absolutely crushed in spirit because of the people’s demand, God answered, “Go ahead and do what they ask. They aren’t rejecting you; they’re rejecting me as their King. Ever since I brought them out of Egypt they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. Now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them: tell them the way kings operate. Tell them just what they’re likely to get from a king.” Samuel delivered the message, but the people refused to change their minds. They wanted to be like all the other nations. And that is how Saul became their king.
Saul’s lineage was impressive. He was also a handsome man, standing head and shoulders above the crowd. Samuel anointed him prince over his people, and after he followed all of the prophet’s instructions God transformed him—made him a new person. But when the time came to announce him to the people, he tried to hide behind some luggage. His reign over Israel was a mix of good and bad, and his foolish choices are well documented in scripture. As long as he followed Samuel’s instructions to the letter, he was a great soldier and leader; when he disobeyed, refusing to do what God told him through the prophet, God told Samuel he was sorry he had ever made Saul king. Even worse were the times Saul partially followed orders but then pretended (or deluded himself into believing) he had been completely obedient. Of course, there were consequences for his disobedience.
God had imposed a holy ban over Amalek, the nation that had ambushed Israel when they were coming out of Egypt. He had ordered Saul to wipe out the Amalekites and everything associated with them, including their livestock. But Saul captured King Agag alive and took the choice sheep and cattle, violating God’s orders. His justification for doing so would be comical if it weren’t so serious. He proudly said he saved the king (bowing to pressure from his own men) and spared the best livestock to sacrifice to Samuel’s God. Samuel told him: “Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him!” Saul gave in and confessed, but it was too late. God had already rejected Saul and decided to choose a new king. Israel disobeyed God and got the king they demanded. Saul disobeyed God and was rejected and replaced. Consequences.
The theme of obedience over sacrifice reverberates through the Old Testament. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! . . . Learn to do right; seek justice” (Isaiah 1:13, 17 partial). “I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). “You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. . . . I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart” (Psalm 40:6-8 partial). Jesus echoed David and the prophets: “No, you were not pleased with animals burned on the altar or with other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:6-7). What about us? We who have accepted Jesus as Savior—will we also acknowledge him as Lord and King? Will we choose to obey?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (children’s worship and nursery care available) and stay for Discovery Hour (all ages, little ones through adults).