Saul's Big Mistake

It’s so easy to get caught up in my daily life with grocery shopping, home maintenance, raising kids, talking with friends and family, etc. As much as I don’t love this world, it sure is hard to break my enmeshment with it. I have plans, responsibilities, and desires, which makes it hard to focus on my calling. The Enemy is excellent at the game of distraction. I mean really, really good.

Because each day is an opportunity for new mercy, I thought I might make God’s word my breakfast and I opened up to 1 Samuel 15. I asked God to fill me with his Holy Spirit and speak to me – instruct me – as I read. I don’t know how you feel when you start somewhere in scripture, but I always start mentally with, “Interesting, but what does this have to do with me?” One would think I’d know better by now.

Here we go.

1Sa 15:1-3

1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

I can’t even imagine what the warriors were feeling, killing men, women, and children. It sounds horrific. And, mostly, the people obeyed Saul’s orders, which came from God. There was surely a reason God wanted this done, and very likely it was because he knew that should these people be allowed to live, they would become a snare – a trap – for Israel. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, cousins to Jacob actually, and they had the audacity to be the first nation to attack Israel during the exodus. Their ways were not God’s ways, and any time there’s a little bit of corruption in a group of people, it spreads like yeast through dough and the process of decay begins.

Look what happens next.

1 Sam 15: 9

9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

So much is said in this one verse. First, Saul disobeyed God’s command. He spared the king, Agag, and some of the livestock. He saved the leader of the Amalekites, of all people. I cannot fathom what would make him spare the chief of the enemy. Was it respect? Admiration? Bragging rights? Big mistake.

Take note that the children were killed without mercy, but the best of the livestock was kept because it was “good.” The animals were considered a valuable commodity. The children were considered vile, refuse. That sounds a lot like the world we live in today, sadly.

Well, Saul ends up getting in trouble and Samuel is told to deliver the news that he would no longer be God’s anointed king over Israel. It’s the biblical equivalent of your boss asking you quietly if you’ve “got a minute?” and asking you to close the door to his office when you walk in. Those aren’t usually pleasant conversations.

Samuel went to find Saul and discovered he had set up a monument to himself, which was probably to commemorate his victory in destroying (almost) all of the Amalekites. In other words, it was a monument idolizing himself and celebrating his disobedience to God. Not good.

When Samuel reaches the king, Saul greets him with a blessing and assures him that he just completed the task God gave him. He lies to a prophet who knows exactly what happened. Samuel calls him out immediately, pointing to the sounds of livestock among the people. And THEN, Saul makes an excuse for what he’s done.

1 Sam 15:15

15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

But Samuel isn’t buying what Saul is trying to sell to him. He reminds Saul that when he was insignificant (and presumably a little more humble) God picked him to be a king. God gave him the honor of leading his chosen people by good example. Saul was reminded of what God had asked of him, and then Samuel asked him why he disobeyed and took spoil from the Amalekites.

Saul replied: It wasn’t me. It was the people. And they only did it so they could kill everything left and offer it as a sacrifice to God.

Uh-huh. A likely story considering Saul had already been untruthful about following God’s command. But Samuel is no fool.

1 Sam 15: 22-23

22 And Samuel 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.

23 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.

Now we have to ask this question: Did the people really take spoils to make their sacrifice to God of their own volition, or were they just following misguided instructions of their leader? Were they breaking the law on their own and hoping to get away with it by making a little donation to God, or were they just doing what man’s law told them was ok?

That’s a question for today, isn’t it? In fact, it’s a question for the ages and that’s not hyperbole. Here’s the answer for the ages:

Phil 2:12-15

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Let me paraphrase because it’s so important and KJV can make us feel a little removed from the verses:

We are to follow God’s commands so that we stand out in contrast of the evil in this world. We are not to assume a tithe, a sacrifice, or act of charity will cover for us when we don’t do what God asks us to do. We are not to assume that it’s ok for us to follow the instructions of celebrities, world leaders, or even church leaders, if their instructions go against God’s commandments. We are to shine as God’s holy people in this tragically corrupted and misled world. Even when our leaders let us down.

Saul was king. He could stopped the people from keeping the best livestock. He could have killed Agag. What did he want so much that he was willing to disobey God for it?

1 Sam 15:30

30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.

Saul asks Samuel specifically to honor him before the elders of Israel. He didn’t tell Samuel to ask for God to forgive his failure to lead the people in honoring God’s commands. He asked to be honored in front of the leaders of the nation. Samuel's ratification was to be another monument to Saul. Another opportunity for Saul to receive the adulation he coveted.

It sounds a little anti-Christish to me. I have a feeling any praise directed to God, or to Messiah Jesus, really gets under the skin of that ol’ serpent.

Saul's mistake serves as a sober warning to each of us.

Let’s not allow ourselves to transgress God’s commandments thinking a little apology or donation will make it permissible, nor listen to leaders who encourage us to transgress God’s law thinking they’ll be the ones to take the punishment for us. If you read further in 1 Samuel, you’ll see that Saul continued to rule the people for a good while after he was no longer God’s chosen leader. Maybe having Saul still lead the people was God’s way of ensuring everyone felt the consequences of their actions.

To this day, we get the leaders we deserve, don’t we?

It’s time to shine God’s light, readers. People are going to hate us. We are going to be persecuted. When we say no sex outside of marriage, we’re going to be laughed at and called “repressed” or “old-fashioned.” If we’re single, the odds of us getting asked out on a date will be reduced to almost zero.

If we say God created man and woman, not non-binary, we’ll be told that we’re engaging in hate speech and our Twitter accounts will be taken away.

If we refuse to make money our idol, we probably won’t be as well-dressed and pampered as our peers. They’ll probably even laugh at us behind our backs.

But take Samuel’s admonition to heart.

1 Sam 15:22-23

22 And Samuel 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.

23 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.

Follow God’s instructions. For that, you should probably start by reading scripture to see what they are. Obey His commandments out of gratitude for all He’s done for us. Do it now, while there’s still time.

We can’t hide behind self-justifying sacrifices or the excuse of poor leadership.

Eyes up. Our redemption draws nigh.






  1. I think this statement by Saul says it all ... Samuel's God was not Saul's god ... "that I may worship the LORD thy God" ... shouldn't he of said 'the LORD our God'? Great article Julie, hugzzz

  2. Excellent blog!! well done, cousin! Eyes are Up! Ecclesiastes 12:13,14 Micah 6:8.


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