The tragic downfall of Saul
|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. |
22 But Samuel replied:
"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. (1Samuel15:9-23)
Saul disobeyed. And it broke God's heart and Samuel's too:
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.
Sadly Saul's heart has become consumed with pride and greed. Look at what Samuel discovers the next day:
Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honour and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal."
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions."
14 But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"
15 Saul answered, "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."
There are three things that stand out here:
- Saul is building monuments to himself. His ego has become his enemy.
- Saul is duplicitous. He tells Samuel that he was going to sacrifice the animals. But then why didn't he summon Samuel to come and do it? Was he planning to play the role of priest again? (This got him into trouble in ch.13...) Saul also spared the Amalekite King, and we read later that the king thought he was going to escape...
- Saul doesn't say "the Lord our God" but the "Lord your God". He has lost connection with God. His faith is second-hand.
It is easy to look down on Saul for being self-serving and greedy.
But the compromises can come along easily:
- Let the soldiers have a few sheep, destroying them seems such a waste
- Spare the Amalekite king and use your political credit to get ahead. (Later we read that king Agag was convinced he was going to be spared.)
- Make a big show of sacrificing some of the animals so that you look like you're holy and good.
But these little compromises steal Saul's heart.
They show that Saul is willing to keep, lie about and even hide the symbols of evil rather than put God first.
It is just better to obey...