Saul’s mistake

1Samuel 15

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 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.”

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying 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.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

OK, so this is one of my LEAST favourite passages in the Bible, partly because it is just too close to home. I shudder to think of how many times I have not done what God has said, been arrogant or rebellious.

This incident was the final straw that saw the anointing Holy Spirit of God move from Saul to David. Yet we know that David had his own streak of rebellion. Why did God forgive David and not Saul?

The clue, I think, is in Psalm 51, after David’s terrible sin, when he prayed, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Saul’s request for forgiveness was megre and we know after this he went from bad to worse. But David’s repentance was genuine and wholehearted.

Whatever is true of us today, let us not hesitate to throw ourselves on God’s mercy, for in Jesus He can and will.


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