And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:7-9)
Doing What They Thought Best
The commandments of the Lord are never cumbersome, difficult or complicated to where man is unsure what he must do. There has never been a time in the existence of man that he could complain to God of how confusing His laws were and use this as an excuse for disobedience. In the earliest days of the kingdom of Israel, Saul made a very serious mistake in assuming that he knew more about the will of God than the One who gave the law. As the leader of God’s nation, Saul was entrusted with guiding the people in accordance with the instructions of the Lord and to carry out whatever was demanded from the Lord. On one such occasion God had told Saul to execute judgment upon the people of Amalek because of what the Amalek nation had done to Israel when they were making their way to the promised land. Amalek had ambushed the people of God at Rephidim but were defeated as Moses held up hands until the going down of the sun. The Lord had promised that day he would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. It was placed upon Saul, King of Israel, to fulfill the word of the Lord by attacking Amalek and utterly destroying all that they had and not to spare one soul. The word of God demanded the Israelite’s kill man, woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. There was to be a scorched earth policy concerning the Amalekites and King Saul would be the instrument of God’s wrath upon this wicked nation.
Samuel the prophet told King Saul everything he needed to do. The instructions were plain and direct. Everyone that had breath of life in Amalek was to be destroyed. Saul gathered 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah and came to a city of Amalek and lay wait in the valley. The king attacked the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur which is east of Egypt. It was a complete victory over Amalek and they utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But there was a problem with how Saul carried out the will of the Lord. When the king captured Agag, king of the Amalekites, he decided to spare his life. Also, when he came upon the thousands of sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs it seemed to Saul a waste to destroy such good animals and again decided not to destroy them. There were a lot of good things the Amalekites possessed and Saul could see no reason to destroy them so he kept them. Confident he had done the will of the Lord, the king returned in triumph pleased he had carried out the word of the Lord. Anything that was despised and worthless the people had destroyed but of the good things they were preserved. As the Lord looked down upon what Saul had done He regretted He had set up Saul as king. He told Samuel that Saul had not obeyed His commandments. From Saul’s viewpoint, as he would later tell the prophet, he had done all God commanded of him. However what the king did not appreciate about the law of God is that obedience requires keeping the whole law. He decided – not God – to spare Agag. The Lord had required all the animals to be slaughtered but Saul decided to keep the animals. To complicate matters Saul tried to blame the people and suggest there was some noble cause to keep all the animals so they could be used in sacrifice for the Lord. It did not matter. God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites and Saul chose not to obey the word of the Lord. The king tried to convince Samuel he had done all God commanded him but rebellion was not to be tolerated. Because Saul rejected the word of the Lord he was rejected by God as being king.
The story of Saul and the Amalekites resonates through the word of God as men struggle to find what it means to obey the Lord. In a religiously varied world of many different faiths, religions, beliefs and doctrines it would seem impossible to know what the will of the Lord is for man. Like Saul, many try to take the word of God and adapt it to their wills and their ideas and fashion a totem of faith that allows them the freedom to choose what they feel comfortable with. The reason the countryside is dotted with many different churches is because the spirit of Saul fuels the hearts of men to worship God as they seem fit trying to please the crowds and draw men to themselves. There is only one faith and the doctrine of God is plain and easy to understand. What is revealed by God in the Bible is clear, demonstrative and defined by the need to do what the Lord said and nothing else. Religion is muddled by the doctrines of men who try to espouse a system of salvation based on their wisdom and what they believe is good. Like Saul they think they know better than the Lord. How sad and tragic when religious people stand before God and the Lord hears the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen from hearts that did not obey the voice of the Lord. Eternal life is given to those who obey the will of the Lord – all of His will. It matters eternally whether the heart keeps the word of God or chooses to follow the fickle desires of men. To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed the fat of rams. Because they have rejected the word of the Lord, they will be rejected from being saved.