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1 Samuel 15 -- Chopping Agag To Pieces: Two Different Types Of Obedience

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1 Samuel 15

INTRODUCTION

Steph and I had the chance to visit Scotland and one of my favorite cities is Edinburgh.  I took this picture while on our way up to Edinburgh castle, which you can see on the upper left side.  The city is well known for William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, made famous by the Braveheart movie.  But there is another famous character in that city and that is the story of “Bobby”.  Bobby was a skye terrier dog who belonged to a man named John Gray around 1850.  John was a Scottish policeman who had the night watches and would patrol with Bobby.  John caught tuberculosis and and died and was buried in Greyfriars Gravesite.  Bobby soon touched the hearts of the local residents when he refused to leave his master’s grave, even in the worst weather conditions.  For 14 years, Bobby stayed at his master’s grave only to leave for his afternoon meal.  It was such an attraction that people from all walks of life in Edinburgh would come and watch this loyal, obedient, and devoted dog.  For dog lovers, this is a great story.  That’s the kind of dog you want, one in which will obey and loyally follow you wherever, even to your grave.  Then I think of my dog, by bulldog Rocco.  He’s a great dog, but he’s a stubborn bulldog, one who is totally different from Bobby.  Rocco would leave my grave and be your best friend, especially if you offered him food.  I tell Rocco to come and he comes in his own time.  I tell him to do something, and most of the time he’ll do something part way.  What we see in Bobby is something that we all want to be in our relationship with God, loyal, devoted and obedient.  However, most of us are like Rocco, partial obedience in a lot of areas in our lives.  Well, today we will see today in this vivid and graphic chapter in 1 Samuel 15 is two different kinds of obedience in the lives of Saul and Samuel. 

Our text today holds important lessons for us to learn about Saul’s disobedience and its consequences and about our own disobedience to God’s commands as well.

1.  The Command To Saul                          15:1-7*

  • God calls Samuel to go to Saul and give the king of Israel a task from the King of the Universe.

  • We read in the 15th chapter about Saul’s failure to completely obey God and the events surrounding this costly error on Saul’s part.

  • But Saul’s disobedience doesn’t begin here.  In fact, it is highlighted in chapter 13.  But to understand Saul, we need to be reminded of who he is.

  • He is Israel’s first king.  They want a king like all the other nations.  Their true king was the King of the Universe, yet they wanted to be like everyone around them.

  • God grants them a king and uses Samuel to reveal Saul as the chosen one.

  • Saul, in chapter 10 is anointed king over Israel, but he is not yet king.  Samuel gives him instructions from God and part of those instructions is to wait 7 days at Gilgal for Samuel to offer up sacrifices.

  • Well, in chapter 13, the Philistines show up with 30,000 soldiers while Saul has 3000 and everyone is running and hiding.

1 Samuel 13:6   6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were hard-pressed), then the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits.

  • Saul waits 7 days and then gets anxious because the people were scattering in the face of 30,000 Philistines.  So he does the offering instead and then Samuel shows up. 

  • This costs Saul an enduring kingdom.  His disobedience costs him having his sons be king.

  • Now in chapter 15, Saul is given another commandment, another task by God, an important task dating back to the Exodus.

  • He is to utterly destroy the Amalekites, he is to put to death men, women, children, and all livestock.

  • But why, who were these people and why did they deserve it?

Exodus 17:8-16

Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.  9 So Moses said to Joshua, "Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."  10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill…13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."  15 Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is My Banner;  16 and he said, "The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation."

Deuteronomy 25:17-19  

"Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt,  how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.  "Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.

  • Even in this text, we see that they care called sinners in verse 18 and we get a glimpse of the war crimes by Agag at the end of the chapter.

  •  These were not innocent people, but people who rejected God and brought about his wrath and severe judgment both in the previous generation and in this generation.

  • And lest someone accuse God of being unmerciful, he waited 300 years for them to repent before fulfilling the judgment in Deuteronomy 25 showing that He is slow to anger, not wishing any to perish.

2.  Saul’s Partial Obedience                       15:8-31*

  • After defeating the Amalekites, we get another glimpse of Saul’s disobedience in the form of his partial obedience.

  • Look at verse 8.  He captures Agag, he spares the best of the sheep and ox/ cattle.

  • But look again, though he spares king and the best of the livestock, he utterly destroys the people.  In fact, verse 9 says he utterly destroyed everything despised and worthless.

  • This grieves God, so much so that he says he regrets having made Saul king.  This is the same word used in Gen 6:7 when God regretted having made man.

  • This isn’t talking about the attitude of, “oh I shouldn’t have done that…opps, my bad”. 

  • That is not what this is expressing, but that God was grieving over, regretting, and disturbed by Saul’s sin

  • Look at verse 12, Samuel also grieved over Saul’s partial obedience.  Samuel cried out all night to God.  If you read chapters 8-12, you see that Samuel was against having a king.

  • He only anointed Saul because God said so.  Now he has a heavy message to bear because of Saul’s constant obedience issues.

  • So he gets up early to meet Saul but finds out that Saul has gone to Carmel to set up a monument for……..himself.  Look at verse 12.

  • He isn’t setting up stones of remembrances, honoring God, but he sets up a monument like all the other pagan kings, honoring his victory and spoils over Agag and the Amalekites.

  • Now notice verse 13, very similar to chapter 13, when Saul disobeyed and Samuel showed up.

  • Now Samuel shows up again and Saul runs out to him saying, I did all that God said!

  • It’s as if he remembered his disobedience last time Samuel gave him instructions from God and wanted to let Samuel know, hey, I did it this time, I carried out the command of the Lord.

  • Samuel’s ironic humor comes out in the following verse.  If you carried out all that God had commanded, why do I hear sheep in the background?  Why do I hear cattle mooing?

  • Oh, that, well, that’s the stuff we saved to worship the Lord with.

  • Notice in verse 14 and 15.  Saul says, I did all that God asked.  Then when questioned about the livestock, Saul says, oh yeah, they brought them!

  • And we also utterly destroyed everything else, so we did what was asked.  We obeyed God.

  • Then Samuel, in verse 19 equates not obeying God with evil.

  • Saul yet again just doesn’t get it.  He still thinks that he is in the right.  He still thinks that he’s good, that he did what was asked of him.

  • How many times are we like that?  You didn’t do this Jason, oh, but I did.

  • Sin has an amazing effect on how we justify things, even when we are wrong.

  • But Samuel helps him understand that He not only didn’t do all that God commanded, but that his “little disobedience” falsely wrapped up in religious piety is really absolute, high handed disobedience that is connected with rebellion, idolatry and sorcery.

  • Do you notice what Samuel is doing.  Rebellion, idolatry and sorcery brought the death penalty under the law.  That is as serious as it gets.  So Samuel is saying, just as serious as these deathly acts is partial obedience.

  • Remember, all Saul did was keep alive a king and some livestock.  Anyways, he was going to worship God with them.

  • And because of this, Saul suffered the consequences of being rejected as king and having his kingdom given to a shepherd boy named David.

  • I want to point out some things that we glean from this.

Both God and Samuel are grieved over Saul’s partial obedience

Saul’s partial obedience is not out of compassion but he spares the best for himself

 

Saul thinks his partial obedience is enough to please God

 

Saul’s partial obedience is justified in religious terms

 

God sees Saul’s partial obedience as disobedience

 

God punishes Saul’s partial obedience

3.  Samuel’s Drastic Obedience                 15:32-35*

  • Now look at the end of the chapter, which is where we get our title from

  • Samuel goes back with Saul and does what Saul should have done.

  • This ending seems like it could come out of a Shakespeare play. 

  • Samuel goes back with Saul, and asks for Agag.

  • Bound, Agag comes out and the text says he came out cheerfully.  Agag says in so many words, “oh, the worst is over, at least I escaped death”.

  • And with poetic vigor, Samuel says,

1 Samuel 15:33  As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.

  • Literally, chopped and hacked.  Do you see the drastic obedience of the prophet.

  • Drastic – forceful, extreme, rigorous.

  • The contrast between the two cannot be overstated.  Samuel obeyed the Lord to the fullest.

  • Though it seems gruesome, and it is, it is what a holy and righteous God had called for, the utter destruction of a godless people.

APPLICATION #.   Partial Obedience is 100 % Disobedience

 1. What areas / ways are you not fully following the Lord?   #.   Sometimes full obedience is hard & messy

 2. What is stopping you from full obedience What do you need to do to fully follow the Lord?  

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