Vol. 3, No. 12
Saul was the first king of Israel. He was commissioned by God to destroy the Amalekites. He was to slay them all -- men, women, children and all their livestock. In short order, the Amalekites were defeated and Saul returned the conquering hero. Much to his surprise, God was displeased with him. It seems Saul had not followed orders. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of their flocks and herds.
Upon returning, Saul said Samuel: "Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord" (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel replied: "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" (1 Samuel 15:14). Saul tried to defend his actions but couldn't. Samuel continued to chastise the king: "Has 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 heed than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). Finally, Saul was told that the kingdom would be taken from him because he had rejected the word of the Lord (1 Samuel 15:23, 26). What do we learn from this account?
First, partial obedience, even if considerable, is still disobedience. Saul had carried out most of what had been commanded, but he had not fully complied. James wrote, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
Second, good intentions do not excuse disobedience. Saul argued that the best of the flocks and herds had been spared to offer upon the altar, but Samuel reminded him that God takes greater delight in obedience than in sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).
Third, trying to please people is not a defense for displeasing God. Saul defended himself claiming he only did what the people wanted (1 Samuel 15:24). God's servants must be more interested in pleasing God than men (Galatians 1:10).
Fourth, disobedience has serious consequences. For Saul it meant the loss of the throne (1 Samuel 15:23, 26). For us it will mean the loss of our souls. Jesus is the Savior of those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). If we reject his word he will have no choice but to reject us (John 12:48).