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TEXT: I Samuel 13:1-15; 15:1-35

SUBJECT: Life of Samuel #9: Judgment on Saul

Some men are born for dirty jobs. They don't like them any more than the rest of us do, but they're willing to do them. Because they need doing.

Samuel was one of these men. The first thing God called him to do was to announce His judgment on Eli and his family. This would have been hard for anyone, but doubly so for Samuel because he was a mere child at the time, and because Eli was like a father to him. But he did the dirty job. Because it needed doing.

Most of his life was spent doing dirty jobs, but none affected him more personally than the one he was called to do in today's story. Twice-as a matter of fact-he had to do it. And he did. Because it needed doing. And because the servant of God is not called on to think about his duty or to discuss it; he's called to do it. What Samuel said many years before, he was still saying-

Speak, Lord,

For Your servant hears.

INTRODUCTION

Today's story comes in two parts with the middle left out. In chapter 13, God rejects Saul in a relatively private way; in chapter 15, He rejects him in public for all to see. In chapter 14, the king is not rejected, but we see why he deserves to be.

THE SETTING

The scene is set in the first four verses of chapter 13. Saul has ruled Israel for a couple of years, and so far, has done well. The secret of his success was God's blessing; he was the anointed of the Lord, and as long as He had God's Spirit and Word, he would fulfill his destiny and save his people from their enemies.

The chief of whom were the Philistines. They were pushing at the borders of Israel and dictating some of what they could do-and not do

This hints at the folly of demanding a king. The people wanted one to keep the Philistines at bay (as though God and His Judges were not up to it). But, if you go back a few chapters you'll see Samuel-who was not a king-doing the very thing they thought only a king could do, 7:13-

The Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel.

With Samuel in semi-retirement, the king has to lead the battles of the Lord. To help him do it, he recruits 3,000 brave men to form a standing army. 2,000 serve with him; the others with his son, Jonathan.

Saul, it seems, is a cautious man. Knowing the Philistines have him outnumbered and outgunned, he takes a defensive posture. But not Jonathan; believing God is on their side, he attacks a Philistine garrison, and kills every man in it.

This should have made Saul a proud father and propped up his faith in God. But it didn't. What it did was scare him. He knew the Philistines would be mad at what his son had done, and to meet the challenge, he rallied the troops.

THE RALLY

The assembled in Gilgal, a place full of sacred memory. It was there that Israel had entered the Promised Land, and where the Lord came to meet them dressed in armor, ready to lead the charge Himself. It was there, too, that the men born in Egypt and the wilderness were circumcised, thus rolling away the shame of their slavery and wandering. Gilgal is where the Conquest began many years before, and where Saul hoped it would be renewed.

The fight would not be an easy one, though, for the Philistines had Israel outnumbered many times to one. And not only did they have the edge in manpower, but also in technology. They mustered thirty thousand chariots-a staggering number, especially compared to what Israel had: zero!

Not only were they ahead on the high end of weaponry, but on the lower end too. The Philistines had swords, spears, and shields, while Israel-apart from Saul and Jonathan-had only axes, pitchforks, and oxgoads.

Had Israel been a believing people, the oxgoads would have thrilled them. For, some time before one man armed with nothing but an oxgoad, cut down a Philistine army of 600 men.

Do you remember his name? Or, have you, too forgotten? Shamgar.

If only Saul and his men remembered what God had done for them, and believed He would do it again, they would stand fearless before their enemies, whatever the odds!

But there's the rub: they didn't remember and they didn't believe! Saul chose the best 3,000 men in Israel. But, in less than a week 80% of them were off hiding in-

Caves, thickets, rocks, in holes, pits, and some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan.

Saul's men were scattered. Before the first shot was fired. What a disgrace! But not a surprise, for, in general-

The wicked flee when no man pursues.

And, in particular, running from their enemies was a sure sign that the people were disloyal to God-

If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God.The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them.

If God had been their king, the men would have fought His battles and subdued the mighty men of Philistia. But the Lord wasn't their king anymore. Let Saul make them willing in the day of his power!

THE SACRIFICE

After routing the Ammonites, Saul might have mistaken himself for a military genius. Now he knows better. Success depends on God's blessing.

Which depends on the sacrifices Samuel has promised to offer God on behalf of His people.

But where is Samuel? He told the king to wait for him, to wait seven days. Six of those days have passed and there's no sign of the man. As Day Seven wore on, Saul got tired of waiting on God and His servant.

And offered the sacrifice himself.

As the king of God's People, Saul had many privileges other men didn't have. But offering sacrifices to God was not one of them-and he knew it! The work was given to the priests, in general, and this one, in particular, belonged to Samuel-and nobody else.

No sooner was the sacrifice offered than who shows up but Samuel-and he's plenty mad-

What have you done?

He knew what he had done, of course; what he means is Why did you do it?

Saul had reasons for what he had done and he was sure the old man would agree they were good ones. He did it because (1) Samuel was not there, because (2) the people were losing heart, and because (3) something had to be done.

Samuel was not impressed.

THE REJECTION

You have done foolishly! You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now, your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.

What was his crime? We could name several things: impatience, giving in to fear, unbelief, pride, presumption, and more. But Samuel lets them pass without a word. In a word, Saul's crime was disobedience.

He knew precisely what God wanted him to do. And he didn't do it-You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God.You have not kept what the Lord commanded you.

THE PUNISHMENT

The penalty for not obeying the Lord is the loss of his kingdom, both for himself and for his heirs.

Saul would live many more years, and he would die with the crown on his head. But that day, he lost the substance of his kingdom, and would lose more with every passing day.

All this because he disobeyed the commandment of the Lord.

THE WAR WITH AMALEK

This brings us to the second part of our study, whose structure is nearly identical to the first. It begins with the Word of God coming to Saul by way of the prophet, Samuel-

Thus says the Lord: I will punish what Amalek did to Israel.now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all they have, and do not spare them. Kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

Note the crystal clarity of the command.

Saul must attack the Amalakites and kill every one of them, including their livestock. Like Jericho many years before, Amalek is put under the ban: everything must be destroyed and nothing taken as plunder. Back in the days of Moses, the nation had ambushed Israel and the Lord was so mad at them that He swore to wage war against them until not only they-but even their memory-was blotted out under heaven.

This is the command. For a time, it seems Saul will keep it to the letter. He musters a large army and attacks Amalek from its western border in Havilah to its boundary on the east, Shur.

But as he and his men are mowing them down, the soldiers begin taking some souvenirs, Amalek's finest sheep and oxen. Saul joins them in their plunder, sparing King Agag, who will serve as a war trophy when he gets back to Israel.

Once again, this shows the people and their king are of one piece: in rebellion against God.

THE CONFRONTATION

When Samuel got the news of what Saul and his people had done, he went to meet them with a word from God. Saul was happy to see him and proud of the great victory he won over the enemies of the Lord-

I have performed the commandment of the Lord!

What, then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears,

And the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

Samuel did not have a speech impediment and Saul was not deaf or stupid. He had told the king what to do in detail. And he hadn't done it. He had done some of it, but when God's Word crossed his own wishes (and the wishes of his men) he left it undone.

Why, then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil and do evil in the sight of the Lord?

Samuel has put three questions to the king, but he only gets one answer. He and his men saved the sheep and oxen to-

Sacrifice to the Lord your God.

Saul was a religious sinner; even when he disobeyed the Lord he did it for the glory for God! But Samuel had had it up to here with his double-talk-

To obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed than the fat of rams.

Once again, Saul knew precisely what God wanted him to do, and he didn't do it.

THE JUDGMENT

What would be the punishment for Saul's disobedience? The same as before: He would lose the kingdom-

The Lord has torn the kingdom away from you today, and given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you.

There is a finality in this judgment that we don't see in the other one. After his first sin, Saul lost the kingdom, but he still had Samuel an the Word of God. But no more. Samuel would never speak to him again. And neither would God. Disobedience had cost him the kingdom, the best friend he ever had, and the Lord.

THE SEVERITY

Saul is a sympathetic figure. Though terribly flawed, there's something about the man you have to love or at least pity. But God showed him no pity.

He disobeyed the Lord, there's no denying that. But, in my reading, his disobedience was more a matter of weakness than willfulness. Yet the Lord punished him severely for what he did.

Why did He do that?

The judgments that fell of Saul were heavy ones-not because he was worse than any man (he wasn't), but because he was the king, and in this role he represented the rule of God on earth and pointed to the King who was to come.

THE KINGDOM

When God says one thing and the king does the other, God's rule on earth is misrepresented. When this occurs, the character of God gotten wrong. He begins looking like what He isn't. When Saul offered the sacrifice Himself, he made God appear untrustworthy-a God who couldn't get there on time. Is this what God is or isn't? He isn't that way. But Saul made Him look as though He were.

When Saul spared Agag and the livestock, He, again, made God seem untrustworthy. He had sworn to destroy the Amalekites, but, if Saul had has his way, He wouldn't have. His warnings, therefore, could be ignored because He might not back them up. But He will back them up-every last one of them. But Saul made it look as though He wouldn't.

A man like Saul just won't do for a king. If God's Rule in the world is to be what He wants it to be, a better man has got to be found. This is hinted at in both our chapters. The office of king will not be abolished. A better man will take it, a man-

After God's own heart.

In a partial way, that man was David, who replaced Saul and ruled far better than he did. But, he, too, had his sins, and-like Saul-they confused the Rule of God in the world. And so, he had to be replaced as well.

The Man who replaced David is Jesus Christ, who, as the one and only image of the invisible God is the only King who can bring God's perfect Rule to earth.

This He did, first in His public career, in feeding the hungry, healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching the Gospel to the poor. Then, in taking the sin of the world onto Himself, and suffering its full punishment. Then by rising from the dead, sitting at God's Right Hand, and promising to come again and set everything right forever.

Why did the Lord punish Saul so severely? Because He wants His Kingdom to Come, and Saul's disobedient ways held it back.

THE TRUE KING

The other reason He did it is because the kings of Israel must point us to the King of Israel, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of Man will the Messiah be?

He will be an obedient Man. Not obedient now and then, when it's easy, when He agrees with the commandment. He will be obedient from the heart. Here's the promise, Psalm 40--

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,

My ears you have opened.

God has always preferred heeding to the fat of rams, and this is what Messiah will give Him-open ears. And not just open ears, but a willing heart-

I delight to do your will,

Yes, your Law is within my heart.

We know next to nothing about our Lord's early life. The first glimpse we have of Him after His infancy is at twelve years old. What was He doing? He was discussing the Word of God with the doctors of the Law. When His dear mother wondered why He had thought so little of her feelings, He wondered why she didn't know, He-

Must be about [His] Father's business.

He was loyal to His parents and subjected Himself to their wishes. But God's first.

When He came of age, His whole life was lived in willing obedience to God's will. In what He did, in where He went, in the friends He made. And most of all, in the suffering He accepted-not because He wanted it-but because it was what His Father wanted for Him-

Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.

Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.

His resolve to do God's will-rather than faltering in the Garden-only got stronger, for this was not the end of His suffering, but only the beginning-

He became obedient unto death,

Even the death of the cross.

Why did God punish Saul so severely? Because the king has to be an obedient man. Which Saul wasn't. And our Lord is.

PRAISE GOD

Let, us, therefore, praise God that He swept away king Saul and replaced Him with a King who obeyed Him, and a King who did what Saul was supposed to do, but didn't-save us from our enemies and rule us with God's wisdom and love.

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