Monday, March 17. 1 Samuel 13 – 15

Reading chapter fifteen I’m reminded of a passage in Zechariah 2:8. The context is near the end of the Old Testament. God’s people have been captives in Babylon for 70 years (or so) and have now returned to their homeland. It’s a struggle. Not only is it a struggle to simply resettle a land desolate for over half a century, they face opposition from foreign elements who have moved in to take the land as their own – as well as oppressor nations who would prey on the weak and take the land for themselves.

God speaks of a time when he will avenge the oppression of His people. Concerning their attackers God says “I will surely raise my hand against them so that their own slaves will plunder them” because whoever touches Israel “touches the apple of my eye” – in other words, God’s favored people.

The promise of 1 Samuel 15 is that God has not forgotten the cowardly attack of the Amalekites of 400 years previous when Israel was in the Exodus. The Amalekites attacked Israel from behind. God so favors His people (don’t forget this) that he never forgets a slight against them and attack is a capital offense. The Amalekites are to be devoted to the Lord – in other words, decimated.

Saul, however, sees things differently. Rather than kill everybody and everything (what a waste! he must have thought), he preserved the best for himself and his men.

The disobedience would cost Saul his kingdom.

God means what he says. To treat His words with disrespect by disobedience will not win you His favor, but bring you his wrath.

Sunday, March 31. 1 Samuel 14 – 17

I find it interesting that Samuel prayed to God all night in behalf of Saul. What was going through his mind?

Remember that when Israel had cried out for a king, Samuel had been stubbornly opposed. In fact, he took it personally. God had to assure him that it was not a personal affront to Samuel, but to God Himself.

But over the years, Samuel and Saul had evidently grown close. Whatever Saul’s failings, Samuel saw him as the great hope of Israel – empowered by God of course. But Samuel could not see past Saul. He too lacked faith. He could not conceive of a better king for Israel and, unable to believe God could do better, he wanted God to make allowances.

Saul’s failure to destroy the Amalekites was the final straw with God, and in the end, the final one with Samuel. As the story ends, Samuel seems Saul for who he truly is: a self-centered person more interested in acceptance by the people than obedience to God.

Sometimes we too bargain with God, doing what He specifically tells us not to do, but trying to do it in a way that will, at least in our own eyes, honor him.

But it doesn’t.

“To obey is better than sacrifice.”