In I Samuel, chapter 15, we find the Lord regreting that He set up Saul as King of Israel because Saul's heart was not in following the commandments of the Lord, but rather following his own mind and ways. When told to destroy the Amalekites (vs. 2-3) and all they possessed, Saul stopped short and allowed the people of Israel to keep some of the spoil. When questioned by Samuel, Saul replied, "...they (the people of Israel) have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed". This is not what the Lord told Saul to do. Saul was quickly reminded by Samuel of what the Lord said, "Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed'. 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?" (vs. 18-19). Saul consequently blamed the people for his disobedience (vs. 24). In the rest of the story, Samuel tells Saul that the kingdom of Israel will be given to another who is better than he. Later on David is anointed by Samuel and the rest is history. There are a couple of things to note here and parallels that can be drawn for the 20th century church.
Of course, interaction with God was different than in the new testament since the Spirit of God "came upon" people instead of indwelling, but unlike David, Saul did not allow his heart to be changed by the presence of God. The Lord "gave him another heart" (see I Sam. 10:9), but Saul did not act accordingly (I Sam 10:7) as he was instructed to do. He allowed himself to be unchanged. Notice how Saul referred to the Father as "the Lord your God" in I Sam. 15:15. There was no relationship, only what he knew through Samuel.
Saul was supposed to be the King, to lead the people of Israel in following the Lord. Rather, he became a weak example of leadership and lead them to embarassment and destruction.
Also, we need strong biblical leadership that will follow the voice of the Lord and not of men. There is nothing wrong with seeking agreement and unity of the body, but never at the risk of disobeying God. How many Christian leaders follow the path of men and allow the people to "keep the spoils", rather than destroying the things of the world that would entangle us. Israel failed this test in the battle of Ai, when one man kept of the spoils and caused the defeat of the entire army (Joshua 7:1-5).
Finally, pride always comes before a fall. Saul couldn't bring himself to repent and deal with his disobedience. Right after stating he had sinned, he asked Samuel to "honor him" before the "elders of my people, and before Israel, ...that I may worship the Lord your God". How can we truly worship God when we are unclean before Him. We must take the holiness of the Lord seriously. Sin is never a simple matter, it spreads and corrupts everything it touches. When we fall we must earnestly seek the Lord's forgiveness and restoration first, before we seek the honor of men. Perhaps more people would be saved if they saw Christians for what we are, "sinners saved by grace".
"The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel (the church) from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent, for He is not a man, that He should relent".
Willie Jefferson, 12/22/95
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