Our disobedience has consequences that go farther than even we can imagine. We wrestle to follow God and His Word, but literally thousands can be affected by each step of obedience or disobedience. Today we will see a clear example of this sobering truth.
Key Principle: God wants to bless us and those around us, but we give away that blessing when we disobey and we become a tool of God’s enemy.
We hear a lot these days about options. An option is “the act of choosing; choice; the freedom to choose” (Webster’s New Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus: published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN., copyright 1984; pg. 499).
- If I have an extensive educational background and varied work experience, my career options may be more numerous than they would be otherwise. Greater preparation means greater opportunity and varied choices.
- If I go to purchase a new car, I will have a wide range of options to choose from. I can choose between numerous makes and models, engine sizes and creature comforts. I can choose to drive home in a basic car, or a top of the line luxury car. My options are limited only by my ability to fork over the money to pay for my choices.
- Life is full of choices. We make an innumerable amount of decisions every day. Not all of them are necessarily life-changing, but choices nonetheless. However, there are many things in life that should not be considered optional. For instance, I can choose not to eat any food for the next three months; but if I want to remain alive, not eating over an extended period of time is not really an option.
- By the same token, I can choose not to pay any more taxes; but if I value my good name and my personal freedom, not paying taxes isn’t an option that I can afford. Some things in life are simply not optional.
- Too often in our world, and especially here in the United States, we tend to view almost everything as optional—an either/or situation. But as just stated, there are some things in life that are not optional. Our obedience to God should not be one of those things. Oh, certainly we can choose not to obey God; but that is only an option if one doesn’t place much importance on the will of God, His blessings, and closeness with Him.
- I want to consider a man today that lived as though obeying God was optional. That attitude, and the rebellion behind it, was his downfall. The man of whom I wish to speak was the first king of Israel—Saul. We will see in the course of this message, not only the disastrous results of Saul’s lack of obedience, but also some pitfalls for we, as Christians, to avoid.
Three Admonitions will help to keep you where you belong:
Admonition #1: Choose a side.
God has a plan that He is working. Failure to follow His Word puts us on the wrong side of the battle, taking cues from the enemy and not fighting for God’s purposes (15:1-7).
God made it clear it was His Word that was at issue:
Samuel reminded Saul that God used him to choose Saul, and Saul must now continue to hear God’s voice through Samuel (15:1). He distinguished between opinion and God’s truth. This wasn’t his idea, it was what the Word of God was, and must be obeyed.
The Word was not new, but a reminder to obey a previously given command.
Samuel said, “The Lord said He wants the Amalekites punished for previous sin, and you must take My people to do the work – eliminating entirely the tribe and all their animals. (15:2-3). God spoke previously twice through Moses and commanded the people to do this because of the unprovoked attack on Israel in the Wilderness (Ex.17:8-16). Later, God commanded Israel to remember this attack when they got established in the land and destroy all the Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). This call from Samuel was a reminder of previously commanded obedience! It was a specific and measurable call to obedience.
Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”
Our Daily Bread.
Saul began to obey, and appears to completely understand the command.
Saul called together and set the troops in ranks. He laid siege to the city and set an ambush in the valley. He warned the Kenite tribes to leave the area and not get caught in the fighting, as they were not under the curse of God. He then attacked and razed the tent city of the tribe. Saul understood the history and call of Samuel’s instruction (15:4-7).
Admonition #2: Look through God’s eyes.
Without God’s view of the battle, we can be pleased with our performance while God is not.
Saul likely had no concept of the total picture of God’s agenda, nor cost of his disobedience.
Saul killed the people as instructed, but did not kill Agag the tribal chief, nor the best of his animals (15:8). Little did Saul know that the enemy of the people of God would use this time to revive the battle between God and Satan in the people. Agag evidently used the time in captivity to procreate and leave a line on the earth that would come back to haunt Israel in the future (Esther 3:1). The delayed obedience nearly cost Israel elimination in the end (15:8-9).
Radio personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin. “First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his OWN warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more—until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!” It is a fearful thing that people can be “consumed by their own lusts.” Only God’s grace keeps us from the wolf’s fate. Chris T. Zwingelberg.
Saul was pretty satisfied with himself, but never stopped to ask if God was happy with him!
Saul did not return directly to Gilgal to see Samuel, but went to Mt. Carmel to erect a monument to his victory before returning to Samuel. The night before Saul returned, the Lord spoke to Samuel and said, “Saul is finished!” Samuel cried through the night to the Lord. (15:10-12).
Denying one’s sin will not change the facts. Even after two millennia, man still operates on the mistaken idea that if he denies something long enough, it will somehow change the obvious. An Indy 500 race car driver illustrates this idea as follows: “You don’t go look at where it happened,” said Scott Goodyear, who starts 33rd [speaking of race-car drivers who have been killed in crashes at the Indianapolis 500]. “You don’t watch the films of it on television. You don’t deal with it. You pretend it never happened.” The Speedway operation itself encourages this approach. As soon as the track closes the day of an accident, a crew heads out to paint over the spot where the car hit the wall. Through the years, a driver has never been pronounced dead at the racetrack. A trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Racing Museum, located inside the 2.5-mile oval, has no memorial to the 40 drivers who have lost their lives here. Nowhere is there even a mention. Source Unknown.
Admonition #3: Take responsibility or forgo God’s blessing.
God’s judgment is a reflection of the desire we truly have in our lives. We walk without Him, so He withdraws. We ignore His commands, so He removes the corresponding blessings.
When confronted, Saul took no responsibility and stepped into the ‘third person’.
Saul came to Samuel and said, “I did what God commanded!” Samuel said, “If that’s true, why do I hear all these new sheep bleating?” Saul replied, “The people did this for your God!” (15:13-15).
God made clear that He wanted Saul to be blessed with the leadership role.
Samuel then shared God’s view of the work. “Didn’t I raise you up to be King? Didn’t I send you to do something for Me and tell you exactly what I wanted done? Why didn’t you do exactly what I said? (15:16-19). It is never right to do wrong in order to do right. When God says something, that’s exactly what He means.
God didn’t cut Saul from the throne, Saul gave it away.
Saul replied, “I did what you said, I went on the mission and really did a lot of what you said. I brought back the king, and the people brought you some of the animals so you could sacrifice them. Samuel replied: “God wants obedience, not these sacrifices. Your rebellion is as bad a witchcraft, and God has set your rule aside! Saul answered, “I am wrong, I fell to the pressure of the people and sinned! (15:20-24).
In Discipleship Journal, Don McCullough wrote: “John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun—until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted. ’You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!’” (Don McCullough, Discipleship Journal).
How can I be like the one who is better (15:28) and gain the blessing? (cp. Psalm 40:6-10)
- Open my ears!
- Use my hands!
- Fill my heart!
- Open my mouth!
Remember, we give away that blessing when we disobey and we become a tool of God’s enemy.