We come to the most tragic story of Saul’s rebellion and subsequent removal from his kingship by God.
We have observed that since chapter 10, Saul is an example of a person who does things his way rather than God’s way.
His appointment was made by people dissatisfied with God. Though he had some victories as a military monarch, he marred them with his disobedience and his irrational behavior, particularly against his son Jonathan in chapter 14.
Chapter 15 records the worst of his rebellion against God.
Saul was given the privilege of fulfilling a prophecy made to Moses with bringing decisive, divine judgment against the Amalekites. It was as if the LORD was giving Saul one more opportunity to prove his character. The incident, rather than demonstrating his obedience, exposes his disobedient heart. It is what the Scripture calls a rebellion or a stubborness.
Our English definition of “rebellion” is “Open resistance to, or defiance of, any authority.” The Hebrew word from which “rebellion” is translated, marah, has the idea of being contentious. The word for “stubborn,” sarak, has the idea of “stiff-necked, an unwillingness to bend to authority.” Rebellion and stubborness are a serious matter with God as we will see.
Saul was ordered by God through the prophet Samuel to take Israel’s military and utterly destroy the Amalekites. Background to why can be found HERE.
Saul gathered the people and did what he was told to do but with the following exceptions: Saul spared Agag the king and the best of their flocks.
It wasn’t full obedience. Just a half-hearted obedience which really is full disobedience. In other words, rebellion and stubbornness.
His rebellion is marked by,
I. Spiritual Pride (15:8-9)
Saul spared Agag primarily to show him off as a war trophy. Parading one’s vanquished enemies before the other nations was a common practice. However, God wanted all Amalekites dead, not taken captive as war trophy.
II. Greed (15:9)
Not only does Saul spare Agag, he also spared the best of the oxen and sheep. The only possible reason for that is because he wanted the best ones for his own use.
III. Makes Excuses for Sin (15:15, 20-21)
God speaks to Samuel and tells Him of Saul’s disobedience. Samuel is grieved over the revelation and goes to confront Saul (10-11). Samuel soon learns that Saul had moved on from where he expected to find him, because Saul left to make a monument to himself (12). When Samuel finally catches up with Saul, the rebel tells Samuel that he had performed “all that the LORD had commanded,” which was a lie (13).
Samuel, swift to respond, says to Saul, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
Rather than confessing his disobedience, Saul makes excuses. The reason the “best” of the flocks was spared, explained Saul, was that they could make sacrifices unto the LORD. Additionally, you will notice how he sort of shifts to blaming the people with him (15, 21). It was they who took the plunder in order to make sacrifices, not himself. Moreover, he continues to insist that they did obey God because they utterly destroyed the Amalekites. It was only the best of the flocks and Agag that they spared; everything else was dealt with as God commanded.
But that was self-deception. He didn’t obey fully, for he didn’t utterly destroy all the Amalekites. It was as Samuel said, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”
IV. Marked by False Repentance (15:24-29)
Immediately after Samuel confronted Saul he feigns repentance. He even claims that he “sinned” by disobeying the commandment of the LORD because he “feared the people.” However, it wasn’t a legitimate repentance. There wasn’t brokenness of heart and humility. It’s as if he wanted to quickly get the confession part over with and go immediately back to what he was doing before. He had his self-interests in mind, because he wanted Samuel to publicly attend a worship service with him to give the people the impression all was well.
Samuel, however, rebukes him sharply and pronounces him finished as a king. God had rejected Saul from being king of Israel (26).
Saul comes apart emotionally and as Samuel turned to leave, he grabs his robe in haste and it tore. Samuel seizes upon the moment and speaks words of judgment: “the LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours.”
1) Sin grieves God but He will judge it none the less. He is not a man that he should relent, Samuel says (15:29).
2) Others can be led astray by our sin. Saul was the king. He led the people and his sin brought the people low.
3) Apparent “victories” do not prove spiritual blessing. Saul was victorious over the Amalekites, but he was disobedient to God’s Word.
4) God intentions do not please God.
5) Sin separates us from God and His fellowship (35). Saul no longer had fellowship with Samuel, who was the appointed mouth piece for God. In other words, Saul no longer had a man to speak to him from God or to himself back to the LORD.