Father and son working on car April 14 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Samuel 15, 16

Follow Instructions

Have we ever built a model, repaired a car, sewn a new dress or made a new entree' for dinner? What happens when we do not follow the instructions, repair manual, pattern, or recipe exactly? We run the risk of it turning out quite differently than we expected and maybe even ruining it. We must learn not to act with pride and think we know everything. We must at times learn to follow instructions to the letter. This may seem too strict for some people, but it brings the best success.

King Saul was not good at following all the directions of the LORD. He meant well but did not listen. As we saw in our last Bible study, at Gilgal Saul failed to wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice and obtain the LORD's blessing before he went to battle. Instead, because his troops were scattering in fear, and although he was not a priest, he offered the burnt offering himself. He acted foolishly. When Samuel came, he told Saul that because he had done this, his kingdom will not endure (1Samuel 13:7-14).

Today's Bible reading reveals another incident when Saul does not follow instructions.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt [Exodus 17:8-14; Deuteronomy 25:17-19]. Now go, attack the Amalekites [map] and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs-- everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions,” (1Samuel 15:2-3, 9-11, NIV).

Not only does Saul fail to carry out God's instructions completely, but Saul becomes proud about the great victory and sets up a monument to himself (1Samuel 15:12). When King Saul is confronted by Samuel, he defends himself, saying he did follow God's orders (basically, that is). He killed everything except the best things, and, of course, Saul's personal trophy, the king of the Amalekites. He even seems to have a noble reason for not fully obeying the LORD—he saved the best of the animals to sacrifice to the LORD! How flattering! Later, Saul owns up to the truth. He was afraid of his own soldiers, so he gave into their desires for the plunder (1Samuel 15:24). The King wanted to keep popularity with his men.

In response to Saul's excuses, Samuel says,

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king. (1Samuel 15:22-3, NIV)

Why did God not allow Saul and his soldiers to keep the plunder and all the good animals? It seems like such a waste to destroy everything. As was mentioned above in 1Samuel 15:2-3, the LORD was angry with the Amalekites because they waylaid Israel in the desert—he wanted them totally destroyed. Even if they had not ambushed Israel, the Amalekites were one of the neighboring nations that God said to totally destroy because of their evil influence (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).

Could we obey the LORD if there seemed to be no advantage to us? Could we obey God when that might threaten our popularity? God is able to reward us for our obedience to a much greater extent than the small amount of reward we may get in this life.

In contrast to King Saul, Samuel, the prophet and judge, obeys God completely. He does this even though it might pose great danger to himself.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate” (1Samuel 16:1-3, NIV).

It is important to obey God completely. Because Saul does not do this, God chooses another man to become king. Would he do that to us? We are not kings of Israel, but when God gives us an assignment and we fail to obey him, the LORD might remove his blessings from us or even replace us.

When Jesse's sons are presented before Samuel, he thinks the oldest son, Eliab, would be a good choice to be king. But God says to him,

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Samuel 16:7, NIV).

All the sons of Jesse pass before Samuel, but God chooses none of them. Finally, Samuel asks Jesse if these are all his sons. “No” is his answer; the youngest is in the fields tending the sheep. He is brought in from the fields and in front of his all his brothers Samuel anoints David to be king (it could be that this is the cause their later animosity with him).

David is not only a brave warrior (1Samuel 16:18), he is also a talented musician. The Spirit of the LORD, who was with Saul, leaves him and comes upon David. Whenever an evil (the adjective could mean injurious, not necessarily demonic) spirit from the LORD comes upon Saul, David soothes him by playing beautiful music on his harp. Saul comes to trust him and makes him his armor bearer. The young man's close acquaintance with King Saul affords him the opportunity to familiarize himself with all which is involved in being king. God sovereignly and providentially works in his life and our lives for his glory and our good.

Lessons to Live By

•  The LORD is a God of justice, and he takes vengeance on those who assault his people.

•  Disobeying the specific instructions of the LORD leads to downfall and ruin; however, following the LORD's will from the heart brings us his favor and blessing.

•  When God gives us an assignment and we fail to obey him, God might remove his blessing from us or even replace us.

•  We must obey God completely, even when we don't understand why and another course seems better. As difficult as it may be at times, we must wait for God's provision and reward instead of rewarding ourselves. He will give us rewards when the time is right.

•  “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Samuel 7:16b, NIV). God looks at our hearts, too. Do we truly know God? Are we obeying him? (more...)

•  God sovereignly and providentially works in our lives for his glory and our good.

Focus Verse

1Samuel 15:22 (NIV) … “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

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A Look Ahead: Israel and David next Face Giant Challenges. How will they meet them? How will we meet them? We can get some help with this in our Next Lesson.

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