1 Samuel 15:   “Saul Conquers The Amalekites But Has His Kingship Taken Away:  Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice


Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:


1.1.     In our last study, we looked at chapter 13 and 14, and we saw Saul’s true colors begin to come out and he began his downward spiritual spiral of rebellion against the Lord.


1.1.1.  Because of his rebellion against the Lord, in chapter 13 Saul loses the kingly dynasty through his sons that he had been promised if he remained faithful to the Lord. 


1.1.2.  In chapter 13, the Philistines threatened war against Israel, and Saul became impatient waiting for Samuel to meet him at Gilgal and he made a sacrifice for the nation, and in doing so Saul sinned by assuming a role that was not his, that of a priest.


1.1.3.  In chapter 14, Saul made a foolish threat to his army that they could not eat until the evening and he had gotten revenge against his enemies.  His army then became famished and weakened after fighting all day, and they only achieve a limited victory as a result.  Also, Jonathan, the son of Saul, did not hear about this threat of Saul’s and broke it, and we saw that Saul would have killed Jonathan for this had the people not stopped Saul from carrying out this threat.


1.1.4.  We saw also the faith and bravery of Jonathan, the son of Saul.  Jonathan decides to go over to the Philistines and attack them all by himself and his faith is seen in that he says, “The Lord is not restrained to save by few or by many.”  Jonathan is successful in killing a garrison of Philistines and his victory then leads Israel to have a great victory over the Philistine army.


1.2.                     In our study today, we are going to look at chapter 15 of the book and see Saul lead the children of Israel to have a resounding victory over the Amelekites.  However, before going to the battle Samuel told Saul that his army was being commanded by the Lord to kill of the Amalekites every man, woman, child, and animal, and that they were to save none of the spoil of the battle for themselves.  However, Saul’s army allows the Amalekite king to survive and they take some of the best Amalekite’s animals for themselves.  Then, because of Saul’s rebellion in not following the Lord’s commands in this battle, Samuel tells Saul that his kingship has been taken away from him and given to a man after God’s own heart.


1.2.1.  We saw in the previous two chapters that Saul’s true colors had begun to shine through as he began a downward spiritual spiral that would only worsen over time:      Saul had begun to build his own kingdom and everything he did now he did to build up and glorify himself.  We saw that Saul became a “glory hound.”      Saul became a “control freak” and could no longer handle anyone acting independently.      Saul began to become jealous of anyone who was successful or who did well in battle.      Saul began to act irrationally and capriciously and to make ridiculous demands of his people upon threat of death.


1.2.2.  We saw also that Warren Wiersbe had written the following pithy quote about Saul, and leaders in general, “David was humbled by his success, but Saul became more and more proud and abusive…Effective leaders use their authority to honor God and build up their people, but ineffective leaders use the people to build up their authority.”


1.2.3.  We have discussed also in previous studies how that Saul was a type of the “carnal” Christian in the scriptures.


1.2.4.  We’ll concentrate in our study here with Samuel’s words to Saul, as he tells him that the kingdom has been taken away from him by the Lord, about how that before the Lord that it is more important for us that we obey the Lord than that we make sacrifices.


2.     VS 15:1-3  - 1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3 ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” -  Saul is given the commandment of the Lord by Samuel to go up and attack the Amalekites and to utterly destroy them and all they own


2.1.                     In these verses, we see that the Lord was calling upon Israel to execute His justice and vengeance upon a people group, the Amalekites.  The Lord is a holy and a just God, and He is a God of judgment for those who adamantly refuse to surrender their wills and lives to Him.  The Lord in His omniscience, total understanding, and perfect justice had determined many years earlier that the Amalekites were to be completely destroyed, and now Saul and Israel were at His command to carry this judgment out:


2.1.1.  The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob who served the creation and the things of this life rather than the creator (see Gen. 36:12, 15-16;  Heb. 12:14-17).  The Amalekites were perennial enemies of Israel.


2.1.2.   The army of Amalek attacked Israel in the wilderness soon after Moses had led the people out of Egypt, and the Lord gave Moses victory over them.  The Lord then declared perpetual war throughout Israel’s generations against Amalek in Ex. 17:8-16, “8 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. 13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; 16 and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”


2.1.3.  In Num. 24:20 Balaam prophesied the destruction of the Amalekites, “20 And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, But his end shall be destruction.”


2.1.4.  Then, in Deut. 25:17-19, the Lord told Moses that when the Israelites had finally come into their possession in the land of Canaan that a day would come when they were going to have to destroy the Amalekites, and they were not to forget this, “17 “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19 “Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.


2.2.                     When we previously studied the book of Joshua we discussed how wicked many of the nations on the earth were at that point in time, especially those living in the land of Canaan.  When the Lord commanded Moses that when the Israelites went in and conquered the land of Canaan that they were to utterly destroy the nations in the land, the Lord was not acting capriciously in requiring this, there was a very important reason for this.  The wickedness of those nations was so exceedingly great that they threatened the very existence and spiritual well-being of Israel as long as those nations remained.


2.2.1.  Let us not forget also that those nations who opposed Israel were being inspired and led by the Devil and his demonic hordes to oppose the God of Israel and try to thwart His very purposes for His chosen people.  If the Devil could hinder Israel from God’s plans for her, he could stop the Messiah from coming, dying upon the cross, pardoning men’s sins, and granting to them eternal life.


2.3.                     The evil of the Amalekites was so great that not a single man, woman, child, animal, or possession of them was to be kept from complete destruction.  Everything was under the ban!


3.     VS 15:4-6  - 4 Then Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 5 Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. 6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. -  Saul summoned an army in Israel and prepared to ambush the Amalekites, however first he allowed the Kenites to flee from the midst of Amalek


3.1.                     Saul as king now amassed a large army here to go and to war against the Amalekites:  200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men from the tribe of Judah.


3.2.                     Note that Saul is being very rational and functioning benevolently here in allowing the Kenites to flee from the midst of the Amalekites before he attacked the Amalekites.


3.3.                     The Kenites were the descendants of Moses’ father-in-law and they were transigent Midianites.  Israel always maintained good relations with the Kenites.  You can read more about Israel’s dealings with the Midianites in Ex. 2:16, 21-22 and Jud. 4:11.


4.     VS 15:7-11  - 7 So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. 10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night. -  Saul and the Israelites defeat the Amalekites, however they spare the life of the Amalekite king and keep all of the best of the  Amalekite’s animals and spoils


4.1.                     We see here that Saul and Israel has resounding success in battle against the Amalekites.  It was utter victory and would have truly been glorious had Saul and his army honored the Lord and His commandment to them to utterly destroy everything of the Amalekites.


4.2.                     Saul spares king Agag of the Amalekites, and then he allows his army to keep the best of all of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and of the Amalekite’s possessions.


4.3.                     We see here that the Lord next speaks to Samuel about Saul.  Evidently, Samuel hadn’t even heard how the battle had gone for Israel until the Lord informed him of what was happening.  But, the Lord tells Samuel that He was now sorry that He had made Saul king over Israel, for Saul was no longer following the Lord.


4.4.                     The question comes up now, “How could the Lord have picked and appointed Saul to be king and now be sorry that He had chosen Saul?”  “Can the Lord make a mistake?”


4.4.1.  No, the Lord cannot make a mistake.  The Lord gave the Israelites the kind of king that they wanted.  Saul was a king after their own image, not His.  The Lord gave Saul the chance to serve faithfully as king over Israel, however Saul refused to follow the Lord with all of his heart and thus he failed as king of Israel.  The Lord however knew this would happen all along.  The Lord is never surprised at anything that happens for He always knows the end from the beginning.  The Lord though sometimes allows evil to triumph for a period of time as part of His perfect will in His dealings with the people of this world.  The Lord grieves however whenever evil triumphs in the earth.


4.5.                     We see here that Samuel was very distressed about Saul having been rejected as king over Israel.  Samuel had loved Saul and had been taken with Saul just like everyone else in Israel.  J. Vernon McGee has said that he believed that Samuel was so taken by Saul that he actually wanted Saul to succeed as king more than he later wanted David to succeed.


4.6.                     There are always consequences for our disobedience to the Lord.  Evidently, Saul in his disobedience when he didn’t follow the command of the Lord to annihilate the Amalekites but left the king of the Amalekites alive, also left some other Amalekites alive.  We believe this is the case because in later years we read in the book of Esther that wicked Haman was an the Amalekite.  Because Saul didn’t annihilate the Amalekites this man Haman almost caused the entire nation of Israel to be murdered had queen Esther not interceded to the king for her people the Jews.


5.     VS 15:12  - 12 Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” -  Samuel went out to find Saul and deliver to him the word of the Lord’s rejection of him as king, however Saul went to Carmel and set up a monument for himself


5.1.                     Isn’t it interesting here that Saul felt so little remorse for not following the Lord’s commands wholeheartedly that after this victory over the Amalekites he actually has the audacity to set up a monument for himself in Israel? 


5.2.                     What other leader over God’s people had previously ever set up a monument to his own glory? 


5.2.1.  It was the Lord who was to fight all of His people’s battles, and it is the Lord to whom all praise and glory are to be given!


5.2.2.  s was mentioned previously, Saul has become a “glory hound.”  Having this attitude is never God’s will.


6.     VS 15:13-23  - 13 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” 17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” -  Samuel meets up with Saul, and Saul pretends to have carried out the Lord’s commands in the victory against the Amalekites


6.1.                     What hypocrisy we see here in the life of Saul. 


6.1.1.  He attempts to bless Samuel but he has no blessing in reality that he could give to him.


6.1.2.  He lies as he tells Samuel that he has carried out the command of the Lord.


6.1.3.  Twice he blames his people for having captured the spoil of the Amalekites.  As he king he was responsible that his people carry out all of God’s commands.


6.1.4.  He lies when he tells Samuel that his army had taken the animals in order to make a sacrifice to the Lord with them.


6.2.                     Samuel tells Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice.


6.2.1.  In the law of Moses, the covenant which Saul and the children of Israel were under, it was stated that complete and continual obedience was required, and that there was a curse upon everyone who did not continue in obedience to everything that is written in the law (Deut. 27:26;  Gal. 3:10).


6.2.2.  Saul had obeyed some but not obeyed all of the Lord’s commands.  He had gone to battle against the Amalekites, He had killed some of the Amalekites but not all, he had killed some of the Amalekite’s animals but not all, he had destroyed some of the Amalekite’s spoil but not all.


6.2.3.  I grew up in a denomination where people had the notion that if they just gave a little money to the church or helped a few charities here and there or whatever that everything would be all-right between them and the Lord, and that God would consider Himself lucky to have them on His side, regardless of whether or not they lived lives obedient to the Lord.  However, what the scripture teaches here and elsewhere is that the Lord will only be pleased with us and accept us as His people if we have committed our lives completely to Him and walk in obedience to His commands.  All of His commands!  In the Christian life we are not to have the “cafeteria style” of obedience and just pick out the commands we want to obey.  We must be committed to obeying all of the Lord’s commands throughout the scripture. 


6.3.                     E.M. Bounds in “The Necessity Of Prayer” wrote about the importance of obedience in the Christian’s life, and said the following things about obedience, “Unquestionably obedience is a high virtue, a soldier quality. To obey belongs, preeminently, to the soldier. It is his first and last lesson, and he must learn how to practice it all the time, without question, uncomplainingly.


Obedience, moreover, is faith in action, and is the outflow as it is the very test of love. “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.”


…God’s commandments are righteous and founded in justice and wisdom. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.” God’s commandments, then, can be obeyed by all who seek supplies of grace which enable them to obey. These commandments must be obeyed. God’s government is at stake. God’s children are under obligation to obey Him; disobedience cannot be permitted. The spirit of rebellion is the very essence of sin. It is repudiation of God’s authority, which God cannot tolerate. He never has done so, and a declaration of His attitude was part of the reason the Son of the Highest was made manifest among men.


…Obedience is love, fulfilling every command, love expressing itself. Obedience, therefore, is not a hard demand made upon us, any more than is the service a husband renders his wife, or a wife renders her husband. Love delights to obey, and please whom it loves. There are no hardships in love. There may be exactions, but no irk. There are no impossible tasks for love.”


6.4.     Spurgeon, the great English preacher of 150 years ago once said the following as he preached about how that it is more important to obey than to sacrifice, The first thing which God requires of you as his beloved is obedience; and though you should preach with the tongue of men and of angels, though you should give your body to be burned, and your goods to feed the poor, yet, if you do not hearken to your Lord, and are not obedient to his will, all besides shall profit you nothing. It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, and to be willing to be taught of God; but it is a much more blessed thing still, when one has been taught to go at once and carry out the lesson which the Master has whispered in the ear. How many excellent Christians there are who sacrifice a goodly flock of sheep so as to replenish the altar of our God, who nevertheless are faulty because they obey not the word of the Lord.


6.5.                     Rebellion against the Lord’s commands is a horrible sin against the Lord.  Samuel tells Saul that rebellion against the Lord is as the sin of divination and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.


6.5.1.  Observe the following examples of what Jesus taught about the importance of obedience to the Lord:      In John 14:15, Jesus told His disciples, “15 “ If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.      In Luke 6:46, Jesus told the people, “46 “ Why do you call Me, ‘ Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?      In John 15:14, Jesus said, “14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.      Matt. 7:21-23, “21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘ Lord , Lord ,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven , but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter . 22 “ Many will say to Me on that day, ‘ Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name , and in Your name cast out demons , and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’


6.6.                     An Unknown Author once penned the following poem:

Blame Me Not

Ye call me Master and obey me not,

Ye call me Light and see me not;

Ye call me Way and walk not;

Ye call me Life and desire me not;

Ye call me Wise and follow me not;

Ye call me Fair and love me not;

Ye call me Rich and ask me not;

Ye call me Eternal and seek me not;

Ye call me Gracious and trust me not;

Ye call me Noble and serve me not;

Ye call me Mighty and honor me not;

Ye call me Just and fear me not;

If I condemn you BLAME ME not!


7.       VS 15:24-29  - 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25 “Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. 29 “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” -  Saul admits his sin in transgressing God’s commandment and then asks Samuel to pardon his sin and to return and worship with him, however Samuel refuses to return with Saul


7.1.                     There was not genuine repentance in Saul’s heart therefore Samuel would not make a sacrifice to pardon Saul’s sin nor return to worship with Saul.


7.2.                     Since the kingdom had now been taken away from Saul, Samuel was no longer interested in hanging around with Saul.


7.3.                     When Samuel goes to leave, Saul grabs Samuel’s robe and it tears, then Samuel uses that opportunity to proclaim to Saul that in the same way the Lord had now torn the kingdom away from Saul.


7.4.                     Samuel tells Saul that the Lord had made up his mind and that the Lord does not lie or change His mind, as is the habit with men.  Nothing Saul could do at this point could return him his kingdom. 


8.     VS 15:30-33  - 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord. 32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal. -  Saul admits again that he has sinned and then he talks Samuel into returning with him


8.1.                     Saul here is more concerned with how he looks in front of people rather than how he looks before the Lord.  Saul wants Samuel to return with him so that the people will think that Saul is still king and still God’s representative.


8.2.                     It is curious that Samuel returned with Saul to worship at this time after initially refusing to return with him to worship.


8.3.                     I am appalled here at king Agag, for his people have just been slaughtered before him and yet he comes out acting cheerfully as if he has already gotten over his sorrow in losing his people.


8.4.                     Samuel publicly displays that Saul has errored as he takes his sword and kills king Agag of the Amalekites.  In killing Agag, Samuel does what Saul himself should have done, for Saul was not to leave any alive of the Amalekites.


9.     VS 15:34  - 34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. -  Samuel returned to his home at Ramah and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah, and Samuel and Saul never meet up again


9.1.                     We see here that now that the Lord is done with Saul, so Samuel is also done with him.


9.2.                     Even though Samuel and saul lived only 5 miles apart, they never met up again.


9.3.                     Notice here that Samuel grieved for Saul all of the rest of his life.


10.            CONCLUSIONS:


10.1.                This morning as we are considering this story of how Saul rebelled against the Lord by not obeying the Lord’s commands fully, and how that the Lord desires obedience over sacrifice, I want to ask you just one application question for this message, “Is there something for which the Lord has convicted you that you need to do, or perhaps not to do?”  Some small voice of God convicting you of some sin perhaps in your life?”


10.1.1.                     If this is the case, then it is more important for you that you heed that small voice and obey the Lord and what He has spoken to you about than if you even leave here and go out and sacrifice and give huge sums of money for the cause of Christ. In fact, there is nothing more important from God’s perspective than that you obey Him when He has spoken to you in this way. Don’t think that you can substitute anything in service or giving for obeying the Lord in that very area where He is calling you to be obedient.


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