Before reading these insights, I encourage you to do the Bite Size study: Good Sins.
Insights in blue. I've interrupted this longer passage with my insights.
In 1 Samuel 15:1-3, God gave Saul careful instructions to destroy the evil Amalekites and leave nothing alive.* But Saul and his army decided to save the best of the livestock and one of the kings (1 Samuel 15:7-9). So God sent Samuel to rebuke Saul, and Saul gave one of the best examples of insincere repentance in Scripture. List the lies, excuses and proofs of Saul's insincerity. Why does Samuel/God not accept Saul's apology (i.e. God removed His blessing from Saul and Samuel never visited Saul again--1 Samuel 15:35; 16:1)
1 Samuel 15: 10-31: Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”
1. Saul lies and says he did what the Lord asked:
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
2. When Samuel confronts him with his sin/lie, Saul blame-shifts and lies again, making up a reason that makes him and his soldiers sound godly even though they've disobeyed a direct order from God:
15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
3. Samuel again confronts Saul with the truth--he took the best of the herds for his own purposes, not to honor God. Obedience honors God. Then Samuel identifies the key sin in all false repentance: pride (thinking too much of ourselves).*
16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
4. Again Saul justifies his actions, denying the truth. Perhaps Saul has already become self-deceived--believing his own lies that his motives were godly. 1 John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.":
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal."
5. Samuel continues to confront Saul with an important truth: Obedience is better than sacrifice. We could also say obedience is better than outward show of Christianity, better than long prayers or tearful testimonies. Samuel compares disobedience to witchcraft...a strong warning. And Samuel again talks about Saul's arrogance (see verse 17*):
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 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."
6. For the first time, Saul admits sin, but he very quickly excuses it, blaming it again on his men. Did he actually feel pressured by his men or is this another lie? He's responsible either way, but it is more likely that this was another deceptive excuse:
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.
7. Saul asks Samuel to forgive him, but his focus is not on his sin, but on saving face. Verse 30 is the true purpose of Saul's life, a proof that he is not sorry for what he did, only sorry that it might make him look bad. God does not forgive Saul because Saul isn't genuinely sorry:
25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!” 27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” 30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
~~*I know this troubles us to read these passages, but our all wise, all loving God gives each person ample opportunity to turn to Him. And He knows when people and nations have passed the point of every repenting. And in the Old Testament, God obviously felt it was best to destroy these cities before they destroyed the faith and lives of others. And remember the story of Rahab:God rescued her before destroying Jericho because He knew she would turn to Him. God knows when and who should be destroyed. We don't.
copyright 2014, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com
All Scripture NIV unless otherwise noted