Some judge many things in their lives,
but spare one Agag which the Lord has condemned.
Partial obedience spells disobedience and in the absence of perfect obedience,
our sacrifices are worthless (v. 22).
I Samuel 1
1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.
2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.
6 ¶ And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
8 And he took 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, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
10 ¶ Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.
12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?
18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.
19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
24 ¶ And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.
31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.
32 ¶ Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.
33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
34 ¶ Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.
35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
I Samuel 1 – J. Vernon McGee
1 Samuel 15:1-16 – Leading the People in Disobedience
Several years intervened between the preceding chapter and this. The kingdom had become strong and prosperous. It seemed as though Samuel’s sentence of deposition had been forgotten. But even in hot summer weather, the taint of autumn decay may be in the air. The speck of corruption was slowly eating into Saul’s heart, and at last, when this charge came concerning Amalek, the evil was revealed to all. Amalek was under a curse, and the existence of the tribe was a standing menace to the peace and prosperity of the surrounding nations; hence the edict for its destruction, Exodus 17:16. Even in this world God judges the nations, and condemns such as have ceased to fulfill His purpose. In spite of God’s distinct command, Saul connived at the reservation of the choicest and best of the spoils, and this brought about his rejection. It is noticeable, also, that an Amalekite claimed to have dispatched Him on the field of Gilboa, II Samuel 1:1-10. If we spare what God has commanded us to destroy, it may later destroy us. Take care in your obedience; you serve an exacting though loving God!
1 Samuel 15:17-35 – Shallow Repentance Unavailing
Samuel was deeply moved when he heard of Saul’s failure, “and he cried unto the LORD all night” (1 Samuel 15:11). Thus he was prepared to accost the sinful king. Mr. Finney tells of a minister who was so burdened with the souls of men that he could do but little preaching, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. It is only in that spirit that men like Samuel can undertake their solemn duty.
Saul’s response was very unsatisfactory. He began by laying the blame on the people, I Samuel 15:21. He pretended that the object of sparing the cattle, etc., was to sacrifice them to God—a very hypocritical excuse, I Samuel 15:22. Without any deep consciousness of sin, he lightly professed sorrow, and hoped to pacify Samuel by asking that they might kneel together in worship, I Samuel 15:25. When the old prophet refused to let him off so easily, the only thing that Saul cared for was that the elders should still honor him, I Samuel 15:30. How hardened Saul had become! This was the beginning of the sin unto death.
I Samuel 15:22—To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
This is a great principle, which is repeatedly enforced throughout the Bible. Men have always been apt to divorce religion and morality, and to suppose that a certain tribute of sacrifice to God will be sufficient compensation for notorious evil doing. But in every age God’s servants have protested against the notion, and have insisted, as Samuel did with Saul, that it were better to obey, although there should be no spoil from which to select victims for sacrifice. This was Christ’s perpetual protest against the Pharisees.
Let the Ritualistic beware. There is a grave fear lest extreme attention to the outward rite may be accompanied by carelessness to the inward temper. Where the outward observance is the expression of the attitude of the soul, it is to be respected even by those of us who feel that excessive symbolism is hostile to the devout life; but where the rite takes the place of the soul’s devotion, or condones a lax morality; it cannot be too sternly deprecated. Though all the Levitical rites should be observed without flaw, they could not compensate for the persistent neglect of the least item of the decalogue. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Let us all beware. We are apt to make sacrifices of time and money and energy for God, and to comfort ourselves with the reflection that such as we are may be excused if in small lapses of temper, or disposition, we come short of the Divine standard. No; it cannot pass muster. One sin mastered, one temptation resisted, one duty performed, is dearer to God than the most costly sacrifices that were ever piled upon the altar.