Pastoral Commentary for 1 Samuel 15
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Through Samuel God gave clear directions to King Saul concerning His judicial punishment of the Amalekites. Everything was to be destroyed—people, possessions, animals. Nevertheless, when Saul attacked the Amalekites he took Agag the king alive and also kept the best livestock. When Samuel confronted Saul, he followed his familiar pattern of making an excuse for his disobedience: "The soldiers... spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest." Even when he had been rebuked by Samuel Saul continued to excuse himself: "But I did obey the LORD." Samuel's reply is one of the most powerful truths about our life before God ever spoken. "To obey is better than sacrifice." Ritual does not trump obedience. Religion does not make us right before God when our lives are full of sin. Samuel had to deliver the sad news that God had rejected Saul as king over Israel. Finally Saul repented saying, "I have sinned," but even then offered an excuse: "I was afraid of the people so I gave into them." Anytime we fear anything more than we fear God we are in deep trouble. Samuel initially refused to go with Saul to worship because he was still full of excuses and seeking forgiveness. As Samuel left, Saul tore Samuel's robe. Samuel used it as an object lesson that the kingdom had been torn from King Saul. However, after Saul repented again without making an excuse, Samuel went with him to Gilgal for worship. Samuel called for Agag to be brought to him, and executed him in obedience to God's will. Even though the LORD had rejected Saul, Samuel continued to mourn for the king.