Lessons from a Disobedient King (1 Samuel 15)

Intro: Wouldn’t it be nice if God would personally choose our leaders? Do you think that would eliminate many of our problems? Although God did not desire for the nation of Israel to have an earthly king to rule over them, when they chose that path, He allowed it. But God chose that first king for the nation. He was a tall, stately man named Saul, the son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel twice (at Ramah and Gilgal) by the direction of God.

  • 1 Sam 10:24And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!”

How could this kingdom fail? Would not Saul surely be successful as Israel’s king?

I would suggest that we already are familiar with how this one turns out. Saul is not successful. In fact, it is God who also removes Saul as king, and Saul dies a humiliating death at his own hands. What happened? How did it fall apart? Disobedience. Saul refused to obey God’s commands. His life as king of Israel is a case study in the value of obedience and the tragedy of disobedience.

There are several events that display the disobedience of Saul after he becomes king. He presumptuously offered a sacrifice at Gilgal, refusing to wait for Samuel (1 Sam. 13) He made a rash oath that almost cost the life of Jonathan, his son (1 Sam. 14), but I want to consider the events of 1 15 this morning. A classic lesson on the need to be obedient to God, and how to recognize the spirit of disobedience.

I. God Gave a Command: 1 Samuel 15:1-3: The Amalekites had a notorious history with God’s people. They had attacked them without cause as they journeyed from Egypt. God promised to punish them when the time came. Punish the Amalekites; Destroy everything; Spare nothing. Notice that Samuel reminds Saul that he had been anointed King by God’s gracious decree. It was His obligation to obey.

II. Saul Disobeyed: 1 Samuel 15:4-9: Spared King Agag, best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs and all that was good. Destroyed that which was worthless. He chose differently than God didn’t he?

III. God’s Reacted: “1 Sam 15:10-11 –Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Later in the text it will be made known that God has decided to take the kingdom away from Saul. Samuel is distraught and spends the night in prayer to God. (v. 11)

IV. Samuel Confronted Saul: Samuel’s conversation with the king is iconic in many ways. Saul displays a spirit of disobedience that we can see in many through the ages – even in ourselves.

A. He rises early in the morning and finds out (verse 12) that Saul has gone to Carmel, set up a monument for himself, and proceeded to Gilgal where he was first made king (11:15).Samuel goes to Gilgal to meet Saul.

1. Saul greets him by saying… (in verse 13) “Blessed be you to the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Samuel asks (in verse 14) what the sound of bleating sheep and lowing oxen means if Saul really destroyed everything the way God said.

2. Then (in verse 15) Saul blames it on the people: “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep.”

3. He maintains that his true purpose in sparing the animals was to use them for a sacrifice to God.

• 1 Sam 15:22-23So Samuel said: “Has 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 heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”

4. Nothing Saul says will work now. He has disobeyed the commandment of the Lord and he finally admits it in verse 24: “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words.” Why is God so displeased with disobedience? Or positively, why does God take so much delight in obedience?

V. What does this event teach us about disobedience? What did his choice to disobey God tell us about King Saul? What does my disobedience to God display about me?

A. Disobedience is misplaced honor: When Saul had defeated the Amalekites, the first thing he did was build himself a monument. Verse 12: “It was told Samuel, Saul came to Carmel and behold, he set up a monument for himself.” Evidently Saul was more interested in getting a name for himself than in making a name for God through careful obedience to his word. He had misplaced praise from God to himself.

1. This sin becomes even worse when you read verses 17–18: And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed. Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” Back in 9:21 Saul had seemed amazed that God would choose him to be king over Israel when he was from the smallest tribe, the tribe of Benjamin, and from the least of the families of his tribe. And he should have been amazed! If he wanted honor, he should have been amazed and satisfied with the honor that God had given him. This is Samuel’s point here in verse 17 — why are you driven by a lust for human glory when God has in fact given you a glorious privilege as the head of the tribes of Israel and the anointed king of God’s people?

2. But Saul was not content with the glory of God and the honor of being his chosen king. He wanted his own glory and his own praise. Jamieson states… “The erection of this vain-glorious trophy was an additional act of disobedience. His pride had over-borne his sense of duty, in first raising this monument to his own honour, and then going to Gilgal to offer sacrifice to God.” Obedience may bring us dishonor among men. But it always brings praise and honor to God.

B. Disobedience is misplaced desire: Saul tried to persuade Samuel that it was a noble intention that led him to disobey God and keep the best sheep and oxen alive (verse 21). He said they wanted to sacrifice these to the Lord in Gilgal. But the Lord had given Samuel insight into the true motive of Saul and the people. We see it in his words in verse 19:Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”

1. They swooped down on the spoil like hungry birds eager to fill their bellies. This word, “swoop on,” is used back in 14:32 to describe how the people swooped down on the spoil when the Philistines were defeated. It says, “The people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood.”

2. Samuel implies that the people were driven by an intense desire for the pleasures of all that meat. (Remember, those who sacrifice get to eat the meat.) They wanted the spoil more than they wanted to please God. Their pleasure was misplaced. It should have been in pleasing God. But they delighted more in the meat of sheep and oxen than they did in the smile and fellowship of God. This is, of course, a great insult to God, and therefore very displeasing in his sight.

C. Disobedience is misplaced fear: Notice what Saul admits after he sin is exposed by Samuel: 1 Sam. 15:24:Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’”

1. Why did Saul obey the people instead of God? Because he feared the people instead of God. He feared the human consequences of obedience more than he feared the divine consequences of sin. He feared the displeasure of the people more than the displeasure of God. And that is a great insult to God. Samuel had said it twice to Saul: 1 Sam 12:14If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. 1 Sam 12:24 – Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. Who do you fear? Whose voice moves you?

D. Disobedience is divination. This point comes right out of the text. This is the very reason Samuel gives why disobedience is displeasing to God in verse 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination. God had put divination in the same category with horrible things that he hates in Deut 18:10 – There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.

1. Why is rebellion and disobedience as the sin of divination? Divination is a search for knowledge and counsel that ignores the word and counsel of God. And that is exactly what disobedience is based on. God says one thing, and we say, I think that I will consult another source of wisdom — namely, Myself! Disobedience of God’s word puts my own wisdom in the place of God’s and thus insults God as the only sure and reliable source of wisdom.

E. Disobedience is idolatry – This is what Samuel says in the last half of verse 23: For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. When we choose to place our confidence and trust in ourselves rather than God we might as well be bowing down to stone statues. We cannot serve God through methods of our own choosing. Remember that the golden calf of Sinai was an attempt to serve the true God of Israel. But the whole event was an act of disobedience because God had spoken.

Conclusion: So it stands to reason that God will be displeased with disobedience because at every point it is an attack on his glory.

  • It puts the fear of man in the place of the fear of God.
  • It elevates pleasure in things above pleasure in God.
  • It seeks a name for itself instead of a name for God.
  • It consults the wisdom of self instead of being satisfied with the will of God.
  • And it sets more value on the dictates of self than on the dictates of God and thus attempts to dethrone God by giving allegiance to the idol of the human will.

But obedience, being the exact opposite, in all these things enthrones and honors God. And therefore God delights in obedience. Heb 5:9After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 1 Peter 4:17 – For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? Mark 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.