Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 15-17
1 Samuel 15 – “To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice”
The LORD directed Samuel to go to King Saul and command him to lead Israel to war with the Amalekites, revenging how that nation had attacked His people when they “came up from Egypt” (15:2; Exodus 17:8-14). Saul’s marching orders were nothing short of the complete annihilation of Amalek. He was not to spare one “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (15:3).
Saul’s army, now two hundred thousand strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites. Saul, however, disobeyed the LORD’s command and spared Agag, the Amalekite king, and the best of the livestock (15:9). We read the king spared “all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (15:9).
Saul’s act of disobedience and his foolish attempt to hide his sin by lies and blame shifting (15:12-15) bring us to a spiritual principle that should be seeded in the heart of every believer:
1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “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 asiniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
1 Samuel 15 closes with a miserable portrait of the disastrous consequences of disobedience and rebellion. Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command, and now the LORD rejected him from being king (15:23). Even in confessing he had sinned, he refused to humble his arrogant heart and accept unqualified responsibility for his wicked choices (15:24).
Making a pretense of spiritual piety, Saul asked Samuel to “turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD” (15:25). When Samuel refused, the king forcibly grasped the prophet’s upper robe, renting it in two (15:26-27). Provoked by Saul’s desperation, Samuel rebuked the king and prophesied his throne had been given “to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (15:28).
Reminding us the LORD is longsuffering, but His justice is not to be trifled with, Samuel prophesied, “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (15:29).
1 Samuel 15 ends on a tragic note when we read, “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” (15:35).
1 Samuel 16 – The Lord has Chosen a New King
Although he would reign for several more years, we find King Saul was a miserable soul, conscious the LORD had withdrawn His blessing from him as Israel’s king.
The LORD stirred up Samuel’s spirit, asking the prophet, “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (16:1a) He had genuinely mourned what had befallen Saul; however, the nation needed to look forward, and God informed Samuel He had chosen Israel’s new king (16:1c).
What a touching, but sad commentary on Samuel’s strained relationship with the king. While the prophet mourned Saul’s ruin, he also feared the king would kill him should they cross paths (16:2).
Unlike Saul, whose physical presence impressed the people, God would choose a man not based on outward appearance, but rather, on his heart and love for the LORD. The youngest son of Jesse, and the shepherd of his father’s sheep (16:6-11). David is the man whom God chose to lead Israel (16:12). Taking a “horn of oil,” Samuel anointed David to be king in the presence of his father and brothers (16:13).
Now the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and the spiritual emptiness of his soul was filled with “an evil spirit” (16:14) that continually troubled and saddened him. Realizing the healing powers of soothing music, Saul’s servants counseled him to seek a skillful musician to play the harp and calm his spirit (16:15-17).
God providentially orchestrated that David, the LORD’S anointed, would be the musician (16:18-19). The stage was providentially set by the LORD for David, a mere shepherd boy, to be schooled in government and the role of a king (16:20-23)!
1 Samuel 17 – From Court Musician to a National Hero
We find the Philistines’ great army arrayed against Israel in 1 Samuel 17.
Israel’s king was sullen, and the nation was terrified. The people had lost confidence in Saul. Unlike the man he had been, the king showed no initiative to face the Philistines, let alone Goliath, the giant warrior of Gath (17:3-7).
There is much drama in this well-known story that pits a giant adversary against a shepherd boy whose faith in the LORD was greater than the enemy he faced. David’s success before all Israel would in God’s sovereign plan move a shepherd boy from court musician to a household name in Israel.
I leave you with a thought: When you face giants (and we all do), the important thing is not the size of your enemy, but the strength of your faith and confidence in God.
The LORD is greater than all your giants!
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith