||Chosen no: R-5647 a, from: 1915 Year.
|Change lang |
SAUL REJECTED BY THE LORD
-APRIL 4.--1 SAMUEL 15:10:23.--
DISOBEDIENCE TO THE HEAVENLY KING COST SAUL THE THRONE - HIS FIRST SEVERE TEST - LESSON TO SPIRITUAL ISRAEL - SAUL'S SECOND SEVERE TEST - WHY THE AMALEKITES WERE DESTROYED - WAS THEIR CONDEMNATION JUST? - SAUL'S WRONG ATTITUDE OF HEART - BEAUTY AND STRENGTH OF SAMUEL'S CHARACTER.
"Behold, to obey is better than to sacrifice."--1 Samuel 15:22.
THE words of the Golden Text of this Study
are the Lord's rebuke to King Saul by the
Prophet Samuel, in connection with the
announcement that Saul, by disobedience
to the Heavenly King, had forfeited his
privilege of representing God on the throne
of Israel. The rending of the kingdom
from the hands of Saul meant more than
his own displacement; it meant that his son
and his successive heirs should not continue
as the Lord's representatives in the kingdom.
For a number of years Saul seems to have prospered
fairly on the throne, and the people of Israel prospered
with him. It was several years after his coronation that
his first severe testing, noted in our lesson of two weeks
ago, came to him. At that time a war was instituted
against the Philistines, who apparently dominated Israel.
Saul waited several days for the Prophet Samuel to come
to offer the sacrifices of the Lord, previous to the beginning
of the battle. Samuel was providentially hindered;
and Saul himself, after waiting for a time, offered the sacrifices
to the Lord, contrary to the Divine arrangement,
and then proceeded to battle, the result being a considerable
defeat to his forces.
Apparently King Saul was not evilly intentioned, but
lacked proper respect and reverence for the Lord and His
arrangements. This incident may be said to have been
the beginning of Saul's rejection by the Lord. The
Prophet Samuel's words to him were, "Thou hast not kept
the commandment of the Lord;...now thy kingdom
shall not continue. The Lord hath sought Him a man after
His own heart."--1 Samuel 13:13,14.
APPLICATION TO SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
The lesson of this incident is as applicable to Spiritual
Israel today as it was to King Saul and to Natural Israel
in their day--"Obedience is better than sacrifice." In
how many ways we may see expressions of this same condition
amongst many who profess the Lord's name today?
Many are workers in the Lord's Cause in the
various denominations of Christendom, and many are
their sacrifices of time and money; but inasmuch as they
are not obedient to the Lord, they fail of the blessing
they would have and, indeed, in a considerable measure
cut themselves off from greater privileges and opportunities.
Yea, many of them, we fear, are cutting themselves
off from the Kingdom, from glory and from joint-heirship
with our Lord in that Kingdom.
From this lesson, given us in King Saul's experience,
we should learn that our Heavenly Father wishes us to
be very attentive to His Word, and not to think for a
moment that we can improve thereon, or that times and
circumstances will alter the propriety of our obedience
to Him. Had King Saul been obedient and the results
disastrous, he would at least have had a clear conscience;
he could have said that he had been obedient to God and
was not responsible for results. But if he had been
[R5647 : page 77] obedient, God would have been responsible for results;
and we know that Divine Power would have brought about
the proper results. Let us apply the lesson to ourselves
in respect to our daily conduct in every matter of life.
Let us hearken to the Word of God and keep close to it,
not fearing the results, but having faith that He who
keeps us never slumbers nor sleeps and is too wise to err,
as well as competent to meet every emergency that could
possibly come upon us as a result of our obedience.
How many of the Lord's people in Babylon would be
blessed by following the instructions of this lesson! Time
and again they have said to themselves, "I see that present
institutions and arrangements are contrary to the simplicity
of the Gospel of Christ and the practise of the
early Church; but what can I do? I am identified with
this system and am engaged in sacrificing for its upbuilding.
If now I withdraw my hand, it will mean more or
less disaster. I wish I were free from human institutions,
and that I had my hands filled with the Lord's work along
the lines of His Word; but I cannot let go, for necessity
seems to be upon me. I must perform a sacrifice, and this
seems to be my most convenient place for so doing."
The Lord is not pleased with such arguments. His
message to us is that to obey is better than sacrifice; that
we leave the matter of our sacrifice in His hands; for unless
He accepts it, our sacrifice will amount to nothing,
and He accepts sacrifices only from those who are first
obedient. "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not
partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues."--
Although the Lord announced the rejection of King
Saul, the prediction was evidently not fulfilled for several
years after--perhaps for ten years. The decree stood as if
it were a dead letter; for quite possibly King Saul was
properly exercised by his rejection and became more attentive
and more obedient to the Divine will, and David,
who was probably anointed about this time, was not yet
sufficiently developed to be the Lord's representative in
Saul's stead in the kingdom.
KING SAUL'S SECOND TEST
King Saul's next severe trial was in connection with
the Amalekites--a fierce nomadic people who on several
occasions had done injury to the people of Israel. In
sending the message to the king, the Lord gave special
instructions that the Amalekites should be destroyed, saying,
"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." Without mentioning other
of Amalek's transgressions, He specifies that the destruction
here was on account of Amalek's opposition to Israel
in the way when the Israelites came up out of the land of
Egypt, several centuries previously.
This narrative is seized upon by skeptics to prove either
one or the other of two things: (1) That it was the
imagination of either Samuel or Saul or of some one
writing fictitiously in their names; or (2) That if it be
accepted as being the command of the Lord, it would
prove Him to be a monster--lacking in justice, pity,
sympathy and love--that He should thus command the
wholesale slaughter of human creatures and dumb animals.
There is but one answer to make to this matter, and it
should be satisfactory to all who understand it. It is this:
(1) The slaughter of the Amalekites did not mean, as
is usually inferred, that being admittedly wicked they went
forthwith to eternal torture. Death had the same meaning
to the Amalekites that it had to their cattle--a termination
of whatever was desirable in the present life; and the desirable
things of the present life were probably not more
to the Amalekites than to their herds. Slaughtered by the
sword, the Amalekites suffered far less than if they had
been made the subjects of famine or pestilence, and had
died of hunger or disease--the ending of life with little
pain to themselves or trouble to others--the ending of
comparatively uneventful lives, anyway.
They all went down to the great prison-house of death
--Sheol, Hades, the tomb. God foreknew and had already
arranged a great redemption, not only for them, but for all
mankind. And that redemption, secured by the great
sacrifice of Christ centuries after their death, will by and
by secure to them release from their imprisonment--an
awakening from the sleep of death. They will be amongst
the class mentioned by our Lord, saying, "All that are in
their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God and
shall come forth." They will come forth under much more
favorable conditions, to learn of the grace of God in
Christ and to be amongst the families of the earth who
shall be blessed by the Seed of Abraham--Spiritual Israel.
The Amalekites will not be in the Chief Resurrection, but
will be awakened unto the privileges of Restitution by
judgments--corrections in righteousness.
(2) It is quite true of the Amalekites, as it was of
the Amorites, that they would have been cut off sooner, but
that their iniquity was not yet come to the full. One
lesson to be learned from this is that even though those
nations may not be under special covenant relationship
with God, there is a certain Divine supervision--that their
iniquities go not too far; and that, when these iniquities
have reached their full, punishment is to be expected. We
know not the particulars respecting the Amalekites; but,
knowing the character of God, and His justice and mercy,
we may be sure that in some particular sense of the word
their iniquities had come to the full and running-over
measure before this order for their execution was committed
to King Saul.
KING SAUL'S WILFUL DISOBEDIENCE
Saul's error in this trial was his failure to carry out
the command of the Lord explicitly. He slew all the
Amalekites, old and young, except the king, whom he kept
alive, possibly thinking to exhibit him in some kind of
triumphal display. But as for the flocks and herds, he
consented with his people to spare all that were desirable.
It was at this juncture that the Prophet Samuel came to
him and the colloquy of our lesson ensued. The general
narrative--Samuel's indignation and the Lord's positive
statement--clearly indicates that King Saul had not misunderstood
his instructions, but had with considerable
deliberation violated them. Consequently we must understand
his words addressed to the Prophet Samuel to have
[R5648 : page 77] been to a great extent hypocritical. He first salutes the
Prophet with blessings and with assurances that he had
performed the commandment of the Lord successfully.
Immediately the Prophet replied, "What meaneth, then,
this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of
the oxen which I hear?" The Prophet understood at once
that the work of destruction had not been complete--that
King Saul and the Israelites were anxious to take a spoil.
This was wholly contrary to the Divine direction. They
were not to destroy their enemies to their own advantage,
but to act simply as the agents of the Lord in thus executing
His decree, the sentence of Justice. They were not
to take booty and thus to become like the nations about
them--a robber nation, profiting by the troubles which they
inflicted upon the enemies of the Lord. This is in full
accord with the Lord's character and the foregoing explanation
[R5648 : page 78]
Seeing that the Prophet was not likely to sympathize
with his violation of the command, King Saul began
hypocritically to represent that all the sheep and oxen captured
from the enemy were to be sacrificed to the Lord;
and incidentally this would have meant a great feast for
the Israelites; for the flesh of animals so sacrificed was
eaten by them. The Prophet stopped the king in his explanation,
and told him of the Lord's words of the night
preceding, which in Jewish reckoning would be "this
night," because their day began in the evening.
The Divine message calls attention to the fact that
Saul was humble when he was chosen as the Lord's representative
upon the throne, and that at that time he was
very willing to give strict obedience to the Heavenly voice;
but the intimation is that he had grown more self-confident,
and therefore less reliant upon the Lord and less
attentive to the Lord's commands. Getting into the wrong
attitude of heart, he had failed to execute properly a very
plain, specific direction. Knowingly and in violation of
the Lord's command he had the spoil separated, and had
spared the best when the Lord had commanded the reverse.
If, in applying the principles of this lesson to the Lord's
people today, we think of the Amalekites as representing
sins and remember that the Lord's command comes to us
to put away sin entirely, we may get a good lesson. Like
Saul, many are disposed to destroy the vilest things connected
with sin, but to save alive the king sin, merely
making him a prisoner. Many are disposed, also, to seek
out the things which they realize to be condemned of the
Lord to destruction--such things as would be choice and
desirable to their taste; and frequently, like Saul, they
claim that even these sins of the less obnoxious kind are
held on to for the purpose of sacrificing them in order
thus to honor God. How deceitful above all things is the
heart! How necessary it is that all who would be in accord
with the Lord should be thoroughly true-hearted,
thoroughly sincere; and that under the Lord's direction
we should seek to take away the life of every sinful principle,
evil teaching, evil doctrine and all unholy words,
deeds and thoughts!
OBEDIENCE VERSUS SACRIFICE
King Saul sought to defend his course, to put as good
a face upon the matter as possible and to lay the responsibility
for the saving of the spoil upon the hosts of Israel,
who with himself were very desirous of offering sacrifices
to the Lord. The Prophet's answer is the pith of this
Study and contains its Golden Text. He clearly pointed
out to the king what the latter should have known and
what all should recognize; namely, that offering sacrifices
is far less pleasing to the Lord than is obedience to His
Word. No one could offer an acceptable sacrifice to God
unless he was obedient in his heart and unless the sacrifice
represented that obedience.
So with God's people today. It is not so much of ill-gotten
wealth that we may sacrifice to the Lord; it is not
so much the proceeds acquired directly or indirectly by
wrong doing that we may sacrifice acceptably. Our sacrifice
must be from the heart. First of all must be the will.
He who gives his will, his heart, to the Lord gives all; he
who gives not his will, who comes not into heart obedience
unto the Lord, can offer no sacrifice that could be acceptable
to the Lord. "Behold, to obey is better than to
sacrifice," is a lesson which should be deeply engraved
upon the hearts of all the sanctified in Christ Jesus.
It is also necessary to have the spirit of obedience.
Whoever has that spirit will not only obey the Divine will,
but will seek to know the Divine will more and more that
he may obey it. It is of this class that the Scriptures
declare, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them";
and again, in the words of our Redeemer, "I delight to do
Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is written in my heart."
King Saul had been very diligent in his opposition to
witchcraft and idolatry throughout the land of Israel, and
in so doing was accomplishing a good work in accord with
the Divine plan, the Divine will; but the Prophet calls attention
to the fact that his energy in such matters would
not prove an offset to his deliberate, wilful neglect of the
Divine injunction. The Lord's commands against sin and
every evil thing are to be executed to the very letter, no
matter how highly exalted the sin may be in dignity and
place, and no matter how precious or valuable or desirable
or toothsome the sin may be to our fallen natures. Though
it be as dear as a right hand or as a right eye, there is no
course open to the Lord's followers but to be obedient--
obedient even unto death.
Although fully rejected, King Saul was not removed
until the due time. The Prophet Samuel associated himself
with the king in a public sacrifice, commemorating the
victory over the Amalekites; and on this occasion he slew
Agag with his own hand, and then departed to his home.
He never afterward saw King Saul; yet the Scriptures
declare, "Nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul"--thus
again showing us the beauty and the strength of the
Prophet's character. He was ever ready to do the command
of the Lord in any and every particular, yet was not
without a feeling of compassion for those who were out
of the way--not a compassion which would make them his
friends and lead him to co-operate in their wrong course,
but one which would have been glad to co-operate with
them at any time in a righteous course.
"ARE YE ABLE?"
Are ye able to walk in the narrow, strait way,
With no friend by your side, and no arm for your stay?
Can ye bravely go on through the darkening night?
Can ye patiently wait till the Lord sends the Light?
Are ye able to crush your soul's longing for Love,
Will ye seek for no friendship save that from above?
Can ye pass through this world, lone, unnoticed, unknown,
While your faith faintly whispers, "He knoweth His own"?
Where the feet of the Blessed One stood, can ye stand?
Can ye follow His steps to a wilderness land?
Are ye able to cast aside pleasure and fame?
Can ye live but to glorify His precious name?
Can ye smile as His dear voice says tenderly "No,"
When "the field is so white," and your heart yearns to go? Can ye rest then in silence, contented and still,
Till your Lord, the Chief Reaper, revealeth His will?
Are ye able to lay on the Altar's pure flame
That most treasured possession, your priceless good name? Can ye ask of your Father a blessing for those
Who see naught in your life but to scorn and oppose?
When the conflict 'twixt Error and Truth fiercer grows,
Can ye wield the strong "Sword" against unnumbered foes?
Can ye lift up the "Standard" e'en higher and higher,
While His praises ye sing in the midst of the fire?
When ye see the Lord's cause going down to defeat,
Will your courage endure in the seven-fold heat? Will your faith keep you steadfast, though heart and flesh fail,
As the New Creature passes beneath the last Veil?
Ah, if thus ye can drink of the Cup He shall pour, And if never the Banner of Truth ye would lower,
His beloved ye are, and His crown ye shall wear,
In His Throne ye shall sit, and His glory shall share!
G. W. S.