“And Samuel said, ‘What means, then, this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ 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 your God. And, the rest we have utterly destroyed’.”

I Samuel 15:14-15

True, heartfelt, wholehearted obedience always acts as God says instead of allowing reason, logic or common sense to rule the day.

“But we’re saved by Grace!”

That’s the usual response one hears when confronted by the truths in today’s Manna. It seems to them that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament—and Grace has somehow caused God to become “soft on sin.”

But, oh, dear Pilgrim, nothing could be farther from the truth!

Truly, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the One we find in the New Testament. Although we have difficulty understanding why He’d tell Saul to “go and smite the Amalekites 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 donkey” (v.3), we still must rest in the fact that God is Holy and Just and must punish sin.

There’s no doubt that Jesus showed us a side of God that seems far different from the one seen in the passage above. Jesus said “Love your enemies. . .bless them that curse you. . .do good to them that hate you. . .and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). He also said “But whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. . .if any man will sue you at the law and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. . .and whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two” (Mt. 5:39b-42).

But, again, we must never see God the Son in opposition to God the Father; neither should we see God as acting one way in the Old Testament and another way in the New—for He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

That’s why we must read today’s Manna in the context in which it was given and not bring God into question. Every nation had their own god(s) and, like Pharaoh, they simply saw the God of Abraham as just another rival god (Ex. 5:1-2). So, it was important for His servants to obey Him implicitly and explicitly even as a soldier would his commanding general.

Yet, Saul purposely “spared the life of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs and all that was good—utterly destroying only that which was vile and refuse” (vv.8-9). In essence, Saul was knowingly, intentionally disobeying God and convincing himself that God wouldn’t mind. But, He did mind.

And, Samuel told him that “the Lord delights more in obedience than He does burnt offerings and sacrifices” (v.22). He then told him “Because you rejected the Word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king” (v.23b). Prior to being king he was “little in his own sight” (v.17); but prosperity made him proud. . .which led to incomplete obedience. . . which led to heartache and sorrow. May we remember that today in our service to Him.

June 26, 2011