Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Twenty-Three


1 Samuel 15:10-21

The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands.” Samuel was angry; and he cried out to the Lord all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, and Samuel was told, “Saul went to Carmel, where he set up a monument for himself, and on returning he passed on down to Gilgal.” When Samuel came to Saul, Saul said to him, “May you be blessed by the Lord; I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears, and the lowing of cattle that I hear?”  Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the cattle, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” He replied, “Speak.”

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? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

Oh, this is a tough story. No, I don’t like this part of the OT. I don’t like the whole idea of what appears to be an order, direct from God, for Saul and the burgeoning nation of Israel to commit genocide against the Amalekites. But . . . a tiny bit of research shed some interesting light on this old story, light that helps me handle it a little bit better.

This particular people group has been at serious odds with the Israelites since the time of Jacob and Esau. The Amalekites had a history of attacking Israel and trying everything in their power to wipe them off the face of the earth. That’s why they’re singled out for Saul, the new king, to take care of, once and for all. 

But Saul doesn’t do it. Even worse, he lies about it to the prophet, Samuel.

And that is the beginning of the end for our man, Saul.

I find Saul fascinating and instructive on multiple levels. We’re told he was what the people thought they wanted — tall, good-looking, strong — and willing to become their king. But surprise, surprise. The tall, good-looking one doesn’t pan out so well. It takes a smaller, ruddy-faced shepherd boy to become a true king for this young nation.

Saul’s days are numbered from this point forward. And that is a hard, hard thing to read. Basically, the man unravels. His insecurities, his moods, his anger — all symptoms of his larger disobedience — lead to his eventual downfall and to the installation of David in his place. 

Sometimes getting what we think we want doesn’t turn out all that well. It surely didn’t turn out well for Saul. 

Lord, there are times when I have pity for this man. And other times when I want to shake him — hard. And I readily admit that there are pieces of Saul in me! I can too easily be led by my insecurities and fears, I can succumb to the temptation to cover up my own weaknesses. I believe that Saul could have been forgiven — even after this egregious fail — but he could never find a spirit of repentance inside. Cultivate true repentance in me during these Lenten days, O Lord. And have mercy on me, Son of David.

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  1. Thank you, Diana, for shedding light on the history between the Israelites and the Amalekites – clears up a lot of confusion for me.
    I feel sorry for Saul, too. But through him, God really drives home the point of what it means to be obedient to Him and to repent of our sins. Those aspects, we definitely see in King David.

  2. Amen and amen, Diana, to every word. I add my prayer to yours, “Cultivate true repentance in me, O Lord. I do NOT want to harbor any sin in my life, knowing it can wreak havoc in my soul as it did for Saul. Lead me to holiness and purity where I can experience the full joy of your presence.” Thank you, Diana, for the challenge!

  3. Margie Bicknell says

    Harboring sin by trying to hide it away…or by omission. It does wreak havoc. Thank you for this reminder of what true repentance looks like. God is merciful, but our obedience still requires us to claim our sins and ask for forgiveness.
    Challenging….isn’t it? Humility before God is essential.
    Thank you for this walk through Lent, Diana.