What’s As Bad As Worshiping Idols?
By Pastor Gary Beck
The command of God was extremely specific. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.” I Samuel 15:3. The Amalekites had gone beyond redemption and now they were trying to destroy Israel. God wanted Saul and his army to follow his instructions to eliminate a threat. Saul had an army of 210,000 men and God’s blessing. He warned the Kenites, who had helped Israel, to leave the area. Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. 8 He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. 9 Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality. 1 Samuel 15:7-9.
God then told Samuel to find Saul because he did not follow God’s command. When Samuel found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!” Like Saul, we often think we are doing just what God has asked us to do. Of course, we like to modify God’s commands with our own ideas and plans. We think we can improve on God’s purposes. Samuel reminded Saul that he had not done as commanded. Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded. Saul blamed others. It is true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”
Saul repurposed the selfish acts of the army into dedicating the spoils for sacrifice. It is easy to give sacrifices that do not cost you anything. That does not help the heart to worship God. Agag the king was not killed either, because Saul intended to use him for Saul’s glory. God is not honored by selfish interference to God’s purposes. God meant to relieve His people from an enemy, but Saul used the situation to gain glory for himself. Samuel then gave Saul this important lesson from God:
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23
May we listen carefully to God’s word and then be careful to not change any part of it to suit our interests, no matter how good our ideas might seem. Let us not be stubborn.