Carry Out God-Given Instructions

Explore the Bible Series

October 5, 2008


Background Passage: I Samuel 13:1-15:35

Lesson Passage: I Samuel 13:5-7b-13b; 15:7-11, 22-23




Frankly, this passage creates some interpretive problems for me.Itís not that I disbelieve the historical data recorded in the passage; rather, it seems difficult to reconcile this narrative with other teachings of the Bible.I do not claim any particular wisdom in navigating through these problems, but this outline will make some effort to address, in an honest manner, the theological complexities revealed here.


First, we must reexamine the difficult problem of Saulís fall from divine favor.As pointed out last week, the Bible, as I understand it, seems to teach that true believers, transformed by the generating power of God, cannot and will not finally fall away from the grace of God.Those who criticize this position often point out the need for continued growth in obedience to Christ, an obedience they believe demands that a person may, indeed, fall away.Moreover, these critics may point to the abuse of this doctrine by those who profess faith in Christ, yet give little evidence of real conversion.However, the Reformed faith, properly understood, does not promote low levels of holiness.Growth in holiness, as I understand the Bible, is not optional for the children of grace.Genuine regeneration always leads to progress in holy living.


Now, we must address the case of King Saul.Did this man experience the life-changing power of God; then, because of his disobedience to the Lordís commandments, forfeit his standing in grace?This is a significant question for serious Bible students to consider.Careful reading of the text may prove helpful with this issue.In what sense did God reject Saul?Our lesson passage seems to indicate that the Lord rejected Saul as the king of Israel.The king made some foolish and unwise decisions, and the consequence of those choices centered on Saulís demise.However, the poor sinful man did repent of his transgressions; indeed, the Bible describes two expressions of Saulís repentance.Perhaps God removed Saul as king, but he did not reject Saul as one of his children.


Second, serious Bible students must deal with the seeming cruelty of Godís command to kill all of the Amalekites, women and children included. This command seems to contradict Jesusí admonition to love our enemies and the prohibitions against murder.How can God endorse the execution of non-combatants in war?Again, this a difficult question, and I claim no particular wisdom in seeking an answer.At the very least we should agree that Godís command here does not endorse this kind of wholesale slaughter in other military engagements.The Bible indicates that the Lord intended this bloodshed as a fitting judgment on the Amalekites.Saul was supposed to act as an agent of the Lordís degree, and he had clear, unmistakable revelation to carry out this horrible deed.This kind of authority does not extend to national leaders who do not enjoy this sort of special communication from God.



Lesson Outline:


I.                   Saulís War with the Philistines (13:1-14:52)

A.    Jonathanís aggression toward the Philistines (13:1-4): We do not know what triggered this particular conflict between Israel and Philistia, but both sides marshaled their armies and prepared for war.Jonathan, with a thousand men under his command, assaulted the garrison at Geba, near Bethlehem.This battle emboldened Saul, and called on the men of Israel to join him near Gilgal.

B.     Philistine response (13:5-7): Jonathanís attack enraged the Philistines, and they threatened Israel with an enormous, well, equipped army.The pagan troops mustered at Michmash, north of Jerusalem.The Israelites, fearful of the Philistines, hid in caves and among tombs, and some fled across the Jordan to Gad.

C.    Saulís inappropriate sacrifice (13:8-23): As the people began to lose heart, Saul grew desperate to retain the allegiance of his army.He expected Samuel to arrive to buoy the spirits of the troops, but Samuel did not come at the time the king anticipated.Saul, assuming the posture of a priest, offered a burnt offering to the Lord, and, just as he finished the rite, Samuel arrived.The prophet expressed his disapproval of Saulís impetuous action and announced to the king that God would take the kingdom away from Saul and his family.Saul, unaffected by the prophetís prediction, organized his army and prepared for war.The account of Israelís war provisions is a bit difficult. I Samuel claims that Israel depended on Philistine blacksmiths to fashion iron implements, including swords and spears.In all probability, the text means that Israel only had only bronze weapons; thus, the Philistines enjoyed a distinct technological advantage as war approached.

D.    Jonathanís attack of the Philistine garrison (14:1-23): Again, Jonathan pressed the battle.He took his armor bearer and prompted some of the Philistine soldiers to engage in battle, and he brave Israelite prince killed twenty men.This assault produced a panic among the pagan army, and the confused men turned their impressive weaponry on one another.

E.     Saulís impetuous vow (14:24-46): Saul, encouraged by the rout of the Philistines, swore that his troops would not eat until Israel had devastated their enemies; however, Jonathan did not know about his fatherís vow.As the prince passed trough a forest, he found some honey, and he ate a small amount, thus violating his fatherís decree.When Saul heard about Jonathanís indiscretion, the king determined to kill his son.As news spread of the death sentence on Jonathan, the people were forced to decide between the royal father and son, and they chose to support Jonathan. ††

F.     A summary of Saulís military exploits (14:47-52): This paragraph recounts Saulís combat with the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Philistines.Also, the passage gives an abbreviated genealogy of the king.


II.                Godís Final Rejection of Saul (15:1-35)

A.    Samuelís message to Saul (15:1-3): Through the mediation of Samuel, God told Saul to attack the Amalekites and destroy them completely: man, woman, child, infant, and livestock.

B.     The defeat of the Amalekites (15:4-9): The king amassed a very large army, and gave warning to the Kenites to separate themselves from the Amalekites.The Kenites, many years before, had showed kindness to Israel, and Saul spared them.Saul, to a degree, obeyed the Lord by defeating his enemies, but he spared King Agag and refused to destroy the spoils of war.Instead, Saul kept the best of the livestock under the pretense that he intended to offer the animals to the Lord.

C.     Samuelís censure of Saulís disobedience (15:10-33): Samuel, alerted to the sinful actions of Saul, confronted the king. After an entire night of prayer, Samuel traveled to Gilgal to speak with Saul.The king, apparently oblivious to the serious nature of his sin, greeted Samuel, but the old prophet came immediately to his unpleasant task.Saul, confronted with his transgression, made excuses for his actions.Ultimately, he blamed the people for taking the spoils of war.Samuel, furious at Saulís rationalizations, reminded the king of the Lordís blessing and recalled that obedience is better than religious ritual.Saul half-heartedly repented of his sin, but Samuel turned to abandon the wayward monarch.Saul, perhaps just starting to realize the grave consequences of his actions, seized Samuel and tore the old manís clothes.Samuel used his ripped clothing as a symbol of God tearing the kingdom from Saul.It does not reflect well on Saulís character that he seemed concerned about his appearance before his subjects, and he persuaded Samuel to accompany him in an appearance before the crowds.This paragraph ends with a brief account of Samuelís brutal execution of Agag, king of the Amalekites.

D.    Samuelís abandonment of Saul (15:34-35): After confronting the fallen monarch, Samuel withdrew to Ramah, east of Gilgal, and he never saw Saul again.The prophet was a compassionate, merciful man, and grieved deeply for the king.