What starts out with such promise – ends in failure and misery for Saul the Benjamite. Chapters 10-15 of 1 Samuel chronicle this devastating decline from the top to the bottom for King Saul… and it a great lesson for us all on the importance of obedience.

What we see right away is that Saul started out as a good king. After his anointing as king in 1 Sam 10, we see Saul’s first challenge to his authority and subsequent victory. In 1 Sam 11, Nahash the Ammonite lays siege to Jabesh Gilead. When Saul hears of this, he rallies his army and defeats the Ammonites. Now two things stand out to me about this event. The first is what Saul was doing when he received the word of the attack on Jabesh Gilead. 1 Sam 11:5 tells us that Saul was returning home with his oxen after working in his field. Wow! The King of Israel doing the work of a common laborer. At this point Saul was still grounded with his people.

The second is Saul’s response in victory. In 1 Sam 11:12-15 some of the people wanted to kill those who had opposed Saul in becoming king, and with his popularity due to his military victory, Saul could have easily ordered this. Instead, Saul told them, “No one shall be put to death today, for this day the LORD has rescued Israel.” And then Samuel taking Saul’s lead, leads the people in the worship of the LORD. (Things have begun on track for king Saul!).

But what a drastic comparison can be made between the Saul of chapter 11 and chapter 15.

Of course by chapter 15, we already know things are not going to end well for Saul. In 1 Sam 13 , his impatience in waiting on Samuel and preforming a sacrifice on his own has already led to the foretelling that the kingdom will not remain with his family. And in 1 Sam 14 we see that Saul is not a man who can keep an oath before God (even though if he had, it would have meant the death of Jonathan).

However, the greatest break from God occurs in 1 Sam 15. Here we see that Saul is given strict instructions on how to fight the Amalekites, but doesn’t follow them. Instead, he spares the king’s life and he takes plunder in livestock.

But notice that when Samuel hears of what Saul has done, where is Saul to be found? Verse 12 says that Saul has gone to Carmel to set up a monument (do we dare say idol?) to himself because of his victory! (Where is the man that insisted of giving God the credit for victory in chapter 13?)

And then to make his rebellion against God complete, he justifies and lies about why he allowed livestock to be taken. First in verse 21 he says the best were kept in order to sacrifice them to God. (to which Samuel gives the famous line, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”). Then in verse 24 he says he allowed his men to take the animals as plunder because he was afraid of them. For Saul, it is obvious that he is shifting the blame to everyone but himself.

So is it any wonder that, after all of these issues with Saul, in the next chapter, God has Samuel select the shepherd boy David as a new anointed one. It will be another 40 years before Saul’s rebellion against God leads to his own suicide in 1 Samuel 31 and David takes the throne, but the separation is complete here in chapter 15.

So what can we learn from the life-lesson of Saul?

I think the biggest lesson is the subtle slide from obedience to outright rebellion that is before all of us. Notice what Samuel tells Saul in chapter 15:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” –
I Sam 15:22-23

Rebellion has become a huge issue in the Church today! Those tiny ways of arching our backs and imposing our own will against the authority God has placed in our lives will only lead us to ruin. Notice how quickly Saul went from a king who was in touch with his people and seeking to walk in integrity – to the man we will see slide into insanity over the next few chapters. This slide began with small steps of disobedience and rebellion.

Notice also that Samuel compares the SIN of rebellion alike to the SIN of witchcraft.

In our culture we have taken indivuality and distorted it into a passive form of rebellion. Statements about freedom have been twisted to justify this gross attitude of sin. Statements such as; “It is a free country” and “I can hear from God myself” are really cloaked ways the enemy is using to keep us in bondage to this rebellious spirit. That will only lead us on the same path as Saul.

God is looking for a “man after His own heart” (like David). That type of man/woman is quick to look within – eager to serve and learn – and slow to defend their own errant positions.

Let’s seek those qualities together… and sit on the throne as David will. 🙂



Be Fruitful & Multiply,