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Father and son working on car April 14 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 1Samuel 15, 16

Follow Instructions

Have you ever built a model, repaired a car, sewn a new dress or made a new entree' for dinner? What happens when you do not follow the instructions, repair manual, pattern, or recipe exactly? You run the risk of it turning out quite differently than you expected and maybe even ruining it. We must learn not to act with pride and think we know everything. We must at times learn to follow instructions to the letter. That may seem too strict for some people, but it brings the best success.

King Saul was not good at following all the instructions of the LORD. He meant well but did not listen. As we saw in our last Bible study, at Gilgal Saul had failed to wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice and obtain the Lord's blessing in battle. Instead, because his troops were scattering in fear, and though he was not a Levite, he offered the burnt offering himself. He acted foolishly. When Samuel came, he told Saul that because he had done this his kingdom would not endure (1Samuel 13:7-14). Today's Bible study reveals another incident when Saul did not follow instructions. These were the instructions given to Saul:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt [Exodus 17:8-14; Deuteronomy 25:17-19]. Now go, attack the Amalekites [map] and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs-- everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions,” (1Samuel 15:2-3, 9-11, NIV).

Not only did Saul fail to carry out God's instructions completely, but Saul became proud about the great victory and set up a monument to himself (1Samuel 15:12). When Saul was confronted by Samuel, he defended himself, saying he did follow God's instructions (basically, that is). He killed everything except the best things, and of course Saul's personal trophy, the king of the Amalekites. Saul even seemed to have a good excuse for not fully obeying the LORD. He said he saved the best of the animals to sacrifice to the LORD! How flattering. We know this was not true, however; when he later confessed his sins he owned up to the truth. He was afraid of his own soldiers so he gave into their desires for the plunder (1Samuel 15:24). Perhaps he wanted to keep his popularity with his men.

In response to Saul's excuses, Samuel said

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of 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 divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king. (1Samuel 15:22-3, NIV)

Why did God not allow Saul and his soldiers to keep the plunder and all the good animals? It seems like such a waste to destroy everything. As was mentioned above in 1Samuel 15:2-3, God was angry with the Amalekites because they waylaid Israel in the desert. God wanted them totally destroyed. They were devoted to destruction. Even if this were not so, the Amalekites were one of the close countries to Israel that God said to totally destroy because of their evil influence (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Could you obey God if there seemed to be no advantage to you? Could you obey God when that might threaten your popularity? God is able to reward you for your obedience to a much greater extent than the small amount of reward you may get in this life.

In contrast to King Saul, Samuel, the prophet and judge, obeyed God completely. He did this even though it might pose great danger to himself.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate,” (1Samuel 16:1-3, NIV).

It is important to obey God completely. Because Saul did not obey God completely, God chose another man to become king. Would God do that to us? We are not a king of Israel, but when God gives us an assignment and we fail to obey him, God might remove his blessing from us or even replace us.

When Jesse's sons were presented before him, Samuel thought the oldest son, Eliab, would be a good choice to be king. But God said to him,

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” (1Samuel 16:7, NIV).

All the sons of Jesse passed before Samuel, but God chose none of them. Finally, Samuel asked Jesse if these were all his sons. “No” was his answer; the youngest was in the fields tending the sheep. David, the lowly shepherd boy, was God's choice to be king. So, in front of all his brothers Samuel anointed David to be king (it could be that this was the cause of later animosity with his brothers).

David was not only a brave warrior (1Samuel 16:18), but he was also a very talented musician. The Spirit of the LORD, who was with Saul, left him and came upon David. Whenever an evil (the adjective could mean injurious, not necessarily demonic) spirit of the LORD came upon Saul, David would soothe him by playing beautiful music with his harp. God sovereignly and providentially works in our lives for our good and his glory. Because the evil spirit tormented Saul, David's talent to play the harp soothed Saul and allowed David the opportunity to familiarize himself with all that was involved in being king. God also works in our lives for our good and his glory.

Lessons to live by:

•  God is a God of justice, and he takes vengeance on those who assault his people.

•  Disobeying the specific instructions of the LORD leads to downfall and ruin; however, following the LORD's will from the heart brings us into his favor and blessing.

•  When God gives us an assignment and we fail to obey him, God might remove his blessing from us or even replace us.

•  We must obey God completely even when we don't understand why and another course seems better. As difficult as it may be at times, we must wait for God's provision and reward instead of rewarding ourselves.

•  If Christians learn to trust and obey him completely, God will give the rewards when the time is right.

•  “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Samuel 7:16b, NIV). God looks at our hearts, too. Do we truly know God? Are we obeying him? (more...)

Today's Bible memory verse:

1Samuel 15:22… “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams,” (NIV)

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