THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE ( LESSON 5)

Tonight will be our last lesson on the topic of obedience. We will be reading about a man named King Saul and, hopefully, will learn from his life the importance of being obedient to God's commands. Below are some instructions given to Saul.

1 Samuel 15:1-3 "Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

There was a town called Amalek. And when God's people, the Israelites, had come out of Egypt, these people from Amalek repeatedly troubled them. The Amaleks warred with Israel, snuck up on Israel, and killed the people of Israel every chance they got. And now God's wrath is going to come down on the Amalekites, and God wants King Saul and his soldiers to totally destroy all the people and everything in that wicked city. The town of Amalek and the people there are like a cancer, and God wants the cancer 100 % wiped out! Let's see what happens.

1 Samuel 15:4-9 "And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly."

First of all, did Saul follow God's instructions? No. Instead of killing all of the Amalekites, Saul let the head Amalekite, King Agag, live and brought him along for the ride back. And instead of destroying all of the stuff, Saul and his men kept the best of the stuff for themselves.

How do you think it made God feel when Saul is buddying up with the leader of the people that God hates and then is parading around with the stuff from the place that He wanted burned to the ground? Are there things in your life that you know, from reading God's Word, that He hates those things and wants you to totally have nothing to do with them, cut them out of your life, yet you are holding on to them anyway? Let's see how God feels about Saul (and us) when we disobey His commandments. 1 Samuel 15:10, "Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel and he cried unto the Lord all night."

God is saying that He regretted ever making Saul king. Have you made God sorry in the past? Well, to turn back from following God and to be at a place where you are not performing His commandments is a sad, dangerous place to be. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that it's not so bad. We didn't do anything really wrong. We say, "Hey, God will understand. He's loving and forgiving." But as we will see, our disobedience carries a heavy price.

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Let's see if Saul recognized or admitted what he had done wrong. 1 Samuel 15:12-3, "And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord."

Did you catch that? Saul is having a fine day. In his mind, everything is great. He woke up early, probably had a good breakfast, started his day. And now he is all happy as he is greeting Samuel. Look again at what he said, "Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord." Saul is loudly proclaiming that he did just what the Lord told him to do, which is an outright lie. So while Samuel spent the night grieving and crying to the Lord over Saul's disobedience, Saul happily slept like a baby -- proud of his accomplishments, deceiving himself into thinking he did good.

How many of you right now have mothers, fathers, or friends praying for you, crying because of your disobedience to the Lord, pleading to the Lord to forgive you and have mercy on you, while you are carefree, happy, don't have a concern in the world, and are proud of your past sinful exploits? If that describes you, again, you are in a dangerous position.

The thing about being disobedient and sinning is that after a while, your heart gets to a place where you don't even see sin as sin. You start lying to yourself. You begin to think that you are okay and that it's God who has the problem. Let's see what Samuel said after Saul lied and announced that he did what the Lord told him to do. 1 Samuel 15:14, "And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" Here Samuel is saying, "Oh, you totally destroyed everything and everyone like the Lord said? Then why do I hear all of these new animals making all that noise? And who is that guy over there that looks just like King Agag?"

Now that Saul is being confronted, let's see if he repents of his sin and asks the Lord for forgiveness. 1 Samuel 15:15, "And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed."

Instead of admitting that he was disobedient, Saul tried to say it wasn't him, but it was the people. Who was in charge? Saul. Who did God give the instructions to? Saul. Who do you think told the people what to kill and what to keep? Saul. But Saul was trying to be slick. Not only did he not admit that he was disobedient, but then he tried to make it seem as though he did it for the Lord. He said, "The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord." Saul is, basically, saying, "But, God, we did it for you." Saul is fooling himself into believing that he was disobedient to please God. How ludicrous is that!! That would be like saying, "God, I know your commandment says not to steal, but I'm going to donate 10 percent of the money I steal towards building a new church." Or "God, I know that you want me to wait until I'm married to have sex, but, hey, I'll have sex now, and if my girlfriend gets pregnant, we will name our child after one of the great Bible heroes to give you the glory."

Do you think what Saul did or what I illustrated in those above examples would make the Lord happy? Of course not. Let's see what Samuel told Saul. 1 Samuel 15:16-19, "Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?"

Samuel is showing Saul that what he did was evil in the sight of the Lord. Samuel is giving Saul another chance to admit his sin and ask the Lord for forgiveness. He is reminding Saul what God's exact instructions were: "Utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are totally consumed." Let's see what Saul has to say for himself. 1 Samuel 15:20-21, "And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal."

Again, Saul is still insisting that he didn't do anything wrong. Even in the face of God's exact instructions, Saul is saying, "Yeah, I brought back alive the main person you hated the most, King Agag, but it was for a good reason. And, really, my soldiers are the ones who messed up by keeping all of the Amalekites' stuff. But, hey, they did it for a good reason, too." Saul is disobedient, unrepentant, and just making it worse and worse for himself.

***Key point here: Is there a "King Agag" or some Amalekite stuff in your life? What are those sinful habits and things that God wants you to utterly destroy, but you keep holding on to them? You keep making excuses and reasons for not letting them go? You are willingly blind to the fact that this thing(s) is killing your relationship with God.

What does God want the most from you? Does he want your money? Does he want your time in attendance at church? Does he want you to sing for Him? No. All of those things are well and fine, but the thing that God wants from you the most is your obedience. If you say you love Him, yet are disobedient, your words don't mean a thing. If you go to church every Sunday and pray every night, yet throughout your days you keep breaking His commandments and being stubborn and rebellious, your time and prayer are not pleasing to the Lord. See what this verse has to say on this: 1 Samuel 15:22 reads, "And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Our obedience is what God wants and what God deserves! And here are some more verses that illustrate this truth: John 14:15 reads, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." And 1 John 2:3-5 says, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." If you say you love God, show it by your obedience. It's as simple as that.

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When we are disobedient and rebellious, that is as bad or equal to us being involved in witchcraft or idolatry in God's eyes. 1 Samuel 15:23 reads "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." If you stubbornly refuse to live the way God wants you to live, God is giving you right there a name for your behavior. Stubborn/rebelliousness equals witchcraft and idolatry to the Lord, period. Samuel 15:23 goes on to say of Saul "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king."

Saul went from being a man hand-picked by God to be king to a man who is now rejected by God. And many other people who have chosen to disobey God and instead want to live by their own rules will also one day be rejected by God. Will you be one of them? When you die and face the Lord, will He tell you, "Depart from Me. I never knew you. I reject you"? Sadly, that is what is going to be told to some people. Matthew 7:21-23 reads, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

If you know that you have been like Saul and have chosen your own way over being obedient to God, I hope that you turn from you sin and ask God for forgiveness before it's too late. And make sure you go right to the One you disobeyed -- God. He is the only one who can forgive you. Saul finally admitted that he sinned and even asked to be pardoned. But he didn't ask God. He asked Samuel to forgive him. Let's read that. 1 Samuel 15:24-25, "And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord."

Whenever we sin, we sin against God. And only God Himself can forgive us. The Prophet Samuel can't forgive you. Your mom can't forgive you. You can't confess to me so that I can ask God to forgive you. You have to go directly to God!

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After all of this happened, Saul was never the same again. He didn't die immediately, but his relationship with the Lord was forever ruined. His life was full of anger, bitterness, jealousy, worry, sorrow, and he ultimately killed himself by falling on his sword. Instead of King Saul being a great man of God, he is a man who we look to as a warning and an example of what could happen if you rebel and choose to make yourself god instead of following and obeying the only True Living God.

Before we end, let's see what happened to that king that Saul was supposed to kill but didn't. 1 Samuel 15:32-33, "Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal."

King Agag tried to sweet-talk his way out of being destroyed. Isn't that just like our Enemy (Satan) to try to buddy up with you and act as though the past hell brought into your life was nothing? But Samuel took his sword and cut Agag to pieces. And that is what we need to do when anything sinful is creeping back into our lives. Cut it out of your life. What about you? Are you going to be a Saul or a Samuel? 

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