The leader is rejected

In our western democracies, we are able to reject our political leaders who fail to live up to our expectations, some are rejected by their parties. In 1 Samuel 15 we see God rejecting King Saul for failing to carry out His expectations.

In a dramatic chapter that would not look out of place in a tele-series such as Game of Thrones, we see the tragic consequences when we think we know better than God –  “He doesn’t really mean all that – does he?”

When Saul is ordered to annihilate the Amalekites as punishment for the grief that they gave to the wandering Isrealites (see Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 14:43-45; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), he spares the life of their king and the best of the livestock.

God reveals Sauls failings to the Prophet Samuel – who is deeply troubled by this (v11). He goes to confront Saul who is acting as if nothing is wrong – the scene is somewhat comical.

Saul – “I have carried out all the Lord’s instructions”

Samuel – “Really ! What is that I can hear ?? Sheep?

Saul – “What sheep?” “Oh those sheep! Well, um –  the soldiers (shifting the finger of blame) – brought them from the Amalekites – we only saved the best – for sacrifices (so its ok) – but we totally destroyed the rest!”

At this point Samuel looses his cool – despite Saul’s best protestations – he has heard enough and delivers the Lord’s judgement:

“Has 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 listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
    and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has also rejected you from being king.” (v22-23)
Saul caught out and faced with the reality of loosing his crown is full of remorse and repentance and begs for forgiveness but it is too late. As the NIV Study Bible note on verse 25 points out – Saul’s greatest concern was not to worship God but to avoid a break with prophet Samuel which would undermine his authority as king.
He compounds his troubles when in desperation he grabs the departing Samuel’s robe and rips it – so declares Samuel –  “the kingdom of Israel will be torn from you and given to one of your neighbours”.
As we will soon see in the coming days readings – the neighbour destined to receive Saul’s kingdom is David. Just as obedience is better than sacrifice – so David is regarded better than Saul, who had originally considered without equal (1 Sam 9:2).
Samuel shows Saul some mercy, by returning with him to his subjects so he can save some face. But there is no mercy shown to Agag, the king of the Amalekites who is slain by the prophet.
In an echo of Genesis 6:6, God is grieved that he ever made Saul king over Israel.
None of us takes rejection well – especially deposed political leaders and we will see in future chapters Saul’s jealousy for his future replacement.

 

 

 

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