In 1 Samuel Chapter 15 Saul received a simple instruction from the Lord,
Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:1-3, NASB)
Saul was to destroy Amalek completely; nobody or any of the possessions of Amalek was to be kept from destruction. Note that in Scripture Amalek is a type or symbol of the flesh-life. God wants the flesh destroyed (Romans 8:13). God knew the Amalekites, if not destroyed, would be a continuing stumbling block to the Israelites. Likewise the flesh leads us away from the will of God and gets us concentrating on fulfilling its lust (Romans 13:14). Our choice is simple: we can choose the life led by the Spirit or the life led by the flesh (Romans 8 versus Romans 7).
In the story Saul’s forces subsequently go up against the Amalekites and gain a victory.
But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:9, NKJV)
But a partial victory is no victory at all because Saul did not completely obey the Lord. Saul was not obedient to the directive of God. He personally made the decision to spare the best that was left of the Amalekites and their possessions while discarding the worthless. The text tells us he was unwilling obey. The self-will of Saul was controlling his decisions. When God gives us a command it is meant to be followed. Like Saul we can make our disobedience seem like obedience in our own minds. We can convince ourselves that what we willed is what God wills for us. Saul actually believed he was obedient to the Lord’s word as we see in the following text. God is disappointed in Saul, and Samuel was grieved:
“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night. Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 15:11-13, NASB, emphasis added)
What was Saul’s own assessment of his actions? He convinced himself that he carried out the command. This is a perfect example of self-righteousness because to Saul he was righteous; he thought he did the right thing. In fact he thought he went beyond what the Lord commanded. This is a danger to be understood: to go beyond what you are called to do is disobedience. It is too difficult to predict what God wants done next; it is much simpler to be obedient as you are directed moment by moment by the Holy Spirit. We can do too little and we can do too much. A good thing is not necessarily a God thing. Saul thought God desired a sacrifice rather than obedience, but the Scripture clearly teaches the opposite (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 51:11-15; and Micah 6:6-8),
Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” (1 Samuel 15:15, NASB)
Notice Saul points a finger at Israel to dissuade accountability. When we do not take care of the flesh, to kill it by nailing it to the Cross, we will have problems with it. As far as the Amalekites are concerned, Israel will have problems with them through the years. Saul was killed by an Amalekite. There was also the descendent of the Amalekites, Haman (Esther 3:1), who tried to wipe out the Jews in the Book of Esther. The flesh needs to be eradicated from our lives, and that is only done through the provision made to us by the blood of Jesus. Let us be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Read and meditate on the following verses and apply them to your life remembering the Lord wants obedience rather than your “sacrifice” for Him:
1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 51:16-17; Isaiah 51:11-15; and Micah 6:6-8.