Saul Disobeys God

I Sam. 13-15   Review Activities for this Lesson

Saul made a good beginning as Israel’s first king. We talked about his great humility at first, how he could not believe God had actually chosen him. Later when the time came to meet the people, he was so shy he hid behind some baggage. Saul was also forgiving toward those who rebelled against him. He knew having peace was more important than taking revenge. Knowing these good things about Saul’s early years makes his sad ending hard to understand. The bad times started when the Philistines came up against Israel again, this time at Michmash near Gilgal. Israel’s army was weak and had poor weapons. All of the blacksmiths had been captured earlier, only Saul and his son Jonathan had iron swords and shields.

The Philistines had 30,000 iron chariots, along with 6,000 horsemen and too many foot soldiers to be counted. How do you think that made the Israelites feel? Most were terrified and hid out in pits and caves around the countryside.

Some finally came trembling to join Saul at Gilgal for the battle, but there was a problem there, too. Samuel had promised to meet Saul and offer a sacrifice before the attack. Yet they waited seven days and Samuel did not come. Saul began to get worried. What should he do now? He didn’t want to fight without asking God’s help, but he was not supposed to offer a sacrifice himself. Only men from the tribe of Levi were supposed to do that, and he was from the tribe of Benjamin.

When his men began to get restless and leave, Saul decided to go on and offer the sacrifice anyway. “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me,” he offered. Then, soon as he had finished with the burnt offering, Samuel came.

The old prophet was horrified and demanded, “What have you done?” Saul tried to explain what had happened, but Samuel would not listen. “You have done foolishly!” he exclaimed. “You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God which he commanded you.”

God spoke through Samuel to tell Saul he would take the kingdom away from him. The he would raise up for himself a man after his own heart, one who would obey him. For the time being, though, God allowed Saul to go on being king over Israel.

Saul should have learned from his mistake, but he didn’t. Sometime later he disobeyed God again. This time he was fighting against the Amalekites, the fierce desert nation which had attacked Moses at Rephidim, to stop the Israelites from going into Canaan.

Because they had fought his people then, God wanted Saul to destroy the Amalekites now and everything they had. By this time Israel had a large army and they defeated the Amalekites easily. However, Saul didn’t obey God’s command to completely destroy them. Instead, he saved their king Agag, along with the best sheep and oxen.
How foolish Saul was to disobey God! What would happen now? God told Samuel what Saul had done, saying he was sorry he had ever made him king. This upset Samuel so much he cried to God all night because of Saul’s disobedience.

Sick at heart, Samuel went out to meet Saul the next day. Imagine his surprise when Saul acted as if everything were fine! “Blessed are you of the Lord!” Saul greeted Samuel. “I have performed the commandment of the Lord!” Of course Saul wasn’t telling the truth. “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Samuel wanted to know.

Saul quickly began to make excuses, blaming the people for bringing back King Agag and saving the best animals to sacrifice.

But Samuel told Saul obeying the Lord was more important than any sacrifice. On that very day God had taken the kingdom from him and given it to another man who was better than Saul. And Samuel would not pray for Saul any more.