“Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel, Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:1
Saul was Israel’s first king. He was good looking and the Bible describes him as being head and shoulders above all others in Israel. We’d say today, perhaps, that he was tall, dark and handsome. As we look upon his reign as king, it does not take very long to discover his true character. Perhaps, looking through the lens of the Biblical account, and seeing it in light of that revelation, we might say that King Saul was a man who was convicted of dereliction of duty.
God gave King Saul very specific and concise things that he was to do. Make no mistake about it, there was no mincing of words here whereby he couldn’t know what God’s will was for him.
Alas, a man such as Saul, weak in character and failing to complete the assigned mission, gives a perfect example of a bumbling leader attempting to place the blame of his disobedience upon those to whom he was to lead.
When the prophet Samuel confronts Saul, his faithlessness in the aftermath of the battle becomes irrefutable. Saul tells Samuel that he has performed the commandment of the Lord. Samuel responds, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (Saul was commanded to destroy all the sheep and all the cattle.) Then we see a typical response from those who are caught in a lie: they then add to the aggravation by excusing their failure upon others. You realize that it is always easier to blame someone else for your failures, so that you can look good in the eyes of others. This time it did not work for Saul. Saul tells Samuel that ‘the people’ had brought them from the Amalekites, “for the people had spared the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” Samuel then said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” Samuel reminds him of his childhood and how the Lord had anointed him king over Israel, and had sent him on a specific mission. He asks, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”
Saul’s response is lacking in full truthfulness and he is found out. He tries telling Samuel that he had saved the best of the animals to sacrifice to the “Lord your God in Gilgal.”
So Samuel said, “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.”
Samuel stated a most essential Old Testament truth. God desires heart obedience over everything else.
And still, King Saul, would have had a different response from Samuel if he had done but one thing…..even after his failure. Justifying himself, he failed to confess his sin and repent. As a result of his stubbornness and rebellion, Samuel informs him that, “because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being King.”
The lesson is clear. To obey is better than sacrifice. King Saul was deposed from the throne of Israel because of his disobedience.