THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Holy God, cause me to listen carefully, ponder thoughtfully, and commit wholeheartedly to you. I want to please you.
Read 1 Samuel 15:17-35
17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”
27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”
Agag came to him in chains.[a] And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
33 But Samuel said,
“As your sword has made women childless,
so will your mother be childless among women.”
And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Samuel 15:32 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Have mercy on me, O God … cleanse me from my sin.’1
This passage reminds me of a conversation one might have with a truculent child. ‘Why didn’t you do as you were told?’ ‘I did, Miss.’ ‘No, you didn’t.’ Samuel had his work cut out to convince Saul that he was in the wrong. It was only the stark message that his disobedience was as bad as divination and idolatry and that God had rejected him as king, that finally got through to him. He had mistakenly thought that offering sacrifices was all that God required. God has other ideas of what’s important! It’s a constant reminder to us that ceremony and ritual, and even daily quiet times and reading Encounter with God, can never replace total commitment to God. Even something we think of as a minor misdemeanor is as serious in God’s eyes as pagan worship, because it is putting something else in God’s place.
Samuel agreed in the end to go with Saul for face-saving reasons, but he finished the job Saul should have done and then separated from him, never again to meet with him.2 Saul must have been upset, but for Samuel it was devastating. He had nurtured Saul, encouraged him, anointed him, walked with him through so much – and now he could only grieve. Saul had passed the point of no return.
Does this mean that God cannot forgive sin? After all, Saul’s successor David sinned greatly and was forgiven. The difference was that David knew it and truly repented.3 Saul, on the other hand, felt remorse when he realized what the consequences of his disobedience were, but remorse is not repentance. Remorse is self-centered. Repentance is God-centered. Even if God forgave him, he would have to live with the consequences. Sin always leaves consequences.
Does this passage speak to you about something you need to face up to and truly repent of?
Lord, walking with you can be a struggle. Remind me that I battle not for victory but from victory, a victory won by you at Calvary.
1 Ps 51:1,2 2 Except after Samuel’s death through the dubious medium of Endor, 1 Sam 28 3 Read 2 Sam 12 and Ps 51
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