There is a popular idiom that says “The devil is in the details.” This is usually used when something small, but important, is overlooked. This is why you have attorneys look over contracts for you or get a second opinion from a different doctor because sometimes what one person misses, another will catch. Likewise, God often gives very specific instruction and it is up to us to take heed to what he is saying. Just as often though, we mess that up. This is a common issue as old as time (literally). Adam and Eve were given very specific instructions (Genesis 2:15) that they failed to follow. While that case is often looked at as blatant disobedience, there is another common thread that I have seen in my study time. The serpent made Eve believe that God’s specific instructions were subjective. There are so many times in the Bible that not following God’s instructions cost the person everything that they had or were working toward. Adam and Eve were removed from the garden and severely punished, Moses lost his ability to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:2-12), and our focus for today, King Saul and how his good intentions still pushed him out of God’s will.
Our reading is going to be in 1st Samuel Chapter 15. At this point God is getting ready to take vengeance on the Amalekites for their treatment of the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. The instructions were simple, kill and destroy everything. Every man, woman, child, animal, etc. should be killed. Saul leads the people in battle and of course, they are victorious but they decided to spare the king of the Amalekites as well as keep the best of the livestock. The Bible says that they kept all that appealed to them and only really destroyed what was worthless or of poor quality. God spoke to Samuel and said that he was sorry he ever made Saul the king. I have to add, for context, that Saul had already messed up before by operating on his own and sacrificing a burnt offering before a battle with the Philistines. He was supposed to wait on Samuel to sacrifice the offering but became impatient because his men were growing restless. After that, God told Saul that his reign as king would stop with him, and that it wouldn’t go to his son (1 Samuel 13:13-14). Saul had a knack for doin the right thing, the wrong way. In this case of the Amalekites, Saul tries to justify the situation by saying that they were going to make sacrifices to the Lord from the plunder because they kept the best of everything. There are two problems with this logic though. First of all, why did he spare the Amalekite king Agag? That is literally the enemy. But secondly, and most importantly, that’s not what the instructions were. They were to destroy everything. Saul was operating in what he thought was best but ultimately it caused him to be rejected by God as king of the Israelites.
Isn’t it interesting that both of Saul’s rebukes came because of a sacrifice to God? This is where one of the most misused scriptures by Christian parents across the world comes from. In 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel replies, “what is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission is better than offering of the rams fat” This verse is often used by parents to say that because you weren’t obedient, you now have to sacrifice the thing you wanted but in Saul’s case, the sacrifice was the disobedience. Saul’s intentions were good but his but his execution of God’s will was poor.
What things in your life are you operating in your own will? What is that thing that God has told you to do and you’re “waiting on the right time” Or you feel that you know a better way or more efficient way to do that thing? I challenge you this week to spend time in God’s presence and to hear from him as to what he would have you to do remembering that God’s major blessings are often in the minor details of our obedience.