Fake or Faith?

Posted: September 24, 2009 in 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 15-16, “Fake or Faith?”

Does this sound familiar? “I don’t want anything to do with the church! It’s just filled with a bunch of religious hypocrites!” Technically, churches are filled with a bunch of sinners…who have thrown themselves upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. But it is all-too-common to find people that truly could be considered “religious hypocrites” – those who put on a really good show for God, but don’t give a whit about Him in truth. They’ve got a fake face while in the church building, but show something completely different during the week. We’ve all met them…and perhaps we’ve even been one in the past.

Question: we may try to put on a show, but is it really possible to fool God? Of course not! People may think they can trick God into believing their worship is sincere, but God sees our hearts & He knows the difference. Case in point? Saul vs. David. It didn’t take long for Saul to start putting on a religious show for the people, by bringing an unlawful sacrifice before battle just say he brought something…in fact, his son Jonathan demonstrated far more faith than his father by trusting the Lord’s mighty power instead of trusting himself. In Ch 15-16, we see this again. Saul disregards the command of God, and God takes away the kingdom from him & gives it to another: a man after God’s own heart – someone who (in the midst of all his flaws) will continue to throw himself upon the grace of God & come to Him by faith.

1 Samuel 15 (NKJV)
1 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. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

A. God is still ultimately in control – Saul is king at God’s command & by God’s will. Saul had forgotten his place in Ch 13, and Samuel is giving him another chance…

B. God gave Saul very clear directions: go destroy everything that is of Amalek. There’s nothing left out here: men, women, children, and animals were all to be destroyed. It’s so specific that Saul has no room to come back & claim he didn’t understand what God was talking about. (Keep this in mind for later.)

C. What’s behind God’s punishment of Amalek? The battle they had against Israel in the wilderness. They had ambushed Israel along the way, picking off the weak ones in the back (Deut 25:18), and Moses sent Joshua to battle them. [arms raised – victory] Exodus 17:14-16 (14) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (15) And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner; (16) for he said, “Because the Lord has sworn: the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” []
__a. Amalek is often symbolic of the “flesh”… No different here. God had called Saul to battle against the flesh; instead Saul is going to compromise with it. Saul may win the battle, but he’ll lose the war in the process… We don’t compromise with the flesh!

4 So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

A. Mercy to the Kenites… The Kenites had often been friendly with Israel & Saul didn’t want them to get caught in the crossfire. (One of the good things Saul did!)

7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 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.

A. Flagrant disobedience! Saul destroyed a bunch of people, but left the king of the Amalekites alive & kept back the spoils of the battle for himself & his army. On one hand, this was a common practice among kings of the day – Saul wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. But that’s the point: he WAS supposed to be doing something out of the ordinary! God had given him very specific commands & expected Saul to carry them out.
__a. BTW: this kind of destruction sounds pretty brutal to us today. Killing the men we understand, but the women, children, & animals too? Is that overkill? (literally) Not when God commands it. The Amalekites were a very wicked people & God in His righteousness judged them & wanted to use Israel as a vessel to pour out His judgment. But we can trust that God was doing what was right, simply because He is God… (preventing future generations from experiencing that kind of evil)

B. Why did Saul hold back from destroying everything, as the Lord had commanded him? Because some of it was “good.” … Saul fought for himself, his benefit & his glory; not God’s. As before, Saul forgot his place & exalted himself above God.
__a. Loving God always comes 1st!

10 Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.

A. Can the Lord God actually regret something? Apparently so. Be careful not to imagine that God made a mistake; that’s not the case at all. God absolutely did choose Saul for a time, even though God had someone else in mind all along. Choosing Saul was not a mistake; Saul’s sins were the mistake – and God regretted that His chosen servant was acting in such a sinful way.
__a. Sometimes human language falls short of describing the aspects of our infinite God. “Regret” is simply the best way of describing what took place. Something similar took place with the golden calf incident at Sinai (Exo 32:14) – God “relented” from destroying Israel. It’s not that God changed His mind; it’s that He altered His response to the people based on Moses’ intercession. But human language falls short in describing this…

B. Note this wasn’t a minor indulgence in the eyes of God. Saul didn’t just have a “weak spot”; this was rebellion against the God who made Saul king! “He has turned back from following Me.” In essence, Saul (like the people before him) committed treason against the Lord God of Israel. (In essence, that’s what ALL sin is: rebellion against Almighty God…)

C. What was Samuel’s response? Grief. … This ought to be all of our response towards sin. Sometimes our pride gets in the way, and we actually rejoice to see some people fall: “They deserved it! Good!” Wrong. It’s good to rejoice in God’s perfect justice and work, but we ought to grieve over what God grieves over. … It’s never a good thing to see a Christian fall. … When we see someone sin, we ought to pray for their repentance & restoration!

12 So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” 13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” [Blatant lie!] 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 15 And 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; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

A. Saul has to know he’s lying to Samuel…after all, he built a monument to flaunt his own excess & disobedience. Samuel doesn’t let him off the hook…

B. If the lie wasn’t bad enough, Saul tries to justify his disobedience by claiming he did all this for God & sacrificial worship… … No he didn’t! He kept the sheep because they were “good” and he wanted to grow wealthy off of the battle. It doesn’t matter how Saul tries to dress it up now, he cannot get away from the fact that he willfully ignored the direct command of God.
__a. No matter how hard people try, we will never be able to justify our sin in the sight of God. “Oh God, you know how bad I needed this job. I needed to lie on my resume!” “But my spouse just doesn’t pay me any attention – I’ve got needs to satisfy!” [Lipstick on a pig] … And we especially cannot use ‘worship’ as the excuse!

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.” 17 So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? 18 Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?”

A. Samuel reminded Saul of his source: God. It wasn’t Saul that had “earned” the position of being king; God was the one who took him from his father’s house & made him king. Before Samuel anointed him, Saul couldn’t even find a handful of donkeys. Everything that he had came from the Lord.
__a. So often, that’s what we have to remember. Without Jesus, we have nothing!

B. Samuel reminded Saul of his orders. Saul had been given a specific word from the Lord God, and Saul deliberately disobeyed.

20 And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

A. Question: HAD Saul obeyed? He did part of what the Lord commanded; but he didn’t do it all. … If we break one part of the law, we’re guilty of it all (Jas 2:10).
__a. This is why we come by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus! No matter how hard we try, we can never be perfect on our own – and that’s exactly what God requires (Matt 5:48). It’s when we come by faith to Jesus Christ that He gives us HIS perfection & we are made right in the sight of God!

B. What should Saul have done? Taken responsibility & repented. What DID Saul do? Blame others… [just say “I’m sorry; it won’t happen again”] Excuses will never justify us – only the forgiveness of Jesus will. The good news is that His forgiveness is readily available! (1 John 1:9)

22 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, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

A. Did Samuel just say that works are better than worship?! What about being saved by grace through faith?! We ARE saved by grace through faith. Works do not save us, nor is it possible to make ourselves righteous in the sight of God through obeying the law… … BUT our faith has to be more than window dressing. Singing “I love You Lord,” doesn’t make a hill of beans worth of difference if by our actions we show that we hate Him…
__a. [David’s disobedience] Psalm 51:16-17 (16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise. []

B. The result of Saul’s disobedience? God rejected him as king. ‘Didn’t this already happen in Ch 13?’ Not really – in 1 Sam 13:13, God took the dynasty away from Saul (his kingdom wouldn’t be established forever). In Ch 15, God takes the present kingdom from his hand. Saul would still rule as king until the day he dies, but the people would know that God’s favor was removed from him & that God had already chosen another leader…

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

A. Dramatic! Question: was Saul truly repenting? Probably not. He was sorry that he was experiencing the consequences of his actions, but he still didn’t take responsibility for himself. Still blaming the people… Godly sorrow leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:10). Saul was sorry about the consequences God was dealing out to him; he wasn’t sorry that he had sinned against God. [Compare with David]

B. Repeated: Saul rejected the Lord; the Lord rejected Saul as king… Question: why was David (the neighbor) “better” than Saul? Because David relied upon the grace of God. Saul tried to show himself to be a big religious leader; David would consistently respond in humility & seeking the Lord’s face. IOW, it wasn’t anything David did that made him “better”; David simply had a better faith because it was a sincere faith in God.

C. Who is God? He is the “Strength of Israel” – and He is strong not only in His omnipotence & might; He is also strong & steadfast in His conviction. God had declared that Saul would no longer be king & that was going to stand. Why? Because God doesn’t lie. Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? []
__a. This is not a contradiction with God regretting making Saul king. God certainly didn’t lie to Saul when raising him to the throne; God didn’t shortchange Saul in any way. Nor did God do the wrong thing when He took the kingdom away from Saul. God’s interaction with Saul changed due to Saul’s sin; but God was steadfast the entire time.
__b. God keeps ALL His promises. Both the ones we like & the ones we don’t…

30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” 31 So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.

A. Why did Samuel change his mind & worship with Saul? Perhaps in order to avoid out & out rebellion among the people. Perhaps just to get an audience in front of Agag the Amalekite king.

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

A. Samuel finished the job that Saul wouldn’t do…
B. THAT’s the response we should have with our flesh! Nothing good comes from the flesh – there can be no compromise with the flesh… The only way to deal with it is to kill it off; reckon it dead (Rom 6:11).

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

A. Mourning for Saul…
B. God’s regret… Interesting this is repeated so many times. Scripture makes it clear we can grieve the Holy Spirit by our actions (Eph 4:30). Perhaps God had a similar emotion to Samuel in response to Saul’s sin.

1 Samuel 16 (NKJV)
1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

A. In the midst of all this tragedy, God still had a plan. He had already chosen the next king! …

2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” 4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him!” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

A. How does man choose? By the outside. Samuel was looking at the same qualifications that he had seen in Saul (1 Sam 10:23-24)… How does God choose? By the inside. “the LORD looks at the heart.” There’s no fooling God. There’s no amount of religious ritual that is going to be able to trick God into thinking we’re someone we’re not. He sees our hearts & He knows what He wants to do with us.
__a. If this is how God sees us, we ought to strive to see one another in the same way. Too often, we judge the outside, without taking the time to see what a person is really like on the inside.

B. For some of us, this can be a scary thing. “God knows my heart?! Then He knows what kind of a vile sinner I am!” He does – but that’s where the good news of the gospel comes in! When we trust Jesus by faith for forgiveness of sin, He gives us a new life – He makes us into new creations – He changes our heart to be like Christ’s…

8 So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”

A. David wasn’t even in the running. His father thought David was the least likely of all to be chosen. … So are we! We are the foolish things of the world that God has chosen to confound the wise (1 Cor 1:27).

12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

A. Anointing with oil symbolized the anointing of the Holy Spirit…

14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

A. “The Holy Spirit can depart from someone?! Yikes!” Before we get too far in this, we need to understand the difference between the work of the Holy Spirit today & what it meant for the Spirit to “come upon” someone in the OT. In the OT, it was almost always temporary – the Spirit would come upon someone for a short time to empower them for battle, or to equip them to rule, etc. In the NT, the work of the Spirit is quite different. There are several permanent works: believers are born of the Spirit – indwelt by the Spirit – sealed by the Spirit – the Spirit serves as our guarantee… At the same time, there are some works that are to be repeated or be ongoing – such as the filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18)…

B. When the Holy Spirit “departed” from Saul, Saul was no longer God’s chosen king, and the Holy Spirit took away any empowerment or protection He had previously given to him. Strictly in the OT sense. The closest scenario we would have today would be if God removed someone from a particular office & never restored them. But a true born-again believer would never completely “lose” the Holy Spirit.

C. A “distressing spirit” came. Where did it come from? The LORD! Did God actually do evil here? Of course not. With the protection of the Holy Spirit removed from Saul, God allowed the evil spirit to “trouble” Saul – perhaps even possess him at times. Keep in mind that even though demons are in rebellion against God, they are still at the whim of God. When Jesus cast them out, they had to leave – they had no choice. When Satan tested Job, he could only do so when God allowed him to – and he couldn’t do any more than what God allowed.

D. Beyond the fact that the distressing spirit came from God, it’s worth noting that God allowed Saul to be distressed. … Sometimes we think that unless we’re happy & peaceful, everything else is brought on from the enemy as an attack. Not necessarily! God allowed Saul to be distressed; this was part of His chastisement upon Saul to bring him to repentance…

15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” 18 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul.

A. Note even the servants of the king recognized that the distressing spirit had come from God. Saul’s religious hypocrisy was obvious to the people around him & they could tell when the anointing of God had left him.

B. Interesting that before Samuel anointed David, he was just a ruddy kid in the field with the sheep. Now he’s a “mighty man of valor”… Apparently, as young as he was, he had already proved himself in battle (there’ve been several opportunities in 1 Sam so far!). Considering that people in Saul’s court already knew of David’s reputation, it makes Jesse’s dismissal of his son all the more poignant.

21 So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. 22 Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.”

A. It wouldn’t always be like this, but at one point, Saul loved David…

23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.

A. Under spiritual attack? Spend time in worship!

We come to God in humble reverence by faith. Everything Saul did in his “religion” was for show. Saul attempted to use the things of God just for his own selfish benefit without regard to the glory of God. That’s not how it was supposed to be…

God calls us by His grace. Before David (or any of his family) even had an inkling that God wanted to use him, God knew He wanted to use David – God already had a plan for him.

How are you coming to God? Are you relying on His grace by faith? … Or have you been trying to fool God into thinking you’re more religious than you are? We have nothing without Jesus Christ – but we have everything in Him! May we be the ones who are done with fake religious stuff & instead be those who worship God in spirit & truth…


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