1 Samuel 15: Lessons from God’s Judgment of the Amalekites and Saul on God Judgment of Sin

Introduction: In chapter 15, God judged first the Amalekites and then Saul. Each rebelled against God and refused to repent out of pride. God also gave each an opportunity to repent before He judged them. From this chapter, God reveals seven lessons about His judgments.

First, God gave the Amalekites 400 years to repent before He judged them of their sins. He also previously gave the other inhabitants of the Promised Land 400 years to repent before He judged them. From this, God reveals that He is slow to anger and quick to forgive before judging sin. Second, Saul acted with disobedience and only partially implemented God’s judgment against the Amalekites. The Amalekites symbolized the flesh, which is at war with the Spirit. Unlike Saul, God wants you to judge without mercy the desires of the flesh in your life. Third, before judging Saul for his disobedience, God felt regret and sadness. Because God loves us, He also feels regret and sadness before having to judge any unrepentant sinner. Fourth, Saul failed to repent of his sins. Instead, he built a monument to himself out of pride. He also lied about his sins when confronted. His pride would lead to his downfall. From this, God reveals that a person with unrepentant pride and lies will bring judgment upon himself. Fifth, Saul tried to justify his rebellion against God by alleging that some of the improperly obtained plunder would be sacrificed to God. Samuel called his sacrifices worthless and analogized Saul’s rebellion to sorcery. From this, God reveals that self-interested sacrifice while a person is rebelling against God will not atone for sin. Only faith in Jesus and repentance will do that. Sixth, Saul tried to repent. But he quickly blamed others. He also then begged for Samuel to help him with his reputation in front of Israel. His failure to genuinely repent led to God’s judgment regarding the loss of his kingdom. Both he and Israel would suffer from the Amalekites that he refused to kill. From this, God reveals that a false repentance will not save you from pain and sorrow. Finally, Samuel carried out God’s judgment upon the Amalekite king that Saul refused to kill. From this, God reveals that His warnings of judgment will always come true without repentance and faith in Christ. This should motivate believers to urge non-believers everywhere to repent.

1. God is Slow to Anger and Quick to Forgive Before Judging Sin. 1 Sam. 15:1-3.

  • God’s directive for Saul to destroy the Amalekites. Because of the war that the Amalekites waged against the Jews when they escaped from Egypt, God ordered Saul to be the instrument of His judgment against them. “Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’’” (1 Sam. 15:1-3). God always planned for the Jews to be His instrument of justice against the Amalekites. But He waited 400 years to give them a chance to repent of their sins.

Samuel commanded Saul to carry out God’s judgment against the Amalekites1

  • The Amalekites’ 400-year opportunity to repent. The Amalekites attacked the Jews approximately 400 years earlier when they had just escaped from Egypt (Ex. 17:8-11). The Amalekites were a people of great warriors who lived as nomads in the deserts south of Negev. They were such mighty warriors that they caused the 10 spies to believe that the Jews could not invade the Promised Land (Dt. 9:2). After many Jews rebelled and made the “sin of presumption” that God would protect not them if they invaded the Promised Land, the Amalekites joined with the Canaanites to slay those Jews (Nu. 14:39-45). Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:12; 1 Chr. 1:36). God hated Esau’s descendants (Mal. 1:2-3), because they were symbolic of a life of the flesh and Satan’s evil reign on Earth. After giving the Jews victory, God promised to wage an unending war against the Amalekites: “14 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ 15 Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner [Jehovah-Nissi]; 16 and he said, ‘The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”’ (Ex. 17:14-16). Before his death, Moses advised that they would be the instrument of God’s judgment against the Amalekites after they were settled in the Promised Land. “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.” (Dt. 25:17-19). Through Balaam, God also warned of the destruction of the Amalekites. “And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, ‘Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.”’ (Nu. 24:20). Here, to fulfill His Word, God ordered Saul to act as His avenger against the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:18, 3). Some might question why God punished these people. Yet, because He is just, He must judge sin. But He gives sinners and sinful nations every possible chance to repent.

  • God is slow to anger and quick to forgive. The fact that God waited 400 years to fulfill this punishment shows that He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He only judged the Amalekites because they refused to repent. “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, . . .”’ (Ex. 34:6-7). “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” (Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 116:5). Jesus never changes (Heb. 13:8). He is slow to anger and quick to forgive because He wants all to come to repentance: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro. 2:4). If you have escaped judgment for your sins, repent without further delay.

  • God’s similar judgments upon the prior inhabitants of the Promised Land. God also told Abraham that he would use His people to judge the Amorites after 400 years. “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (Gen. 15:16). Approximately 400 years later after the Amorites failed to repent, God commanded the Jews to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan for their sins: “and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.” (Dt. 7:2, 16). “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” (Dt. 20:16). Only the women and children were allowed to live (Dt. 20:14). After the Jews invaded, Joshua partially fulfilled God’s command to destroy these tribes: “11 They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. . . .14 All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. 15 Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Josh. 11:11-15). These verses do not condone modern holy wars or religious cleansing. These were one-time commands for when the Jews took the Promised Land. In the future, God will judge the nations directly. If God separately judged the Amalekites and the Amorites after giving each 400 years to repent, the western world should not feel immune from His punishment if it continues to reject Him. The Church must warn what awaits. If the Church fails to warn others what is coming, it has lost its saltiness. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13).

2. God Wants You to Judge Without Mercy the Flesh in Your Life. 1 Sam. 15:4-9.

  • Saul’s disobedience in destroying all of the Amalekites and their possessions. As king and as a Jew, Saul would have understood the historical significance in fulfilling God’s judgment. Yet, for political reasons, he spared the Amalekite king and allowed the Jews to keep much of the spoils of victory: “Then Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. Saul said to the Kenites, ‘Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt.’ So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 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 not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” (1 Sam. 15:4-9). When Saul told the Kenites to depart, he showed he knew of his duty to kill the Amalekites. He wanted to give them the chance to avoid being killed in the battle. Thus, he had no excuse in allowing King Agag and the best of his animals to survive. Some might wonder why the animals had to die. But the Jews were serving as the instruments of God’s justice. Allowing the Jews to keep the animals would have allowed the Jews to profit off of God’s judgment.

  • Saul’s failure to fear God by hating evil. God had previously disciplined Saul for his sins by taking away his right to have a dynasty (1 Sam. 13:13-14). By ignoring God’s directions again, Saul showed that he did not fear God, which is the beginning of all wisdom and knowledge (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7). God frequently engages in progressive discipline. Believers like Saul frequently force God to institute more severe discipline because they ignore His more mild discipline. Are you forcing God to institute severe forms of discipline by ignoring His less severe attempts to reach you?

  • Judge your own flesh and make no provision for it. These battles also have relevance in to spiritual warfare every believer faces. Like the people who waged war against the Jews, your flesh is also at war with the Spirit for control of your body. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12). Like the Jews, you must make no provision for the flesh: “. . . put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). The lusts of the flesh can also defile you (Mk. 7:20). When you give into the lusts of the flesh, you let the ruler of this world control you: “[T]he lust of the flesh . .. is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16; Ro. 8:8). Moreover, without Christ, “. . . flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 15:50; Ro. 8:6, 13). You must hold your unclean thoughts captive or you may act upon them and become corrupted: “one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption . . .” (Gal. 6:8). When you do sin, repent and seek the Lord each day to renew your mind (Ro. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:15).

Saul captured the King of the Amalekite but refused to carry out God’s judgment2

  • Wage war against your flesh the way that God set Himself against the Amalekites. God will also wage war against the flesh generation after generation until He ultimately blots it out. The good news is that He will also blot out any memory of your sins of the flesh. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Is. 43:25; Jer. 31:34; 50:20; Ps. 103:12). “For I will be Merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12, 17). Are you giving thanks for God’s mercy and grace or using it as an excuse to sin more?

  • God blesses those who protect God’s people. God promised to Abraham that He would bless those who bless him and curse those who cursed him. “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). God showed Himself true to His promises when He cursed the Amalekites for trying to curse the Jews. He also showed Himself true to His promises by protecting the Kenites after they previously protected the Jews (1 Sam. 15:6). Balaam also previously blessed the Kenites because they had shown kindness to Israel. “And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, ‘Your dwelling place is enduring, and your nest is set in the cliff.”’ (Nu. 24:12). These verses again should serve as a warning to the western world. Those nations which oppress God’s people, like Nazi Germany, will be crushed. In contrast, those nations which bless God’s people will also be blessed. Believers must ensure that their country stands behind Israel.

3. Because God Loves Us, He Regrets Having to Judge Any Sinner. 1 Sam. 15:10-11.

  • God’s regret regarding Saul’s rebellion. Because Saul’s refusal to either listen to God’s Word or His prior discipline, he deeply grieved God in sadness. “10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.” (1 Sam. 15:10-11). God used similar expressions of regret and sadness just before He judged the world with the Flood.

  • God regrets the sins of all mankind because He loves us. Just as He did with Saul, God felt regret at mankind when it engaged continuously evil acts in Noah’s day: “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’” (Gen. 6:6-7). God’s expression of regret causes some to feel uncomfortable. But this shows that He is not a remote and unfeeling God. Your acts of faith and charity also bring Him joy. In contrast, when you intentionally sin, you cause Him grief.

  • Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. Just as God expresses regret and sadness for mankind’s wickedness in the Old Testament, believers can “grieve” the Holy Spirit when they engage in evil acts. “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; . . .” (Is. 63:10(a)). “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert!” (Ps. 78:40). “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30). Is your conduct causing the Holy Spirit grief or joy?

4. A Person’s Pride, Lies, and Unrepentant Sins Will Bring Judgment. 1 Sam. 15:12-20.

  • Saul’s monument to himself, his lies, and his attempts to then justify his sins against God. Upon seeing Samuel, Saul should have immediately repented. Instead, he compounded his sins of disobedience with even worse sins. “12 Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, ‘Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.’ 13 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.’ 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 Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.’ 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ And he said to him, ‘Speak!17 Samuel said, ‘Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?’ 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.’” (1 Sam. 15:12-20). Saul’s sins included pride, disobedience, lies, and a failure to repentant. His sins serve as a warning to all.

Saul lied to Samuel3

  • Don’t let God’s victories in your life turn into personal pride. Saul was once a humble man who did not want to be king (1 Sam. 9:21; 10:22). Thus, Samuel referred to Saul as once having been “little in your own eyes.” (1 Sam. 15:17). But pride quickly grew in him once God made him king. His pride caused him to build a monument to himself and not to God (1 Sam. 15:12). By doing this, he followed in the footsteps of Gideon. Gideon also started off as a humble man and then built a monument to himself after God used him to defeat the Midianites: “Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.” (Jdgs. 8:27). Are you taking credit for God’s victories?

  • Satan is the father of pride. Pride is an inflated view of yourself. Pride can also cause you to covet power or prestige and rebel (Isa. 1:23). Satan was blessed with great beauty as one of God’s angels. But his pride caused him to be jealous of and covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Pride puts you in communion with the father of the world, not your Father in heaven: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16). Jesus also reveals that pride is one of the sins that will defile a person: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). Pride caused Miriam to become defiled like a leper in God’s eyes (Nu. 12:10; Dt. 24:9). Like Miriam, King Uzziah also turned into a leper when, out of pride and coveting, he tried to take on the dual role of the King and High Priest, which God had separated (2 Chron. 26:19-21). You are to be an imitator of Christ, not Satan (1 Thess. 1:6; 1 Cor. 11:1). Is there pride in your heart?

  • Satan is also the father of lies. Saul’s spiritual blindness caused him to first lie about his sins and then seek to justify them. He then lied again after being confronted. “20 Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the Lord,. . .” (1 Sam. 15:20). His lies broke the Ninth Commandment (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). His pride and his lies also caused him to fall out of fellowship with God. This was made clear when he referred to Yahweh as Samuel’s God: “for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God;” (1 Sam. 15:15). At this point, God’s truth was not in him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;” (1 Jo. 2:4). He was in communion with Satan, the father of all liars. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Is there any area where you are in communion with Satan?

  • Lies are one of the things that God “hates”. Lies are also amongst the evil sins that God “hates.” “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16-19). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Prov. 22:22). “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13; Ps. 97:10). Do your words honor God?

  • Unrepentant sin will cause you to rationalize and blame others for your actions. Sin can harden your heart when you embrace it (Rom. 7:11; Heb. 3:13). Like Saul, neither Adam nor Eve repented of their sins. Instead, they blamed others for their own actions. Adam first blamed Eve for eating the prohibited fruit. He then blamed God for giving Eve to him. Eve then blamed the serpent for her actions (Gen. 3:11-13). Have you allowed the devil to rationalize your sins and rebellions against God?

  • Don’t let disobedience and pride cause you to be spiritually blind like Saul. Saul was once a Spirit-led believer who prophesied God’s Word (1 Sam. 10:9-13). When the Spirit came upon him, Saul also rallied the Jews in Israel to free the Jews in Jordan when they were under Ammonite oppression (1 Sam. 11:5-8). Yet, Saul had become blind to his own sins. He falsely boasted that he had “utterly destroyed the Amalekites” when the Amalekite king was right in front of him (1 Sam. 15:20). When you walk in open rebellion, it won’t be long before your rebellion or sin becomes invisible to you.

5. Self-Interested Sacrifice Will Not Atone for Your Rebellion or Sin. 1 Sam. 15:21-23.

  • God’s warning against self-interested sacrifice and rebellion. Because his heart was not right, Samuel scolded Saul for offering worthless sacrifices. “21 But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’ 22 Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as much 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 divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”’ (1 Sam. 15:21-23). Saul blamed the people for taking plunder when it was within his power to stop it. He was willing to execute his son for breaking an oath that he felt dishonored him (1 Sam. 14:43-35). But he was unwilling to punish any of his people when they rejected God’s Word. Their plan for sacrifices was simply an excuse to justify their improper plunder.

Obedience should be the fruit of your faith4

  • God desires righteousness, justice, loyalty, and love before sacrifice. Sacrifice can be a great expression of your love for God. Yet, sacrifice is meaningless if your heart is not right. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3). “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, . . .” (Prov. 15:8). ‘“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ Says the LORD. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.”’ (Is. 1:11). “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hos. 6:6). Jesus also observed: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matt. 12:7). And He clarified that loving your neighbor as yourself “is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mk. 12:33). When volunteering, do you do so with the right motives?

  • Offer sacrifices with a humble heart. When you offer sacrifices, make sure that they are done with a humble heart and as an expression of your love and gratitude. “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:16-17). If you boast in your sacrifices, you have received your reward before mankind (Matt. 6:2). When you give money or volunteer your time, do you boast of it for others to see?

  • Rebellion against God is no better than witchcraft in His eyes. Samuel warned that rebellion is a sin that is no better than divination and witchcraft: “23 ‘For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”’ (1 Sam. 15:23). Thus, believers should not treat rebellion against God’s Word lightly. Is there any area in your life where you have rejected the direction of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit?

  • Only faith in Christ’s sacrifice and genuine repentance can atone for your sins. The Bible is clear you can never atone for your own sins through your works or sacrifices. Only through your redeemer Christ is your salvation possible (Ro. 3:9-12; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:23-24). If you confess and repent of “unrighteousness,” God is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9; Jo. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). Is there any area where you need to repent?

6. A False Repentance Will Not Save You From Pain and Sorrow. 1 Sam. 15:24-31.

  • Saul’s judgment for his unrepentant sins. After repeatedly rejecting God’s Word, God judged Saul by removing his kingdom from him. “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.’ 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to 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 As Samuel turned to go, 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 your neighbor, who is better than you. 29 Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.’ 30 Then he said, ‘I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.’ 31 So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.” (1 Sam. 15:22-31). Some might assume that Saul’s regret should have lifted his punishment. But his regret was not the same thing as real repentance.

Samuel issued God’s judgment against Saul5

Saul pleaded for God’s judgment to be lifted6

  • Saul’s false repentance. For several reasons, Saul’s repentance was not real. First, immediately after confessing his sin he again blamed others for his actions when he stated: “because I feared the people and listened to their voice.” (1 Sam. 15:24). If his repentance were real, he would have accepted full responsibility for his actions. Second, Saul begged for Samuel to “honor” him before Israel. “‘I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel,. . .” (1 Sam. 15:30). If his repentance were real, he would have focused on what God thought and not about his reputation before the people of Israel. Fearing the people and seeking their honor are two sides of the same sinful coin. “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). Finally, it appears that Saul meant to use his illicit booty for the sacrifices. For any of these reasons, his repentance was not genuine.

  • Rebellion leads to ongoing suffering. Because Saul refused to kill all the Amalekites, the Holy Spirit later left him and God allowed an evil spirit to torment him (1 Sam. 16:14-16; 18:10; 19:9). Because he failed to kill the Amalekites, they also continued to be a source of conflict with Israel. David had to fight with them later in this same book. “Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites; for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt.” (1 Sam. 27:8). “Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire;” (1 Sam. 30:1; 2 Sam. 8:12). An Amalekite also ultimately killed Saul (2 Sam. 1:8-10). Worst of all, the Jews were nearly exterminated at the hands of Haman, a descendant of the Amalekite King that Saul tried to spare. “After these events King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him.” (Esth. 3:1). We may not always understand the reasons for God’s directives. But we must trust that His directions are always good for us.

  • Jesus received His eternal Kingdom by letting go of it. Saul lost his kingdom when he tried to cling to it (1 Sam. 15:27-28). In contrast, God glorified Jesus with His eternal Kingdom when He voluntarily gave up His power for the good of mankind. He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7). Will you let go of worldly prestige for God’s greater rewards in heaven?

7. Without Repentance and Faith, God’s Judgment Will Come to Pass. 1 Sam. 15:32-35.

  • Samuel carries out God’s judgment against King Agag. To ensure that God’s judgment was carried out, Samuel personally executed King Agag: “32 Then Samuel said, ‘Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.’ And Agag came to him cheerfully. 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 hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal. 34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:32-35). King Agag came “cheerfully” because he believed that he would not be judged for his sins. But Samuel reminded him that his troops had committed atrocities in his name. Just as Samuel would carry out God’s judgment upon King Agag, God would later use the Jews to carry out His judgment upon the remaining Amalekites. “They destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites who escaped, and have lived there to this day.” (1 Chron. 4:43). God’s Word always comes true.

Gustave Dore (1832-1883) “The Death of Agag” (engraving - 1865)7

  • Mourn for those lost to sin. Even though Samuel would never see Saul again during Samuel’s final days, Samuel continued to grieve for Saul. God also felt regret for Saul’s wasted inheritance as Israel’s first king (1 Sam. 15:35). When others around you rebel and refuse to repent, God also wants you to mourn and pray for them.

  • Pray and fast for the unrepentant to repent and turn to Jesus. Some may claim that a just and loving God would never judge sinners. But He would not be just if He did not judge evil. God’s promise of future judgment should be treated as a certainty for those who refuse to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The horror of judgment should motivate believers everywhere to pray and fast for non-believers to repent and turn to Jesus. Sparing yourself from awkward looks or awkward conversations will not spare your non-believing friends from the pain that awaits.