The War With Amalek (1 Samuel 15) October 29
God had given instructions through Moses that the attack on Israel by Amalek during the first weeks of their journey from Egypt (see Exodus 17:8-16) should be avenged (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Israel has finally grown strong enough to do this, and Samuel instructs Saul to carry out the mission. The destruction is to be complete, including the animals.
The Kenites had a generally peaceful relationship with Israel. Moses' father-in-law is called a Kenite (Judges 1:16). Jael, who killed Sisera in the days of Deborah the judge (Judges 4:11, 17-22), was married to a Kenite. And apparently there had been other favorable encounters with Israel, prompting Saul to encourage them to escape before the fighting starts (1 Samuel 15:6).
Saul carries out a successful attack on the Amalekites. But he is "unwilling to utterly destroy them," leaving alive their king and the best of the livestock (verse 9). Interestingly, Saul maintains that he has obeyed God (verse 20). He does blame the people for keeping the livestock. Yet this was in his power. He could have ordered the livestock destroyed. But it evidently made sense to him to preserve the livestock for sacrificing to God. And the statement that this was Saul's reason was apparently not a lieas lying is not what Samuel criticizes him for (though Saul's apparent self-deception that he had obeyed God in the matter would fall under the category of lying).
Samuel's answer in verses 22-23 is an important one for us today. Obedience supersedes any attempt to honor God. And He cannot be honored with disobedience. If God has forbidden something, we cannot honor Him with that thing. Yet people try to do this all the time in the world around us. For instance, God says not to use pagan worship methods in an attempt to honor Him (see Deuteronomy 12:29-32). But people use holidays that originated in paganism, like Christmas and Easter, in an attempt to do just that. Some people even think this is obedience to God. But it isn't. No matter how sincere, this is actually dishonoring God because it is disobeying Him. When people knowingly do this, it is rebellion and, as Samuel told Saul, is on par with witchcraft and idolatry. If you want to truly honor God, then do what He saysobey Him. (To learn more about the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter, request or download our free booklet Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Keep?)
Although God had already stated that Saul's dynasty would not continue (1 Samuel 13:13-14), this latest act of rebellion causes Saul himself to be rejected as king. God will anoint someone else instead. Samuel refuses to have anything more to do with Saul, but Saul persuades Samuel to honor him one more time before the elders. Samuel finishes the execution God had ordered Saul to fulfill. And then he returns home, never to go to see Saul againalthough Saul will later come to see him one last time in pursuing David (see 19:18-24).