1 Samuel 15: A Rebellious Redefinition

The more you know Jesus, the more you will love and trust Him. Trust is the key to obedience. God’s timing is not our timing, and if we do not know Him, we will have trouble trusting Him. We will come to believe that we know our best interests instead of God, failing to realize that God’s plan is far better than any of our own.

The Israelites did not know God, and so they did not trust Him. Instead of walking in obedience to His law, they wanted to be like the nations around them. They chose to have a visible human king instead of the invisible eternal King. Their first king—Saul—fell into the same trap. Instead of walking with God, he ignored God. Saul did not believe God had his best interests at heart.

Where is your trust? Either you will be like Saul and trust in yourself, or you will trust God and realize that satisfaction only comes from obeying, knowing, and loving God.

A Rebellious Redefinition

First Samuel 15 tells the story of Saul’s rebellion against God. Whereas God had earlier worked in Saul’s heart and empowered him by His Spirit (1 Samuel 10:9), Saul had now ceased to listen to the Lord. Instead, he listened to the voice of the people, ignoring what God had said through Samuel. Even though Saul had disobeyed the Lord before, this marked his final break with following God.

The key in this chapter is Saul’s redefinition of obedience. When you redefine obedience, you are in rebellion. For Saul, that meant disobeying God’s command to take no spoil whatsoever from the Amalekites. But instead of destroying them as told, Saul kept back the best of the flocks—for sacrifice, or so he claimed. In response, 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. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Saul rejected the word of the Lord, and so the Lord rejected him from being king.

The “Regret” of God

At a first glance, this passage seems to tell us contradictory statements about God. In verse 11, we read the Lord saying “I regret that I have made Saul king.” In verse 29, Samuel tells us that “The Glory of Israel will not lie or change his mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”

How do we reconcile these two statements? We can take the first as an anthropomorphism—God describing Himself in human terms so that we can understand. He is expressing His sorrow over Saul’s sin (and over the sin of the people in rejecting Him). The second reveals His sovereignty and His otherness. He is not changeable like we are. Instead, He is the One who rules all things and transcends space, matter, and time.

How God works is a mystery for us, but the more we know Him, the more we can recognize that He is in control. Not only that, but He has our best interests at heart. When faced with difficult mysteries like this, we need to cling to the character of God.


This teaching is based on Ken Boa’s Handbook to Scripture

Related Reading:

1 Samuel 15: A Rebellious Redefinition

Related Posts