1 Samuel 15:2-3 (NKJV) 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. 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.’
1 Samuel 15 gives us the memorable account of Israel’s first king disobeying his first major instruction – to destroy the Amalekites. As seen in the two verses quoted above, the directives were very detailed, but King Saul would come back from his battle and tell the prophet Samuel, “I have completely obeyed, and I kept the king.” Samuel’s response includes the very famous quote: obedience is better than sacrifice.
While reading this chapter, I became curious as to why Yahweh (God) was insistent on the destruction of the Amalekites. Although King Saul was not obedient in carrying out the annihilation as instructed, this nation would in fact be wiped out and their place taken in the land (see 1 Chronicles 4:43). This led me to Exodus 17 where we first meet the Amalekites, descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (renamed Israel in Genesis 32:28).
In my first reading of the original encounter with Amalek, I missed the point because this was not a battle that Israel had lost. Prior to reading the story, I assumed that Yahweh wanted to punish Amalek because they had defeated Israel before and He would repay them, as promised. However, that is not the case. In the original encounter when the Amalekites attacked Israel, there were some losses, but Israel won that battle. It occurred to me that Father Yahweh had a larger more important reason for decreeing the extermination of this people. This is how I got to studying the accounts in Exodus 17.
I do believe that at the time when King Saul was given the instructions (1 Samuel 15:2-3), the memory of Amalek’s first attack was still fresh in the memory of the people of Israel; in fact they could not easily forget it because Yahweh had instructed the people to chronicle the events of Exodus 17 and remind Israel. So by the time we arrive at the instructions to carry out the execution of the king and every living creature in the land of Amalek, King Saul would have been aware of why the instructions were so important.
Yet King Saul chose not to completely obey Yahweh’s instruction. This chapter teaches a lot which will probably have to be discussed in another publication, but if I could zone in on one important point it would be obedience. We often believe that when Yahweh tells us to do something, whether to destroy certain things in our lives – relationships, friendships, habits etc., or to take certain actions as he directs us, that it is optional or that His reason for the instructions were not perfectly suited to the plans He has for our lives. Like King Saul, we may obey to the extent that we feel is necessary or we may obey and then listen to others and not carry out the complete instructions. The truth is partial obedience is DISobedience. We have not obeyed until we fully obey. Of course the scripture doesn’t say “fully obey” because when the Father says “obedience is better than sacrifice” it is inherent that he is speaking about a complete obedience that does not make room for excuses as to why we choose to question His instructions.
Yahweh had not forgotten, He did not misspeak, he said kill ALL because He remembered that this is the people that tried to destroy and kill His people before. The same is true for us, when he says, end all ties with or cut off this association, it is because He remembers that this is the struggle which almost killed us (physically or spiritually) before, and His instructions are really to ensure our preservation and growth. So regardless of how harmless the baby Amalekites appeared, His instructions remained the same. In our lives, the ‘little sins” and the harmless conversations or casual friendships and relationships that He may point out to us as up for separation, are only harmless in our eyes. Yahweh sees and understands that babies, although small and innocent now, have the potential to grow and become strong – reproducing and multiplying into stubborn enemies to our souls.
King Saul kept the King and the sheep that he thought were either too precious, or that may be useful in his worship. He only destroyed the things he despised, but he kept the other things which he favored (1 Samuel 15:9). This is a constant battle we face as believers – giving up the ‘kings’ and ‘fatlings” that we favor in our lives. The truth is, if there is a second “king”, one that we cannot let go of despite our King’s instruction, despite His Word to separate ourselves, if there is another alongside Him, we are now in idolatry. Samuel said to Saul, “rebellion/stubbornness/arrogance (deciding that you know what is best, despite divine instructions otherwise) is as the sin of idolatry.
Idolatry is not only putting things before Yahweh, it is also the things we keep alongside Him (Exodus 20:23 NIV). The people and things we value as being of equal importance to Yahweh: their advice and friendship takes precedence over what Yahweh says; things that we cannot give up even if it means losing our place and position which Yahweh is setting us up for. King Saul blamed his disobedience on “the people”, however, the prophet lay the responsibility squarely on the person to whom the instructions and responsibility was given. Saul lost his kingdom that day, he remained king for quite some time, but the plans Yahweh had for him and his future were much greater than the tumultuous years of opposition, jealousy and loss of mental stability that overshadowed his reign.
Is there anything worth our destiny in Yahweh? Is there anything worth losing our soul for? I hear myself saying no, and I am sure you may also be saying no. If so, it is necessary to search ourselves daily, to see if there is anything that we are holding back, no matter how harmless or how precious, that could prevent us from coming into our purpose. Because that my dear readers,was Amalek’s plan, to prevent Israel from coming into the promise!