“So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. And he gathered an army and attacked the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.” 1 Samuel 14:47–48
I find the first verses of our focus text sad, “So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel,” I wish that instead they read, “And God established Saul’s sovereignty…” but they don’t.
God does however seem to have prospered Saul’s ambitions, no doubt because they also fulfilled God’s desire in that they also established his chosen people over the land of Canaan.
Saul’s selfish ambition brought him to a breaking point when he was commanded by God through Samuel to utterly destroy the Amalekite nation; not a person, not even and animal was to be left alive, so great were their sins against God as a nation that they were all to be destroyed.
Because this was an action of judgment God had claimed all the plunder for himself, no one was to be enriched or in anyway benefited by God’s punishment of the Amaletites, but Saul’s pride would not let him pass by this opportunity to add to his honor, glory and fame. As a trophy of his conquest Saul brought back Agag, king of the Amalekites, as a prisoner, as well as flocks and herds of the best of the Amalekite animals which he claimed they had brought back for use as sacrifices.
The reality was that these were trophies that Saul could parade before the people; he may not have been personally enriched by the conquest of Amalek but he was able to find an excuse to give his ego another boost.
Friends, our success or failure before God is dependent upon one thing, our obedience. If we can look back at what we’ve done and truly say that we’ve honestly endeavored to be obedient to God then we’ve been successful. God then adds his blessing to our feeble efforts and brings his plans to completion.
Just to be clear, the success we’re talking about is not the same as our salvation. Our obedience has no part in winning our salvation. Christ’s obedience, Christ’s submission, Christ’s sacrifice, these are the only components worthy of being included in the process of securing our sins atonement.
Still God has a work for us to do and we achieve success in that work when we serve God with humbleness and obedience. But Saul failed in his mission against the Amalekites, and his prideful disobedience in claiming glory from a divine mission of judgment was the last straw. Up until then he had served God as king of Israel but now Samuel told him that God had rejected him as king and would give that mantle to another more worthy; one that would obey the word of God.
O God, teach me to be humble and obedient to all your words. Let me not forfeit your acceptance and favor because in disobedience to you I’ve pursued my own honor and worked to secure my own pleasure.