Ancient King Saul was tall + strong,
the clear choice to lead the people of Ancient Israel. Physically, he was impressive - standing head + shoulders above the masses. Unfortunately, King Saul was also a fearful coward who crumbled under the weight of kingly responsibility.
The epitome of his failure as a king is found in the story of 1 Samuel 15. The events of this story would eventually cost him his kingship and his life.
(15:2-3) [The Prophet Samuel said], “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys….
WOW… so that sounds totally horrible right? Why would God order such wanton and complete destruction? (Not the sort of verse most people have in their Facebook/Twitter profile.)
If we are not monsters, this bloody passage should bother us and maybe even cause us to lose a little sleep.
… but we will save that little adventure for another day.
For now, we will focus on an enormous clue found as the story continues. A clue that will take us beyond the apparent barbarism and toward a significant discovery that must be explored and pondered.
This clue is found in the selective way that Mighty King Saul chooses how much of God’s command to obey.
(15:7-9) Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt.
8 Saul took Agag king of the Amalekites alive,
and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.
9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs
— everything that was *good*. These they were unwilling to destroy completely,
…everything that was *despised + weak* they totally destroyed.
In the ancient world, size mattered. A king’s greatness and glory was measured by the size of their holdings + property.
Take a look at the list of property that the King Agag of the Amalekites had:
men + women,
children + infants,
cattle + sheep,
camels + donkeys
Impressive right? At the time this story took place, this list would have looked like a giant load of cash and loot. (Think, Leo in the Wolf of Wallstreet).
Saul is commanded to destroy it all.
While we might be concerned of the murderous barbarism and senseless violence of this command, Saul had a different concern. A concern so significant he is willing to disobey God.
King Saul doesn’t want to destroy the cattle and the sheep.
They are too valuable to him. He and his men are ‘unwilling to destroy’ the precious sheep.
Everything (i.e. sheep + cattle) that was *good*.
These they were unwilling to destroy completely,
In other words, King Saul disobeyed God to save sheep and cattle, but Saul went ahead and struck down:
All without mercy. All of them dead. Lifeless. ’…Totally destroyed.’
Because they were not valuable to Saul and his men.
…everything (i.e. women + children + infants) that was *despised + weak* they totally destroyed.
Fine. It is a war, so probably the enemy men had swords in their hands. Maybe their death was inevitable. But the women and children were killed precisely because they were seen as 'weak and despised’ and worthless to King Saul and his men.
King Saul obeyed the commands that he wanted to…
… and we do, too.
All of the significant issues of our day have more than one moral strand connected to them. That’s why they are complicated. Like King Saul, our selective obedience is a window into our souls.
Often, the parts of the Bible that we defend passionately say more about us than they do about God.
Everybody picks and chooses:
What parts have you picked, and why?
What do your 'picks’ say about what you value?