10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
This is one of those stories I find quite difficult to grasp. Samuel gives Saul an instruction from God to kill every one of the Amalekites including all their livestock. Saul follows most of his instruction but keeps the best of the livestock and take s the Amalekite king hostage. The tricky part of this story for me is why God would give such an instruction, one theory is that the Amalekites were wicked and sworn enemies of the people of God. My view is that people sometimes give instructions to satisfy their own needs and call it an instruction from God. I look at the life and teaching of Jesus and then this story and find that they don’t match. Jesus tends to conquer by given people the opportunity to be restored and Jesus is God. But that aside, what happens to Saul in this passage is telling. Saul moves from being small in his own eyes – to setting up a monument for himself after winning a battle. The story of Saul and the wars he fights become more and more about the plunder. It is about taking from the weak but when the wars started, Israel was weak and oppressed but now Israel seems to be the oppressor. The lesson I take from this is that God wants us to rely on Him, to give Him glory for our victories and to trust (obey) His instructions. When Saul was made king God was not pleased but He said that as long as Israel and the king obey his commands then it would go well with them. At this point that changes and Saul is rejected. From this point on the story becomes about David…the man after God’s own heart.