My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):
I struggled mightily with today’s reading. The personal conviction that I received from this story was overwhelming. The deeper I got into this recounting of God’s dealing with Saul, the more I was convicted to examine the condition of my own heart.
God has instructed Saul to destroy all of the Amalekites because they had committed heinous crimes against the Jews. Saul set out to follows God’s instructions but at some point he decides to stray from the call. Saul spares the king, Agag, and kept the choice sheep and cattle for himself and his people. Clearly, his heart’s desire was not to follow God but to appear to be righteous and obedient.
When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul on his disobedience he made excuses and attempted to justify his sin. Saul argues that he saved the sheep and cattle for a sacrifice to God. But sacrificing someone else’s property to God is akin to robbing an old lady and dropping her rent money in the offering plate. God is not pleased by our appearances or our attempts to compromise on holy instruction. As a result of God’s displeasure with Saul, he was rejected as king and Samuel was sent to anoint the next king, David.
David, as you probably know, is best known as a man after God’s own heart. We also know that he was hardly sinless and perfect. But David’s response, when confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, was very different than Saul’s. 2 Samuel 11:13 says, And David said unto Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said unto David, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”
God calls us to complete and total obedience. This is difficult for us to accomplish. Not even the great King David, hand picked and anointed by God, could resist the temptation of sin. For most of us, Saul seems closer to the true nature of our hearts. In our feeble attempts to be obedient, we frequently fall short.
When we pray to God for guidance or help, God’s faithfulness never fails. With our answered prayers come instructions for rooting out and destroying evil in our lives. When we are completely obedient we can rid ourselves of that which seeks to destroy us.
The problem is when we ask to be delivered from a situation, we sometimes choose to hold just a little piece of the problem back.
I remember a time in my life several years ago, when I was struggling with issues of relationship. I prayed to God for that special someone. Unfortunately, during this time, I was also guilty of trying to revisit old relationships or stupidly trying to manufacture new ones. On one hand I asked for God’s help and on the other hand I was attempting to guide the situation myself. So I asked myself, “Have I turned the situation completely over to God, or was I holding onto something?” Sometimes the Holy Spirit reminds us that we haven’t done all that God has asked or that we are still holding on to some things that are difficult to let go. What is your response? I came around to God’s way. My response was to let them go. Praise God!
Prayer for the day: God, I want to be like David. I want to acknowledge that I have fallen short of what you have called me to do and that I have sinned against you. Thank you for teaching me that you are looking for a repentant heart and our total obedience. Our appearance and our good intentions do not impress you. I want to be a person after God’s own heart. Amen.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.