"I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions." And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all that night.
1 Samuel 15:10, 11. (RAMAH.)1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 8:6, 21; 1 Samuel 12:18, 23). The last of them is his intercession for Saul. He appears to have been told by God in a dream of the result of the probationary commission which had been given to the king. Agitated and distressed, and not yet clearly perceiving it to be the fixed purpose of God (ver. 29) that Saul should no longer reign over Israel as his recognised servant and vicegerent, Samuel gave himself unto prayer, if thereby he might avert the calamity. Respecting his intercession, consider -
I. ON WHOSE BEHALF IT WAS MADE. Chiefly, doubtless, on behalf of Saul, though not without regard to the nation, on which his rejection seemed likely to produce a disastrous effect. Intercession should be made for individuals as well as communities. "Satan hath desired to have you," said he who is the perfect example of intercessory prayer, "but I have prayed for thee" (Luke 22:32). There were many things in Saul calculated to call it forth.
1. His good qualities, exalted position, and intimate relationship to the prophet.
2. His grievous sin (vers. 11, 19, 23), exceeding his previous transgressions.
3. His great danger - falling from his high dignity, failing to accomplish the purpose of his appointment, losing the favour and help of Jehovah, and sinking into confirmed rebellion and complete ruin. "It repenteth me that I have made Saul king; for he is turned back from following me" (vers. 11, 35). When a change takes place in the conduct of man toward God, as from obedience to disobedience, it necessitates a change of God's dealings toward him (otherwise he would not be unchangeably holy), and this "change of his dispensation" or economy (Theodoret) is called his repentance. It is not, however, the same in all respects as repentance in men. No change in him can arise, as in them, from unforeseen events or more perfect knowledge, seeing that "his understanding is infinite;" yet, on the other hand, as in their repentance there is sorrow, so also in his - sorrow over those who turn from him, oppose his gracious purposes, and bring misery upon themselves (Genesis 6:6; Judges 10:16); and of this Divine sorrow the tears and agonies of Christ are the most affecting revelation.
II. IN WHAT SPIRIT IT WAS MADE.
1. Holy anger against sin, and against the sinner in so far as he has yielded himself to its power, arising from sympathy with God and zeal for his honour (Psalm 119:126, 136, 158).
2. Deep sorrow over the sinner, in his essential personality, his loss and ruin; not unmingled with disappointment at the failure of the hopes entertained concerning him. Sorrow over sinners is a proof of love to them.
3. Intense desire for the sinner's repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. "And he cried unto the Lord all night" with a loud and piercing cry, and in prolonged entreaty. The old home at Ramah, which had been sanctified by parental prayers and his own incessant supplications, never witnessed greater fervour. Wonderful was the spirit of intercession which he possessed. Well might the Psalmist, in calling upon men to worship the Lord, single him out as pre-eminent among them that "call upon his name" (Psalm 99:6). But still more wonderful was the spirit which was displayed by the great Intercessor, who often spent the night in prayer, and whose whole life was a continued act of intercession, closing with the cry, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Would that more of the same spirit were possessed by all his disciples!
"We are told III. TO WHAT EXTENT IT AVAILED. 1. Not to the full extent he desired. Saul did not repent, neither was he exempted from the sentence of rejection. The relation of the sovereignty of God to the will of men is inexplicable. How far the Almighty may, by special and extraordinary grace, subdue its opposition we cannot tell. But he has conditioned the general exercise of his power by the gift of freedom and responsibility, he does not destroy or recall the gift; and the power of human resistance to the Divine will is a fearful endowment. There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God "though Moses and Samuel stood before him" (Jeremiah 15:1). "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). "The sin, namely, of a wilful, obstinate, Heaven daring opposition to the ways of God and the demands of righteousness, and which, under a dispensation of grace, can usually belong only to such as have grieved the Spirit of God till he has finally left them - a sin, therefore, which lies beyond the province of forgiveness" (Fairbairn, 'Typology,' 2:341). 2. Yet, doubtless, to obtain many benefits for the transgressor, in affording him space for repentance and motives to it. Who shall say how many blessings came upon Saul in answer to Samuel's intercession for him? 3. And to calm the soul of him who prays, to make known the will of God to him more clearly, to bring him into more perfect acquiescence with it, and to strengthen him for the duty that lies before him. "And he arose early to meet Saul in the morning" (ver. 12). 1. How great is the privilege and honour of intercessory prayer. 2. Since we know not who are beyond the reach of Divine grace, we should never cease to intercede for any. 3. If intercession does not avail to obtain all that it seeks, it does not fail to obtain invaluable blessings. - D.
III. TO WHAT EXTENT IT AVAILED.
1. Not to the full extent he desired. Saul did not repent, neither was he exempted from the sentence of rejection. The relation of the sovereignty of God to the will of men is inexplicable. How far the Almighty may, by special and extraordinary grace, subdue its opposition we cannot tell. But he has conditioned the general exercise of his power by the gift of freedom and responsibility, he does not destroy or recall the gift; and the power of human resistance to the Divine will is a fearful endowment. There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God "though Moses and Samuel stood before him" (Jeremiah 15:1). "There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it" (1 John 5:16). "The sin, namely, of a wilful, obstinate, Heaven daring opposition to the ways of God and the demands of righteousness, and which, under a dispensation of grace, can usually belong only to such as have grieved the Spirit of God till he has finally left them - a sin, therefore, which lies beyond the province of forgiveness" (Fairbairn, 'Typology,' 2:341).
2. Yet, doubtless, to obtain many benefits for the transgressor, in affording him space for repentance and motives to it. Who shall say how many blessings came upon Saul in answer to Samuel's intercession for him?
3. And to calm the soul of him who prays, to make known the will of God to him more clearly, to bring him into more perfect acquiescence with it, and to strengthen him for the duty that lies before him. "And he arose early to meet Saul in the morning" (ver. 12).
1. How great is the privilege and honour of intercessory prayer.
2. Since we know not who are beyond the reach of Divine grace, we should never cease to intercede for any.
3. If intercession does not avail to obtain all that it seeks, it does not fail to obtain invaluable blessings. - D.
It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king.
(Charles E. Jefferson.)
Monday Club Sermons.On the top of the Hartz Mountains in Switzerland the figures of travellers, in certain states of the atmosphere, take on a gigantic size to the eye of an observer below, and every movement they make is exaggerated. In the career of King Saul, as it is presented to us in Scripture, we see the figure of a man raised to a dizzy height, his actions prelected, as it were, upon the clouds, so that all mankind may learn from them the desired lesson that Jehovah reigns, and that it is an evil end bitter thing to sin against him. Note —
I. SAUL'S ELEVATION. If ever man was king by Divine right, it was Saul. Never were greatness and royalty more suddenly thrust upon one than in this ease. The priest and prophet, Samuel, gave him his title of king.
II. SAUL'S DISOBEDIENCE. This was seen plainly on two occasions: the first, when he sacrificed at Gilgal, contrary to an express command; the second, when he refused to smite Amalek utterly, and offer all the spoil to Jehovah. But these occasions simply brought to the surface an underlying state of disobedience which only waited its tempting inducements to appear. But before this last outward disobedience there had been a slowly increasing departure from the living God in the heart of the king, so that, when the wicked and justly punished Amalekites were put under the ban he was not equal to the occasion and he yielded to the temptation of the hour. The devoting of the whole nation to destruction was no arbitrary act of barbarism that assumed to be under Divine appointment, but a literal and genuine visitation from heaven upon those who richly deserved it. The phrase "utterly destroy" is in the original "put under the ban." This ban was an old custom, originating before the time of Moses, but formulated and regulated by him, as were so many other social customs amidst which Israel grew up. In its simplest form it was the devotion to God of any object, living or dead.
III. THE GROUND OF SAUL'S REJECTION. It is stated in the briefest language. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath rejected thee from being king. The rejection was already an accomplished fact in the Divine purpose, although its execution was for a time delayed. In this complete rejection we are instructed in God's ways by seeing that it proceeded on no technical and superficial grounds, as if the Almighty was an austere man, reaping where He had not sowed, and eager to secure a reason for condemning His servant. Even under the old dispensation, how spiritual was God's claim; how identical with that which rests on us today. The sacrifices of God have always been a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Outward acts have never been accepted in place of an inward submission and penitence.
IV. THE FALSE REPENTANCE OF SAUL. It had much of the appearance of a godly sorrow that leads to peace. It surely was sorrow. It showed an aroused and alarmed conscience. Saul comprehended himself; saw the conflict within between his better and worse nature. Again and again he awoke to his sin and folly with bitter tears in after days, but never reached the point where he could say, in the wonderful words of his successor, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned."
V. THE MYSTERY OF SIN AND PUNISHMENT. Who can understand his errors, or those of any man in ancient or modern times, delineated in the Bible or in our own literature? Who can find the key to a sinful life, and unlook all its mysteries and incongruities? What is sin but an irrational, abnormal, strange thing, making everyone's life at points an enigma, and best described as a mystery in its origin, development, and results in eternity? Who shall attempt to fathom the connection between wrong-doing and punishment, and foresee the consequences of single transgression? Who is to say what a sin is in its real nature, and what its results ought to be in a holy government? We cannot tell when our characters have become so consistent in evil that God passes judgment on us, and tears from our hands all that He gave us, and for which we are called to live. God has left the consequences of sin in the unseen future, like the shadows of mountains when the sun is behind us. This may be because He wishes us to be more afraid of sin than of its results. This man, whose downfall was the result of his own misdeeds, was, in the hands of Providence, a scourge for Israel, sent to them, as we read, in God's anger. The career of a sinner can be understood only when we see to what uses it is put in the world's discipline. If we are obedient to God He will turn our lives into a blessing upon men. If we rebel, He still can use us. turning our actions into scourges. To each of us is offered a kingdom, invisible but real, as old as eternity.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
I. LET US OBSERVE THE OCCASION WHICH BROUGHT ABOUT THE CRISIS. God had given him a commission to ban the Amalekites, the ancient enemies of Israel. The crisis in Saul's life had come. He fails to meet it, in the spirit of a true man of God. His soul finds temptation in a moment when power and success and human adulation have intoxicated him; he yields to the snare, and falls to rise no more. At the turning point of his life he is weighed in the balances and found wanting. The whole sad transaction and all its terrible consequences are summed up in one word — disobedience to positive Divine command. It breaks upon us at once. It is complete and fully manifested in a single transaction. But definite steps led up to it. It can be accounted for. It should have been avoided.
II. AS THE DISOBEDIENCE WAS COMPLETE AND INEXCUSABLE, SO THE PUNISHMENT WAS PROMPT, DEFINITE, AND FINAL. "God hath rejected thee from being king over Israel." Successive steps led to its accomplishment. God caused Samuel to withdraw from him. He took his good Spirit away, and allowed an evil spirit to come upon him. He was left to his own rash, self-willed, and self-pleasing nature. He was allowed to work out his own destruction and the ruin of his dynasty, while God quietly but diligently prepared a better man to take his place on the throne of Israel. A great and solemn principle emerges here — the basis-principle upon which all right and enduring relations to God must rest, — to wit, obedience. There can be no happy relations between a sovereign Creator and dependent creatures upon any other scheme, even though that sovereign Creator be properly viewed as a tender Father. The whole question needs to be restated with firmness. The sentimentality of a spurious faith, which claims heaven and yet the right to please self, is a travesty upon the word of God and upon every serious utterance of human consciousness. And yet this sentimentality is seeking to interpret the preaching of salvation by the cross in the interest of selfish indulgence, and is going far to justify the sneer of the enemy, "that morals are divorced from religion;" for what are any Christian morals worth that do not mean obedience to the living God? Let Saul's sad fall by reason of disobedience warn us at thin point. In conclusion we may draw out a few brief lessons.
1. The danger of a halfway surrender to God, a consecration which has its reservations. Such a course is an insult to God. It is the very worst spirit of bargain making. It marks off a section of our individuality, into which God has no right to come with His demands. Saul was willing to serve God in being a king if he would have his way when the spoil was at hand. He was quite willing to fellowship Samuel and have his endorsement if he could sacrifice when he pleased. But this spirit brought him to a bad end.
2. See how disobedience demoralises the spirit and sets it upon unworthy shifts His character drooped lower and lower as he sought his way out from the consequences of disobedience by unworthy shifts. When we have sinned it is better to be open and ingenuous with God and man, and. while sorrowing for the sin, meekly receive the consequences in the full purpose of immediate amendment.
3. The folly of those in authority, as parents, pastors or teachers, yielding to the tastes and entreaties of the young, the wayward, or the undisciplined for the privilege of doing that which is wrong either in itself or in its tendency. Saul pleaded that he yielded to the wishes of the people when he saved the best of the spoil. So with many now in the place of solemn and responsible authority. But this is simple weakness where we have the right to expect strength. This weakness does not lesson the guilt before God.
(W. G. Craig, D. D.)
I. IT IS EVIDENT THAT A PROFESSEDLY GOOD OR CREDITABLE INTENTION WILL NOT JUSTIFY A BAD ACT. It is true that, the real character of any act is in the intention of the doer; but you cannot judge acts as though they were isolated, and to be taken each on its own merits. The intention that is behind one act may itself be a depraved spiritual act or represent a spiritual state that; God hates.
II. NOR CAN GOD BE HONOURED IN ONE WAY AT THE COST OF DISHONOURING HIM IN ANOTHER. Obedience to one command that is built out of the ruins and breach of another, must be dis. pleasing to God. If we do, we shall add to non-performance of some duties the vitiating of those we do observe.
III. SO, ALSO, ARE WE TO LEARN THAT OFFERINGS TO GOD ARE ABOMINATION IF THEY DO NOT EXPRESS OBEDIENT LOVE. For they may represent "pride, vain-glory, or hypocrisy" they may be a service of self that is all the more real for being hidden under the veil of Divine honour, or they may be a following of custom, or a sensuous dependence upon superstitious services for acceptance with the Lord. God's supreme demand is loving obedience: the submission of the heart, the sacrifice of the will. the offering up of self, the fasting from the self-willed indulgence of our own thoughts and intents.
(R. G. B. Ryley.)
I. THE DANGER OF MISTAKING PARTIAL FOR COMPLETE OBEDIENCE. "Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord."
1. God requires literal obedience.
2. God's language never exceeds Gods meaning.
3. Conscience is seen most clearly in minute obedience.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF GIVING A RELIGIOUS REASON FOR AN ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE.
I. The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen. to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God"
1. One duty must not be performed on the ruins of another. It was a duty to sacrifice, but sacrifice must not be offered upon disobedience.
2. God's commandment must not be changed by men's afterthought. Lucky ideas, sudden inspirations, and the like, mean ruin, unless well tested.
III. THE DANGER OF BEING SEDUCED INTO DISOBEDIENCE BY SOCIAL CLAMOUR. "I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice." The people who tempt are not the people who can save.
2. Where God has spoken distinctly there should be no human consultation
IV. THE CERTAIN WITHDRAWMENT OF THE BEST INFLUENCES OF LIFE AS THE RESULT OF DISOBEDIENCE. "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death." Parents, ministers, friends, gone! There are some incidental points of application: —
1. Sin discovers itself: "What meaneth this this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the cattle which I hear?"
2. Sin will be punished. Four hundred years elapsed before the sword fell upon Amalek (Deuteronomy 25:17, 19). Time has no effect upon moral distinctions, or moral judgments.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. WE ARE REMINDED THAT A GREAT AMOUNT OF DIRECT SIN MAY BE COMMITTED AND NEVERTHELESS DISGUISED, UNDER A LOUD PROFESSION OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD. There is, in some individuals, a forwardness in certain forms of duty which cost no self-denial at all; a forwardness, also, in the announcement of what has been done which is, in itself, to practised eyes a ground for suspicion that all is not right behind the scenes We sometimes notice individuals overdoing the thing that is courteous and polite — "glaringly civil" — towards those who come on the errand of Christian fidelity, and whose business is with souls in prospect of the great account. There is so much joy expressed at seeing them, there is so much interest taken in their presence, there is such a sudden burst of cordiality, as that upon the very amazement excited there follows the suspicion that something is going on which there is an effort to conceal. Let us aim after such a walk and conversation as that we can be natural in our demeanour, and not artificial and forced, such a life as will bear inspection behind the scenes, and as will not compel those who watch for souls to ask, as they look around, what meaneth this or that? what meaneth this unholy gratification? what meaneth this unsubdued temper?
II. THE ANSWER OF SAUL TEACHES THAT THE MEN WHO, TO GRATIFY THEIR OWN PURPOSES, WILL LEAD OTHERS WRONG AND COUNTENANCE THEM IN EVIL-DOING, WILL BE THE VERY FIRST TO EXPOSE THEM WHEN THEY WANT TO EXCUSE THEMSELVES. And Saul said, "They — not I — for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed." Ah! study well that sentence, "They" did it. Would that its impressiveness might be felt by the thousands who are too ready to be led by the advice, by the example, of those who ought to have but one rule for their own conduct and for their Influence over others too, and that rule God's word — God's will. There are some who will lead you into evil for the sake of getting countenance to themselves in their own want of religion. How many have had to mourn at last, when they have found their advisers converted into their accusers, when they have seen their companions in guilt stand as the witnesses for their condemnation.
III. THERE ARE OTHER ERRONEOUS PRINCIPLES IN THIS ANSWER OF SAUL.
1. He evidently implied that a formal act of obedience might be taken as a set-off against an act of direct disobedience. He implied that, putting one thing over against the other, God would be satisfied in the long run. If he intended to offer sacrifice at all, it was upon the principle of compromise and composition. He would have given God a part of the spoil, that he might have kept a much larger portion for himself. He would have offered a fraction, that the extensive remainder might not have rendered his conscience uneasy. In those sacrifices which you offer to God no equivalent is found for the want of obedience. Obedience, as a principle, has a value far above sacrifice, as an action; it is "better than sacrifice" — better, as the principle must be superior to the form in which it is embodied — better, as the affection which sends a gift is more valuable than the gift itself. How, then, with justice, can the one be substituted for the other? The offering and the sacrifice have a value as embodiments of the principle of obedience and love — then only are they acceptable; but as substitutes for principle they have no acceptableness.
2. Another error in Saul's answer to which Samuel addressed himself was this, that, admitting he was in fault, there was no great harm in his sin after all. The king of Israel did not, indeed, use these words, but doubtless the prophet gathered that this was his real sentiment. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." Here we see a class of sins mentioned whose heinousness was undoubted. Witchcraft God had forbidden to be tolerated on any account. Iniquity is here undoubtedly put for flagrant violation of God's law; such, for instance, as the idolatry mentioned immediately after. The probability is that the king of Israel plumed and prided himself upon his public acts in reference to these very points. You have acted as though you thought witchcraft was a great crime, and so it is; but then rebellion such as that which you have manifested is as bad. Your rebellion, what has that, been but putting God out of His proper place of authority, and consulting your will and your inclination instead of listening to His voice. The actual amount of our guilt must not be adjusted by the external form of the transgression in which it issues — by its classification according to outward appearance Saul congratulated himself on being thought far superior to the consulter of those who had familiar spirits, and would have been shocked at the idea of being regarded as an idolater; but God thought him just as bad as though he were the one or the other. It is well for us to recollect that in spirit we may be bearing the very same kind of guilt before the eye of Omniscience which we are condemning in the declared conduct of others.
(J. A. Miller.)
(Henry W. Bell, M. A.)
Homiletic Review.I. NO EXCUSE, HOWEVER PLAUSIBLE, CAN EVER JUSTIFY DISOBEDIENCE TO A DIVINE COMMAND.
II. GOD HELD SAUL RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS DISOBEDIENCE, AND PERSONALLY PUNISHED HIM FOR IT, though be plead that it was the act of the people.
III. SACRIFICE "INSTEAD OF OBEDIENCE" IS A LOATHING TO GOD.
IV. GOD USES STRANGE MEANS, SOMETIMES, TO BETRAY GUILT.
1. In partially heeding the Lord's commands Partial service and fondness for spoils exhibit his true character. Society today is tinctured with like partial service and fondness for spoils.
2. In endeavours to appear good. The ready salutation was common in the East; his assertion of fidelity unasked was egotistic. Moreover it was false.
3. In excusing self and condemning others. "They did it." He shirks responsibility, he would be seen of men as the true captain, when in fact he was the real hypocrite.
4. In commanding sacrifice in justification of disobedience. He claims that the spoils were for religious purposes. What vain justification! As well may the dealer in ardent spirits argue that he does his damning work that he may build a church. Good deeds cannot stone for disobedience without repentance. If we become enamoured of our goodness, our piety is vain, and exclusion from Christ's kingdom is certain. It was the hidden rock that sent the City of Columbus, with her precious freight, into the mighty deep. The hidden defect in the car wheel brings wreck and ruin to the train. The hidden flaw in the column or arch tells the story of disaster and death. The hidden defect of self-righteousness will bring upon us irreparable ruin. Clothe yourselves with Christ's righteousness.
(W. E. Fetcham.)
I. THAT PARTIAL OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMANDS OF GOD IS NOT SATISFACTORY TO HIM.
II. THAT THE PERFORMANCE OF ONE DUTY CANNOT ATONE FOR THE NEGLECT OF ANOTHER.
III. THAT THERE IS IN SIN A SAD TENDENCY TO SELF-MULTIPLICATION. History abounds in examples of this self-propagating power of evil. Men get entangled in wickedness, and then, with a view to free themselves, they plunge deeper into the labyrinth.
"I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er." — Shakespeare.The beginning of evil is like the escape of water from a great canal or capacious reservoir; it is like the falling of a spark upon combustibles. No one can tell when or where its ravages wilt end. Will they ever totally end? Beware of such beginnings!
IV. THAT OBEDIENCE TO POPULAR DEMANDS IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH OBEDIENCE TO GOD.
And it grieved Samuel, and he cried unto the Lord all nightJeremiah 9:1) Another declared, his tears ran like rivers, because men kept not God's laws (Psalm 119:136). Another said, he had continual sorrow in his heart for his unconverted brethren (Romans 9:2). And when God would point out the grand mark by which his own were to be known, he says, "Go through the midst of the city, the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof" (Ezekiel 9:4). When wickedness is going on in the streets, or in the secret chambers, do you shut your door about you, and cry unto the Lord all night? or do you look on with something like interest, and smile when you ought to sigh, and laugh when you ought to weep? A school, mistress was once telling me of something that a girl had done wrong; and while she was describing the fault in a very lively manner, several of the children smiled, and scarcely suppressed a laugh. She immediately turned to them with a solemnity and concern which I can never forget, and said, "Now, girls, you have made her sin your own, those who could laugh at it could do it." The girls looked alarmed, and I hope they would not again so thoughtlessly make a mock at sin.
(Helen Plumptre.)Archbishop Cranmer, he wept with keenest sorrow as he did it.
(H. O. Mackay.)
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