The individual is fully responsible for his actions and decisions.
HYMN: NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE
Text: 1 Samuel 15:1-35
The consequences of our actions and decisions confront us on a daily basis. Sometimes, we prefer to wait for some other persons to point out to us our failures before we either admit them or pass them to some other persons. It takes the man of character to identify his failures and errors and seek God’s forgiveness. It takes greater courage to admit one’s error when they are pointed out to him.
Saul was an individual who failed on these two aspects. When he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and the best of the spoil of the battle, in utter disregard of the command of the Lord, he could not see his plight as one living in disobedience. Worse still when confronted with his error, he passed the blame to the people whom he governed. He simply lacked the character to be accountable for his actions. Other examples of persons who showed this trait were Adam, Eve, and Cain. They shifted responsibility for their actions to some other persons. In the case of Adam, he blamed God for being gracious in giving him a wife (Gen. 3:12).
David was an exception to this trait. When his sins of adultery and murder were pointed out to him, he took full responsibility for his actions and sought God’s forgiveness. No wonder, Psalm 51 remains an epitome of a heart that is broken and contrite before the Lord. This character of being accountable was also demonstrated by Apostle Peter who sought forgiveness from the Lord after denying Him three consecutive times. Many, especially in leadership positions, think that it is a sign of weakness to admit one’s errors; it is a mark of great strength of character- one that clearly indicates a deep experiential knowledge of the grace of God.
The objectives of this study are:
- To know the Christian’s response to God’s commandments
- To know the blessing of being reproved
- To know how to positively respond to correction
- To know what to do when in error
- To know the benefit of being accountable for our actions and decisions
Q1. WHAT LESSONS CAN WE DRAW FROM GOD’S COMMAND TO SAUL?
The Lord’s command to Saul is found in 1 Sam. 15:3 “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle, and sheep, camels and donkeys”. Before the Lord gave Saul this command, He reminded him that the assignment accompanying the command was the outcome of power and authority that had been divinely bestowed on him as king of Israel. That sounds quite familiar to those who have had a walk with the Lord. When Samuel reminded Saul that it was the Lord God Almighty who anointed him to be king over Israel, it was intended to get Saul to have a proper perspective of the situation of things. It got Saul to realize that he was who he was because of the divine favor of the Lord. That is what the Lord does to his children. When he lifts us up in the political or economic or educational arena, the Lord would have us to be ever conscious that He got us to where we are. It is when that consciousness or focus is lacking that we begin to pursue our programs instead of His.
The specificity of the command cannot be glossed over. There were no ambiguities. Saul was to go, attack and destroy everything that belonged to the people of Amalek. That is how the Lord deals with us. He does not beat about the bush. He leaves us without a shadow of a doubt what He expects from us. The Lord acts this way as to test the genuineness of our commitment to Him. When the Lord commands that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, an individual who reasons that he will see to the conversion of the individual that he intends to marry is on a fast-lane of disobedience (2 Cor 6:14). The specificity of the command precludes considering the conversion of the individual. Such a consideration should only be entertained within the context of obeying the command to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:19).
Q2. WHAT RESPONSE WAS EXPECTED FROM SAUL TO THE LORD’S COMMAND?
Saul was expected to obey the Lord’s command. Obedience meant that he carried out the Lord’s injunction to the last letter. It is obedience that the Lord expects from us when He commands us. 1 John 5:3 tells us “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous”. This is a passage of scripture that every Christian should appreciate and commit to memory. We need to always realize that the Lord’s commands are not intended to do us harm but good. With that understanding, obedience should stem from our love for God. A Christian who thinks of God as One with a sledge hammer about to hit him hard for disobeying Him will not get too far in his Christian walk. We need to be prompted to obedience because we love the Lord.
Q3. WAS SAUL OBEDIENT TO THE LORD’S COMMANDS?
1 Sam. 15:7-9 “And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly”. Saul very well went to attack the Amalekites, destroyed the despised things and kept the things that were good. It seems then that Saul partially obeyed the Lord. Is there anything like partial obedience? Throughout our text, Saul was not commended for his partial obedience. In fact, verse 11 of the text indicates God’s grief at Saul’s failure to carry out his command. That simply makes it amply clear that there is nothing like partial obedience. God demands total obedience.
Q4. HOW DID SAUL RESPOND TO PROPHET SAMUELS’ INQUIRIES?
We never can underestimate the power of motivation. Unmotivated individuals are non-achievers because there is no drive and inner propelling force. On the other hand. Motivated Christians draw inner propulsion from the Holy Spirit as they fix their hearts on divinely set goals. What many will consider to be obstacles become stepping stones to motivated Christians to climb higher heights. Difficult circumstances to many others are considered challenges by motivated Christians, which by the power of the Holy Spirit, have to be overcome in order to attain the desired goals. The devil thought that the cross would spell the last and most devastating blow to Christ, His followership, and His entire ministry, but he failed to realize that would provide an opportunity for Christ to wrest from him the keys of authority with which he has kept all offspring of Adam as captives (Matthew 28:18). The Lord Jesus, knowing the divinely-set goal of defeating Satan, despised the shame and ridicule of the cross and rode steadfastly with the motivation of the joy that was set before Him. Every believer would need to be highly motivated about the things of God. When we consider how enthusiastic unbelieving folks are these days about the things that pertain to the devil, we realize that Christians have been lukewarm. Let us have a strong drive within, with which to honor and serve our God. Let us be motivated by the joy that is set before us. Let us view obstacles as challenges and draw strength from the Lord to overcome them. Let our zeal be read by the world to mean that we are convinced and fully persuaded by that which we believe. Our brethren who have gone before were fully motivated by the joy set before them that they willingly accepted persecution to the point of being the picture given to us in verses 12 through 15 of our text is one of a man who was riding on the crest of success. “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”. 1 Sam. 15:12. What a tragedy! In error and disobedience, he was acquiring titles and accolades, and building monuments for himself. After all, “Saul would say to himself, I have defeated the Amalekites”. That may well describe the plight of some Christians who give greater prominence to making a name and achieving success than honoring the Lord.
Still basking in the euphoria of his accomplishments, Saul’s first words when he saw Samuel, who had been looking for him were ‘The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions”. He was too far removed from the Lord that he failed to recognize that he was living in error. When Samuel now confronted him with the full weight of the Lord’s command, Saul placed the blame of keeping back the good part of his spoil on the soldiers. That summarizes the error that some of us Christians allow into our lives. We fail to be accountable for our actions, and instead place the blame on others, and sometimes even the devil. “The devil made me do it”. This kind of attitude does not help our case; it does not help our walk with the Lord. We must learn to always be accountable for our actions rather than shift the blame to some other individual.
In verse 16 through 19, Samuel reminded Saul of all aspects of the command the Lord had given, and how he was uplifted from obscurity to prominence as king of Israel, and wondered why he would not carry out the Lord’s command out of appreciation for God’s favor upon his life. In response, Saul realizing the folly of his earlier argument that placed responsibility for not utterly destroying the Amalekites on his soldiers, now advanced a religious argument. “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” (1 Sam. 15:21). To Saul, he must have through that switching the argument to the religious plan that the best of animals was meant for sacrifice to the Lord would get him off the hook. Samuel the prophet could not be deceived/killed (Acts 7:54-59, 16:23-24, Revelation 1:9). Because there was that inner drive, death became a gateway to being coronated. Contemporary Christians need to shake off their lethargy and rise with a new zeal for greater service to Christ.
Q5. WHAT DID SAUL’S ATTITUDE EARN HIM?
Then came the strong rebuke from Samuel “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23. We cannot fool God by our religious arguments. The Lord seeks from us obedience rather than running around on the ploy of being zealous for Him. We must recognize that disobedience is being rebellious against the will of God for our lives. We cannot get anywhere with the Lord with that kind of attitude. Because he would not accept responsibility for his actions, thus failing to repent before the Lord, he was rejected of the Lord. That is what goes with our failure to be accountable and genuinely seek forgiveness from the Lord.
Q6. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO BE ACCOUNTABLE?
We are bound to pay very dearly for failing to take responsibility for our actions. We become stiff-necked when we fail to be truly repentant when in error (Prov 29:1). In fact, we get to a point when we see things only from our narrow perspective and consider everything we do to be right. That is a stage no child of God would want to get to. At that stage, it becomes impossible to find God’s provision for repentance and His mercy. That stage does not come overnight. It is the outcome of unheeded response to repeated rebuke and correction from the Lord.
Those who spurn correction risk being destroyed without further warning (Prov. 13:13). The Lord’s rebukes on our character, attitude, activities, and life-style do not come for fun. They are intended to get us back on line of His perfect will. Those who heed those rebukes are rewarded.
Prov. 28:13 says, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy”. An individual who would not take responsibility for his errors and failures will not prosper; he will be deprived of the wholeness and fulfillment that comes from the Lord’s presence.
Q7. HOW CAN WE POSITIVELY RESPOND TO CORRECTION?
Every believer should always have it in mind that the Lord corrects him because he is very dear to Him. The Lord corrects his children because He loves them; He would not want them to be destroyed by the wicked one. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:5-6). With this understanding, we respond like legitimate children of the Lord in true repentance with an inner resolve not to commit the same sin (Isa. 55:7, Ez. 18:23, 1 John 2:1). We must avoid putting across winding arguments before the Lord, accusing others of being responsible for our sins. If is this attitude that has ruined many lovely marriages because one or both partners kept passing the buck to his/her spouse. When we take responsibility, and seek God’s forgiveness, we are restored to the place of fellowship with the Lord.
Daily Living Application:
It is quite common occurrence among believers to fail to take responsibility for sins committed, and pass the blame for such sins on others. It did not help Saul nor Adam who adopted this attitude. It will not help us in our Christian walk if we persistently adopt this attitude. What this attitude does is that it makes our hearts to become hardened, thus foreclosing the door of forgiveness, repentance, and restoration. The Lord is calling on us to be accountable to Him, to His people, to our spouses, and to our society. It is this kind of accountability that will get society to have confidence in Christians who occupy various leadership positions, Accountability demands that we take personal responsibility for our actions.
Hebrews 4:7 c
“To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts”.
Daily Devotional Guide:
Monday: A command; not a suggestion
Tuesday: Shifted blame on God
Wednesday: Shifted blame on the people
1 Sam. 15:16-23
Thursday: Obedience is better than sacrifice
1 Sam. 15:16-23
Friday: Failure to be accountable brings destruction
Saturday: The Lord is forgiving