Are you fully living for God? Or are you just covering up your partial obedience with religious frosting?
This morning, we are continuing in our Monarchy Series on the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible.
If you’re visiting for the first time today, 1 Samuel is a book in the Old Testament about how the Israelites received their first Kings
The first of which was named Saul…
And today, in chapter 15, we’re really coming to the end of “section 1” in 1 Samuel
This will end 1 Samuel’s focus on Saul.
When we rejoin our 1 Samuel in chapter 16…sometime this Fall…we’re going to see that the narrative switches to talking about the next king, King David
Let’s take a look at our passage
As you’re looking up the passage, let me also make a preface.
Many times here on a Sunday, we joke around…or I get all nerdy and explain maps…and maybe the atmosphere is quite light
Today is not one of those days.
But when you go through a book of the Bible like this, chapter by chapter, you get different topics and different vibes.
And today’s chapter is quite challenging and the message is quite direct…and that’s okay sometimes.
(1 Samuel 15:1-6) - NIV
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord.2 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. 3 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.’” 4 So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. 5 Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. 6 Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.
Let me pause here for a minute or two.
God has informed Saul and the Israelites to wipe out the Amalekites…ALL of them…even their livestock.
That seems unfathomable to us.
We recently had Dr. David Clark, the Dean of Bethel Seminary, give a message on, “Why is the Bible so violent.”
If you’re looking for more insight on that topic, I highly recommend you listen to that on the app or online.
I don’t want to just repeat what he said.
But we need to keep in mind a few things.
One, when Israel came out of Egypt, and passed through the wilderness, it was the Amalekites that struck them, unprovoked, out of nowhere…and they even attacked their weak that were lagging behind.
You can read about it in Exodus 17 or Deuteronomy 25.
It’s important to understand that God’s not saying, “Why don’t you go wipe out that people group of nice shepherds playing w/ their sheep over there?”
What you have to consider is that humanity unchecked can reach levels of evil that we can’t even imagine
WWII taught us a lot about that.
And the Amalekites are wicked people…
So wicked that they attacked God’s people without even being provoked.
So wicked that they would enslave young girls and make them serve as temple prostitutes as an act of worship…
So wicked that they would even even sacrifice their own children in the fire.
And beyond that the Bible tells us that God gives them hundreds of years to repent (that’s a LONG time!)
And they don’t.
And now…justice will rain down.
And it is important to note here (because Saul is going to miss this) that this is not an act of imperialism or colonial expansion for the Israelites.
They aren’t to profit from this in any way.
This is an act of justice.
(1 Samuel 15:7-23) – NIV
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt.8 He 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, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. 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.”
So what happens here?
God tells Saul he is supposed to bring justice on the Amalekites and wipe them out.
But Saul is only partially obedient.
He mostly carries out God’s commands…but he saves the best of the sheep and cattle…
And he also saves the Amalekite king, Agag, presumably so he can have a “royal slave,” and be a “king of kings”
And really, Saul’s sin here is “partial obedience”
But partial obedience is merely disobedience made to look acceptable”
It’s like a when a mom asks their 10 year to clean their room, and they just throw all their junk in the closet.
It’s not really obedience.
It’s partial obedience.
And we’re guilty of partial obedience all the time.
God calls us as Christ followers to obey Him
And YET…most of us find whatever way we can to morph the Word of God into something that fits better into what WE want to do.
And thus, we’re partially obedient.
Maybe you have a lust problem…and God’s convicting you to face it.
But you keep telling yourself… “What I’m looking at on the internet is just fine; it’s not like I’m actually cheating.”
We even say, “God I know you want me to do this…but not right now…the conditions aren’t right…right now”
To delay…is to disobey.
Our list of “WHY it’s okay that we’re partially obedient” is longer than the line of 12 year old girls trying to get into a One Direction concert
Why did Saul spare the best of the Amalekites anyway?
Because we all want to hold on to some part of our sin.
Now, of course we don’t see it that way!
But it’s true.
Partial obedience is disobedience.
In verse 23, Samuel says “rebellion is like the sin of divination”
In other words, partial obedience (not fully listening to God) is no different than witchcraft.
Well, wait…how does Samuel make that leap??
Here’s how: What’s divination?
It’s trying to find out what you should do by using witches, new age fortune tellers, or even reading your horoscope…and it’s ignoring the Word and counsel of God.
And when you’re partially obedient, you’re doing basically the exact same thing
You’re saying, I’m going to consult a better source of wisdom…myself!
And then I’ll fulfill the 75% in which I agree with God.
But hear me, it’s foolishness.
Not that I don’t completely join you in foolishness…oh how I do, but wish I didn’t.
But anything but 100% trust in God…is foolishness.
But wait…as if it couldn’t get worse…we get even more foolish.
When Samuel confronts Saul about his partial obedience, what does Saul do?
He’s a babbling mess:
First he tries to deflect blame (The soldiers did it)
Then he tries to justify it (but I got their king though!)
Then he tries to minimize it (It’s just that I was afraid of all the people)
But worst of all, he tries to spiritually justify his partial obedience.
He says, but we were going to use the animals as a sacrifice to the Lord!
Sure you were J
It must be fine then that he disobeyed God’s direct order, because see, he “apparently” had a better thing in mind!
A great sacrifice!
Surely, that must be better than God’s original idea! J
To which, Samuel replies with what becomes a common theme in all of the Bible:
(1 Samuel 15:22) – NIV
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.
And over and over again, Saul has missed the boat on this.
He’s not concerned at all about obeying God.
And when he’s confronted about his partial obedience…he covers it up with a show of religion.
And I think we do the same thing to cover up our disobedience.
It’s like baking a cake…but only partially following the directions.
If you only include 75% of the ingredients, you’re going to end up with, not only a bad tasting cake, but an ugly one…with lots of cracks in it.
But here’s what we do with our partial, 75% obedience…we try and spread some pretty, religious frosting all over the cake to cover up all the cracks in our obedience.
Some of you at work…are completely different people than you are here on a Sunday morning…or in your house group
You’re not fair …you’re vindictive…maybe you even lie to get ahead
And when you feel convicted about it…you’re go-to defense is: “Hey, don’t judge me...I’m not perfect. I go to church. I’m a Christian. Could be worse…”
You’re just spreading religious frosting on a cracked cake.
Maybe at work you just join in with all the worldly joking and gossiping about your co-workers…maybe you’re married, but you’re flirting with a co-worker
But you say… “C’mon, I go to church…I’m in a house group…I give of my money at church…I do enough good that there’s no need for me to spend my time obsessing about whether I’m obeying God or not. I DO “obey God!”
It’s just religious frosting on a cracked cake.
Some of us even use religious rituals to justify the lack of other ones J
We tell ourselves, “Well, see, I don’t need to give back 10% of my money to God because…I give my TIME in the church…I serve”
While others say, “I don’t need to be obedient about that serving others thing, because, well, I give 10% of my money”
It’s just religious frosting.
And if you don’t feel like your in those camps, maybe you’re in this one
So many of us look at others’ faults and we sneer at the things they do…and we wonder how they can even take themselves serious as a Christian…
And yet, when we turn the mirror on ourselves, we don’t treat our own sin with that sort of intensity…and why???
It’s because we can’t see past our own religious frosting!
We don’t need to look that hard at our sin…because well, think of all the good things we’re already doing!
This country is saturated with Christians…who managed to stop drinking, sleeping around, and swearing…conquering a whopping 1% of sins…and blinded by their own religious frosting…have been justifying the rest of their partial disobedience for decades.
But God wants ALL of you.
A couple of months ago, we were looking for some help with something at church, and one of my friends joked with me that I should just do it myself.
And you want to know what I thought in my sinful nature?
I thought, “Are you kidding me?!? I’m a pastor. I’ve given my LIFE to this…I don’t need to do that!”
But that’s just religious frosting covering up the cracks of my partial obedience.
I can’t rule out what God might be calling me to do just because I already do other spiritual things
2 weeks ago, we had our summer baptism.
I could stand up here for 3 hours, and tell you every excuse I’ve ever heard about why people aren’t going to get baptized “YET”…and almost every one of them is a “religious excuse”
But I loved what one of the guys said in his testimony.
He said, “Honestly, I didn’t even want to do this. But it’s not really about what I want. I need to obey”
And see, that oughta characterize us…
I don’t KNOW what’s best, so I’m just going to obey…not partially…not with religious justifications…I’m just going to obey.
Look at what Jesus says in Matthew
(Matthew 5:23-24) – NIV
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
In other words, God isn’t interested in just your religious offerings.
He doesn’t care if you come to church every week, give 10% of your money, and join a House Group.
If you’re not obedient to Him, then that’s all for show.
It’s not enough to just come here and tell him you love him.
Does devotion cover disobedience?
(John 14:15) – NIV
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.
Let go of any idea that God just wants some sort of religious performance (like making sure you attend church…”just enough”)
Why would any of our religious performances fool him?
Our religious frosting might work on others, but it certainly won’t work on God…who sees underneath it all.
God’s not interested in religious performance…He’s interested in your heart.
A heart that trusts Him and OBEYS him.
Listen, God would rather have you go make it right with your sibling or your feuding friend before you just come to church and ignore it month after month…pretending like you’re giving God your LIFE…when you’re really not.
He’s not looking for partial obedience with religious frosting that covers up the cracks.
He wants your obedience.
He wants your life.
On Sunday…AND Monday…AND Friday night.
When you don’t surrender…it doesn’t work out.
Saul, in his self-deception, has convinced himself that his partial obedience is actually even better!
But our ways are never going to be better than full-blown 100% obedience to God.
Do you believe that?
Did it work out for Saul?
Did his idea to keep the sheep, cattle, and the Amalekite King work out?
Nope, and it was the last straw for God.
God determines that this is NOT a man after his own heart…this is a man who’s off building monuments to himself instead of obeying God.
And God finally rejects Saul as King.
And it’s even worse if you read on in the Bible…
Due to the fact that Saul didn’t bring full judgment to the Amalekites (even more lived that directly referenced in this passage), the Amalekites continue to pester and kill the Israelites in generations to come.
In fact, it’s an Amalekite who takes credit for the death of King Saul!
Isn’t that ironic?
And even worse, 500 years later, because Saul didn’t obey God, a few Amalekites are still around.
And one Amalekite…named Haman, attempted to wipe out all of the Jewish people.
And he came within a day of making it happen.
If it wasn’t for Esther (and you can read about this in Esther in the Bible), the Jewish people would have been wiped out by this Amalekite.
In fact, the movie that was made about Esther in 2006, One Night with the King, even begins by making this connection!
And what you need to see…is that when we don’t obey God completely, the left over portion will surely come back to haunt us…if not kill us.
Trust and obey.
Let me share with you an illustration that some of our Christian brothers and sisters in India use regarding this topic of total surrender…not partial obedience .
There was once a young boy who loved to play marbles.
He regularly walked through his neighborhood with a pocketful of his best marbles, hoping to find opponents to play against.
One marble in particular, his special blue marble, had won him many matches.
During one walk, he encountered a young girl who was eating a bag of chocolate candy.
Though the boy's first love was marbles, he had a weakness for chocolates.
As he stood there interacting with the young girl, his salivary glands and the rumbling in his stomach became uncontrollable, and he thought to himself, I have got to get my hands on those chocolates.
Concocting a plan, he asked the girl, "How about I give you all these marbles for those chocolates?"
She replied, "Sounds fair to me."
He put his hand in his pocket, searching for the distinguishing cracks on the surface of the blue marble.
Once he identified the blue marble with his finger tip, he carefully pushed it to the bottom of his pocket and pulled out all the other marbles.
As he handed the marbles to the girl in exchange for the chocolate, the boy thought his plan was a success and turned to walk away.
As he began to eat the chocolate candy, he suddenly turned to the girl and asked, "Hey, did you give me all the chocolates?!"
And here’s the lesson they teach in Indian Churches about the effects of partial obedience:
See, we want everything the kingdom of God has to offer.
We want to have a great sense of God's presence
We want all our prayers to be answered
We want to "feel close" to Jesus
We want God to bless us!
We want it ALL!
But……we’re unwilling to give it ALL…to give it all up to God.
Many times there is a "blue marble" in our lives that we seem unwilling to offer to the control of Christ.
But until we can fully hand over everything, our participation in God's kingdom is always going to be limited.
Not only because we’re showing God that we don’t really trust Him, but because we’re going to be walking down the more foolish path.
What God asks of you…whether it’s awkward or hard or feels completely impossible, it’s always going to be better.
So…scrape the religious frosting off of your cake
Face reality…and look honestly at the cracks in your life where you’re just being partially obedient…which is disobedience.
And then repent.
Which the Bible says is to ask for forgiveness…and then actually turn the other way and actually make a change.
It’s NOT just to feel remorse…it’s to do something about it…and start walking the other way.
And you can do this…because of where Jesus walked for you.
Jesus…looking at the mess of our lives…took a long and horrible walk towards the cross.
And suffered through a horrible death because of his love for you…knowing all the mistakes you would make.
So rather than just casting your sins off as not a big deal…or frosting them over …face them.
Own up to them.
And you’ll get an even deeper sense of how much Jesus loves you.
And when you get that…start walking back at him.
Not 50%. Not 75%. But 100%.
You’re going to stumble…but keep your eyes on him…attempting to give all of your life.
And because I don’t just want you to “feel something and forget about it” this morning, I’m going to ask you to repent right now.
We’ve never done this before…but we’re going to do it.
(I’m also going to call the band forward at this time)
If you know that you have a place in your life…where you just need the incredible forgiveness of Jesus…and you want to change…and not just be partially obedient…but fully obedient… (to give even the blue marble up to God)…
Sometime during this next song, I’m going to ask you to head to the back of the room…and talk to one of our elders or prayer team members.
I want you to tell them what you’re going to do, and have them pray for you.
That might be scary as all get out to you, but that’s how you change.
And some of you…for the sake of your life…and for God…just need to get up.
So, I’ll pray, and anytime during these next two songs, you can go back.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.