1 Samuel 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” …7 Saul defeated the Amalekites, … 8 He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.
God commanded Saul to attack the Amalekites and leave nothing alive – man or beast. However, as the Israelites routed the Amalekites, Saul hedged a bit. He MOSTLY did what God said, but not quite. He spared the Amelekite king Agag (to keep around as a his slave). Furthermore, he allowed the Israelite warriors to take some of the more valuable animals as the spoil of war. I’m sure those choices were popular among his subjects, but Saul was not ultimately accountable to the people – but to God. In the eyes of God, Saul had failed his mission. As a result, the kingdom would ultimately be taken away from him and given to a new king – a young man named David.
On one hand I empathize with Saul. He didn’t ask to be king. God chose him, not the other way around. It’s pretty clear early on that Saul is not up to the task. So who is ultimately responsible for that? God I think.
And I also understand that partial obedience, in the eyes of God, constitutes disobedience. On a good day I am mostly obedient, but I don’t know that I’m ever completely obedient. Yet holiness demands perfection, which is the challenge of the law. Because of our sinful nature, we can never completely satisfy the law. Saul fell short. David fell short. I fall short. You fall short. What God’s law does is expose our complete dependence on the grace of God in Jesus Christ to keep us in right relationship with a holy God.
Lord Jesus, thank you for paying the price for our sin through your death. Thank you that you made eternal life available to us through your resurrection. Strengthen us by your Spirit that we might obey the will and ways of God the Father, while forgiving us when we fall short. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.