Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sin and Judgment Are Not Make-Believe

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Study 13 --- 1 Samuel 15

And 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 have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

4 So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7 And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”


Understanding a Troubling Command

Verses 2 and 3 trouble many people. How can the Lord command the killing of men, women, children, infants, and even the animals of the Amalekites?

The reason we have trouble with verses like this is we haven’t yet come to grips with the reality of human sin, its penalty, and the truth that the Lord is the judge of all human beings.

If we go back to the beginning we learn of the penalty for rebellion against the Lord. The penalty was death. This death was both physical and spiritual. It involved separation of the body and soul (physical death) and separation from God’s favor and blessing (spiritual death).

Apart from receiving God’s salvation, all people are subject to this penalty. The only way to avoid death is to receive life from the Lord. Physical death is overcome when we receive resurrection bodies at Christ’s return. Spiritual death is overcome when we receive Jesus Christ and his resurrection life through repentance and faith.

At the final judgment, there will be but two verdicts rendered. Apart from the life given through faith in Christ, people will face the death of eternal separation from the Lord. This will be an awful fate, for we were created for fellowship with the triune God. There can be no life and blessing apart from his presence and favor, but only misery.

Without this understanding and belief in sin and its deserts and the Lord as our judge, what God commands in verses 2 and 3 will be incomprehensible to you. You will accuse the Lord and rebel ever further against him.

But with this understanding of sin and judgment, there will be a recognition that the Lord has the right to judge wicked people such as the Amalekites, who resist him and his salvation. The Amalekites resisted the nation (Israel) that the Lord chose to bring salvation and blessing to the world. People, today, can imitate Amalek by resisting the true Israel, Jesus Christ, who brings the salvation and blessing promised through the holy nation (Gen. 12:3).

Sin and Judgment is not Make-Believe

But maybe what troubles people most is the death of even infants. But here we must face up to the fact that sin is not make believe. Sin is a reality that affects even infants. Not only is original sin a reality, but children are affected by the sinful resistance to the Lord of their parents and ancestors. There is a corporate solidarity in the human race that we often refuse to face up to.

Once we are willing to face up to these realities about ourselves and our sin, and the Lord and his holy judgment, we can learn quite a bit that is helpful in this passage.

Some Things to Learn in this Passage

First, verse 1 teaches us that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4). True life cannot be found except in submission to our Creator and Redeemer who rules his people through his word.

Second, the complete destruction of the Amalekites by the Lord’s anointed or Christ (Christ means anointed), is a picture of what will come upon the world when Christ returns.

Too often we sentimentalize Jesus to the point of forgetting that he is God’s anointed One through whom God will judge the world. The death and resurrection of Christ point to that day when the Father will judge the world through his Son:

  • “He (God) has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead: (Acts 17:31).”
  • “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Third, learn that there are two things the Lord regrets and is deeply grieved about, and he has done something about each.

Did you notice verse 11? The Lord says, “I regret that I have made Saul king.” Those who know their Bibles will hear in these words an allusion to Genesis 6:5-6: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

Just as the Lord was sorry about the wickedness of man, so he was grieved about the wickedness of Saul his anointed king. But the Lord has remedied both of these problems!

In Jesus Christ, the Father now has a king who lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God. As Jesus said of himself, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). The Father now has the right man over his kingdom, his eternally, beloved Son.

This king, unlike Saul, has solved and will perfectly solve the problem of human wickedness. First, Jesus solved the problem by undergoing the ban himself. Jesus, himself, was devoted to destruction! God himself underwent his own judgment! He did this so that we can receive mercy and be free from the penalty of sin.

But, second, for those who refuse this mercy offered through his Son, God will bring a final cleansing judgment upon the world. Christians speak of this judgment every time we confess the Apostles Creed: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Christians also speak of this final cleansing judgment of human wickedness when we pray the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Your kingdom come.” When Christ brings God’s kingdom in its final form at his return, human wickedness will end to be replaced by everlasting righteousness.


The reason we have such trouble with verses like 1 Samuel 15:2-3 is that we have not yet come to grips with reality. The realities are these:

• Man was created for fellowship with the triune God and this means being ruled by his word.

• The penalty of sin is destruction away from the blessed presence of the Lord.

• Unless we receive the salvation from this judgment God has graciously provided through his Son, we too will die in the worst sense of this word.

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