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Midweek Vespers

1 Samuel 15:10-35

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Thursday after 8th Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Thu, Jul 30, 2015 

The Lord of hosts said to Saul the King through Samuel the prophet, “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt.  Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.  But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

This passage and others like it can be troubling.  Israel was both church and state in one.  They had the authority to use the sword.  Modern Christianity is Church alone, with no authority to wage war.  Our individual members may happen to be soldiers or government officials with the responsibility to do so, but the Church does not.

Saul the king was commanded very sternly by God to destroy the Amalekites.  This was a stern judgment from God.  The Lord’s weapon to strike Amalek was Saul and the army of Israel.

The merciful and loving God had waited many years for the Amalekites to repent of their evil.  He does not desire the death of any sinner, but that they turn from their evil way and live.  Yet those who stubbornly resist Him must in the end receive judgment.

May we be warned to diligently repent of our sins, and always cling to Christ our Savior.

So Saul attacked, as instructed, and utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  Yet he spared their king, as well as the best of the animals.  Yet they did destroy whatever animals were despised and worthless.

Take a lesson here.  Sometimes in the Church we are willing to give to the Church, yet not the first fruits.  We easily part with what is lame or sickly.  Yet we do not easily part with what we value in our hearts.  May we instead have the same attitude as our Father in heaven, who did not withhold but gave up His greatest Treasure, His only-begotten Son, for us who are unworthy.  May we, in turn, give our treasures, whether monetary or otherwise, to Him who is worthy of all things.

When the prophet Samuel came to confront Saul over his disobedience, the king did what we all do sometimes.  He tried to cover up his sin.

First he said to Samuel, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” How often have ministers of the Word like Samuel heard their people put up an innocent front like this?  “Oh, everything is just fine in my life, Pastor.” Meanwhile they might be living in habitual, unrepentant sin.  But what the minister doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right?

The Lord wants to deal with our sins.  He does not want them to be covered up and hidden by us.  HE wants to do the covering up and hiding in the Blood of Christ.  But when we hide and misdirect, we are trying to push part of our life out of the eyes of the Lord (as if that will work).  Like Adam and Eve, we think the Lord would not notice that we disobeyed His commandment.

Saul thought he could hide his sin from the prophet of the Most High.  Saul’s attempt at hiding sin was so ridiculous that Samuel needed no revelation from God to know it.  He heard the bleating and lowing of the animals that were supposed to be dead.

But Saul did not give up his attempts to hide his sin.  He tried a two-pronged approach.  First, blame the people.  Second, paint their disobedience as if they were piously withholding the animals for sacrifice.

Now the people were involved in keeping back the animals from destruction, but so was Saul.  As for their intention to sacrifice, which was doubtful, that still would not matter if it were true.  God did not say, “Sacrifice to Me,” but “Utterly destroy them.” These were accursed animals, devoted for destruction by the Lord, not for sacrifice.

The plain truth was that Saul and the people both had disobeyed God because they looked at the animals and said, “These are really nice animals.  How could we destroy them?”

Samuel finally said, “Enough!  Be quiet!” Fed up with Saul’s excuses, he spoke the Word to him.  “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord?  Why did you do evil in His sight?”

But Saul was not done making excuses.  “I have obeyed the Lord.  I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites (except for their king).” He said this as if God had only commanded him to capture the king.

He repeated that the people took the animals for sacrifice.  But Samuel said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” He called Saul’s sin rebellion and stubbornness, equal to witchcraft and idolatry.  For the bottom line is that Saul rejected the Word of the Lord.

We may take pride in the various things that we believe we have sacrificed to the Lord.  Yet have we really sacrificed them to Him, or have we sacrificed them to our pride and self-righteousness?  If we keep thinking of how God must be pleased with us because we have done such and such, what is that besides building a trophy for ourselves?

That is what Saul did.  He built a monument to himself after the battle with Amalek.  “Look what a great king I am!  Look at my great victory!” He surely thought that God was blessing him for being such a great guy.

But Saul conveniently forgot how he had ignored the Word of God spoken by Samuel.

We also sin very much.  We also sin against the Word.  None of us perfectly obeys it.  None of us fully holds it sacred as we should.

Our disobedience is probably not as severe as Saul’s.  He willfully rejected the Word, and then tried to make many excuses, rather than repent.

When Saul finally spoke words that sounded like repentance, he still could not help but slip in his excuse that the people pressured him into doing it.  “I feared the people and obeyed their voice,” he said.

But Samuel declared the judgment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

That neighbor was David.  There God would find a man after His own heart, a man who set his heart on the Word of God, and who also repented sincerely when shown his sin.

May we quickly repent, rather than twisting and wriggling to escape the judgment of God.  Accept His Word of Law as it condemns you, because He will not leave you under condemnation.  His forgiveness follows swiftly.

For a greater King has come, the Son of David.  Not Solomon, who fell short and turned to disobedience; no, Christ came to be the King without equal, the King of kings.  He established His Kingdom by dying, and rose again so that the future of His subjects is eternal life.

This King never faltered in His obedience.  He never cut corners on the commandments, nor made excuses to try to cover up His failures.

In fact, Christ accepted responsibility for sins that were not even His!  Since He never transgressed a single commandment, He was guilty of nothing.  Yet He accepted the blame for all of our sins, every last iniquity that has ever been committed, even all of your sins.

In the end, He made Himself an animal devoted to destruction.  He was a Lamb whose purpose was to be killed.  He took Himself willingly up to slaughter.  No one was strong enough to take away His life, so He had to lay it down as the perfect sacrifice.

He did this for you.  He has covered up your sins with His Blood.  This is not a dishonest cover up, as when Saul or we try to make excuses or lie about our sins.  No, Christ has legitimately and righteously covered up every transgression of your life.  They are blotted out from God’s sight.  God, who sees all things, has chosen to not see your sins.

Therefore the kingdom of God will never be torn from your hands.  You are kings in the image of the eternal King, so that you also will reign forever with Him.

In His Name, the gracious and merciful King above every king.  Amen.

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