"I Know What is Best"
Have you ever encountered those people who seem to think they know the answers to every question? They believe they know what is best in any and every situation. Sure you have. We have all been around such people at one time or another, and in some cases, they are right and they do know what is best, and yet, oftentimes, that is not the case. They might even say or do things that make them look good or in hopes of gaining favor with others. There is a prideful spirit with such an attitude. There is something in that person that makes us not want to be around him or her. Oh, to believe we always know what is best, oftentimes, gets us into trouble. But there was a man we read about in the Old Testament who fit that description. He believed he knew the best thing to do and he did it. He even went against the commandments of God; and as a result, he paid dearly for that decision. His tragic story is found in the book of 1st Samuel, and it teaches us some important lessons. Two of those lessons are, we cannot presume to know a better way than the Lord and there are great consequences for disobeying the Lord. Hopefully, we do not find ourselves in either one of those categories. This story will remind us that only God knows what is best and we would do well to live in obedience to Him. As we open up our Bibles and think about the lesson entitled "I Know What Is Best," let us know that obedience to God is always the best way to live. I trust you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we study together.
In 1st Samuel 15, we find the story about two men named Samuel and Saul. Samuel was the last ruling judge over the nation of Israel, and Saul took his place as the first king of Israel. Yes, God's people were going through a time of transition. Well, after Samuel anointed Saul to be that king, he shared some very important words from the Lord with him. They're found in verses 2 and 3. <"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. 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.'"> As soon as Saul becomes the king of Israel, God sends him on a very important mission. He is to destroy, to wipe out all of the Amalekites, the men, the women, the children and all of the animals. Nothing was to be left. Well, over 200,000 soldiers prepared for that battle. They went into it and they met with good success. And yet, Saul did not do everything God had asked him to do. Oh, it is true that the people were destroyed and many of the animals, and yet not everything was done. There were a few exceptions. Saul took back with him Agag, the king, as well as some of the very best of the animals and the oxen and the fatted calves. He wanted to take back with him something perhaps that would benefit him later on. God saw all of this taking place and He was not pleased at all. In fact, He became very angry with Saul, and He shared this with Samuel, according to verse 11: "I regret that I have made Saul king. He has turned his back on following Me and has not obeyed My commands." Yes, God was upset. He was displeased with Saul. He regretted that He made him the king; and no doubt, that made Samuel very upset and angry as well, and so Samuel pursued Saul. He wanted to find out what happened and to receive an explanation from him. We find that in verses 12 through 15. <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." When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The Lord bless you. I have carried out the Lord's instructions." But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is the lowing of cattle that I hear?" 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."> A couple of things catch my attention in these verses. First of all, as Samuel pursued Saul, he goes to the city, or the village, of Carmel, and they say, "Oh, yes, Saul came through here. In fact, look at the monument that he set up to himself, but he has gone on down to Gilgal." Saul thought more of himself than he did of the Lord. He took credit for the victory over the Amalekites instead of giving that praise and glory to God. Then, when Samuel finally finds Saul, Saul greets him as if nothing is wrong. "I have obeyed the commandments of the Lord," he tells Samuel. Samuel asks the question, "Well, I hear the sheep and the cattle. I see these animals. Certainly, they have come from the Amalekites," and Saul's explanation is, "Well, the people brought them back;" and then he blames the people again in verse 21. No, Saul does not take responsibility for his actions. He blames someone else. And then he states to Samuel something very interesting. He tells him, "All of these animals are to sacrifice to the Lord your God." He does not say my God. In Saul's mind, he has already replaced God with himself, and he does not recognize Samuel's Lord as his own Lord and God Almighty. It is then that Samuel asked him two very piercing questions, in verse 19: "Why did you not obey the Lord," and "Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?" In Samuel's mind, Saul did evil in the eyes of God because he did not obey God. Oh, he obeyed Him to a great extent, and yet he did not totally and completely destroy all of the Amalekites and the animals, as God had instructed. Saul was in a great position. He was the leader of God's people, the Israelites. He was the king and he could have provided a very great example for the people to follow, and yet he chose to not do that. He chose to disobey God instead of fully obeying the commands of the Lord. Then Samuel asks these questions, in verses 22 and 23. <"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. 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 being king."> Samuel asks these rhetorical questions and he basically says, "Saul, God wants your obedience. He really doesn't care about your sacrifices or your worship and all of these animals being offered up to Him as burnt offerings. What He wants more than anything else is for you to obey Him in every way." We also notice that he let him know that, "Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you." Yes, as quickly as Saul received the reign and the rule of the kingdom of Israel, it was taken away. He had rebelled against God, as we notice in verse 23. In the pride and the arrogance of his heart he had said, "Lord, I'm turning away from you, and I'm going to do what I want to do." Saul confesses his sin, and yet, according to Samuel, it is too late. Since Saul rejected the Lord, the Lord has rejected him, and his kingdom will slowly be taken away from him over the next few years; and a young man by the name of David would take his place. Samuel then steps in and does what God asks Saul to do; he kills King Agag. And then we find the very same words in verse 35 that we found in verse 11, "The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel." Saul had a great deal of potential as the king of God's people. He was head and shoulders above everybody else. Everyone wanted him and they liked him, and perhaps he would have been a great king. Yet, there was one big problem. His heart was filled with pride. He thought he was very important. He needed more attention from the people than what he was already receiving. He also wanted recognition for something he did not even do as he set up that monument to himself. Oh, it was a big deal to be selected as the king of God's people, the Israelites. God could have chosen someone else for that role, but He chose Saul and gave him the opportunity; and yet, Saul did not come through. His heart was filled with pride and there was no humility about him. You know, the issue of pride has been around for a long time; hasn't it? We read about the devastating effects that pride has on many people throughout the Bible. Notice some of these passages that we find in God's Word: In Psalm 18:27, "For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down." In His earthly ministry, Jesus stated, in Matthew 23:12, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted;" and Jesus said that on other occasions as well. And then James even wrote, in chapter 4 in verse 6, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Yes, many times throughout Scripture we find passages like these, passages that remind us of the dangers of pride and the blessing of living with humility. And once again, that was one of the downfalls with King Saul. There was one other passage, however, that for me describes the attitude of Saul. Listen to these words from the Psalms, number 10, verses 2 through 4. <"In arrogance, the wicked hotly pursue the poor. Let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face, the wicked does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, 'There is no God.'"> The arrogance of Saul, his wicked heart, the desires of his soul, the greediness of Saul, all of that is identified here in Psalm number 10, even to the point that he renounces God, to the point that he would say, "There is no God." And in essence, that's what Saul did as he put himself in God's place. Through his actions, Saul believed that he knew better than God; he had a better plan, he was going a different direction. He made decisions that cost him everything. And for just a few short days of receiving some credit and praise and honor from the people, he lost his role as the king. Well, the story presents to us several challenges, which I want us to consider for the next few minutes. The first one is this: The story is challenging to hear. We skipped over it a few minutes ago, yet in verses 2 and 3, God said, "I want to destroy all of the Amalekites." That does not sound like a very loving and compassionate God; does it? Why would God want an entire nation of people to be wiped out and destroyed? The reason is given there in the text. As God's people the Israelites came out of Egyptian captivity, the Amalekites had the opportunity to help them, to bless them and to offer some kind of encouragement, and yet they did just the opposite. The text says, "They waylaid them," or they ambushed them and put to death some of those Israelites. They stood in the way of these people who had struggled in captivity. We know today that God wants His followers to show justice and mercy and kindness to those who are struggling with problems in their life, and we have the opportunity on a regular basis to offer our assistance instead of standing in the way and making people's life even more difficult. Secondly, the story is challenging to accept. God appears to be unkind and unforgiving to Saul. When Saul messed up, one might think that God would give him a second chance or another opportunity, and yet that was not the case. God realized that if Saul continued on the path of disobedience then the people would follow him, and, ultimately, they too would be completely disobedient to the Lord and they would drift far away from Him. Again, even still today, we are to live with full obedience to God. We are to recognize that His commandments are important and we are to pay close attention to and follow them. The third challenge that is presented in the story is that the story is challenging to apply. God's commands may not always make sense to us. We may look at those commands and think that we have a better idea. Perhaps, we come up with a different plan on what we need to do, something that might be a little bit easier, a little bit more convenient, or, perhaps, even more relevant to our lives today. And yet, that was one of Saul's mistakes as well. He thought he knew better than God, and with that kind of attitude, he led with pride and with arrogance. There was no spirit of humility in his heart because he thought he knew better than God and he replaced God with himself. When I think about this story, I'm reminded of one passage of Scripture that we find in the Old Testament book called Micah. That prophet asks and then answers his own question. The question is this, in chapter 6 and verse 8; what does the Lord require of you? In other words, what is most important? What does God want you to do? He then answers that question with these words, "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Justice and mercy and humility, those things are important, and all three of those things are found here in this story from 1st Samuel 15. As we think about justice and mercy, kindness and humility, no doubt, God calls upon us to live with those same kind of characteristics, even in our life today. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, in chapter 20, God gives to His people the Ten Commandments, and, no doubt, we are familiar with that story; that God gives those commandments to Moses; he then passes them on to the people as they prepare to enter into the Promise Land. God tells the people, "This is the way you need to live. These are the things you need to do, and once you do them, I will bless you and all things will be well." Before God gives those commandments to the people, He enters into a covenant relationship with them, and the people accept that relationship. They accept and agree to that covenant, and that is found in chapter 19. Listen to God's words in verse 5: "If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine." God makes a very simple statement, "Obey My voice, keep My covenant, and I will bless you. You will be My treasured possession," and then they were to keep those commandments and, no doubt, be blessed by God. And as it was then, so it is still today. God wants us to hear His voice and to keep His covenant, to keep those commandments; and when we do, we know that He will view us as His treasured possession and we will be blessed by the Lord. As I think about the story here in 1st Samuel chapter 15, the underlying truth of the entire message is this: God desires obedience more than worship or sacrifice. Oh, that does not mean that God does not want our worship and our sacrifice. He does. It is important to worship Him on a regular basis. We are to make some sacrifices in our life as we submit to Him and recognize that, indeed, He is the Lord God Almighty. And so how can we put all of that into practice in our life today? Here are four quick things for us to consider. Number one, we cannot know a better way than God. Sometimes we think we do. Sometimes we believe that we can come up with a better way or a better plan than what God has for us. And yet, we must realize God's plan is always the best. He has a way for us to live and it is to be followed. Secondly, we cannot take credit for God's work in our life. That was Saul's mistake. He took credit for the defeat of the Amalekites when that credit and that praise belonged to God. And no doubt, when we meet with good success and good things happen, we are to divert any kind of praise or attention to the Lord. Here's number three. We can take seriously God's commands. Sometimes, we might view God's commands as mere suggestions, and we look at those suggestions and we think, "Well, I can do this and I don't want to do that," and we begin to become editors, and we edit out what fits us or what doesn't fit us and we adjust those commands for our own purposes and benefit. God wants us to take seriously His commands and recognize that they are to be followed exactly as He has given them to us. And then finally, number four: We can expect consequences for disobedience. Saul received some consequences because he disobeyed God. His kingdom was taken away from him, almost as soon as it was given to him, and he suffered greatly because of that. No doubt it was a very humiliating experience. He did not like that at all and he suffered and he wished he could have done it all over again. He asked to be forgiven, and it was a very difficult time in Saul's life. In the same way, when we are disobedient to God, we too will suffer the consequences. They may come immediately or they may come sometime down the road, but no doubt we will have to pay for the mistakes and for the disobedience that we make as we turn our back against God. My encouragement for us today is simply this, to recognize that we cannot know the best. We can never come up with a better way than God. Instead, we are to learn to live in a spirit of humility and to live in complete obedience to God. And when we do, we know that we will receive His blessing, as He provides for us the very best way to live.
Not long ago I was driving by a construction site like this one. There were orange cones and diversions and detours everywhere. The line of cars was backed up, and I had to follow that line. Before long, however, I began to think, "I know some back roads. I know some other areas where I could travel and hopefully avoid all of this confusion and all of these detours." And so, I took those turns and I ended up in a place that I did not want to be. I was looking for that ultimate destination and yet I ended up in a place that was far away. Sometimes we do that in life, don't we? We look for a different plan, a different direction, a different idea, thinking we know what is best. We think that we have a better idea perhaps even than God, and so we put together our own plan and our own idea and we think we've got the solution. And before we know it, we are off track, we are headed in the wrong direction and we are going away from a relationship with God. The encouragement for us today is to recognize that God's commandments are for our good, that He wants to bless us and provide us with the very best way to go. Let us not come up with our own ideas and our own plans; but rather, let us be focused on obeying God and His will for our life. Let us be focused on walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, and know that is the very best way to enjoy a great life and relationship with God.
Because of King Saul's disobedience, God took away his throne. No longer was he to lead the Israelite people. His reign would soon come to an end and he would be replaced. Oh, it is a sad ending to a promising beginning. I can only wonder what would have happened had Saul obeyed God. I wonder how long he would have been king and the success he might have enjoyed. Oh, the great truth of this story applies to us today: Obedience brings blessing, while disobedience brings punishment, and that truth is seen throughout Scripture. If you want to view this message again, please go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. It, along with many others, is available to download in a variety of formats. It is free to do so, and there is no commitment required. Other information and resources are on the site as well, and you are welcome to access any that might be of interest or benefit. Several free Bible studies are also on the website. They revolve around the basic teaching of God's Word, and perhaps they will assist you in your search for the Lord. Specific questions related to this lesson can be found there as well, and they are designed to help you further explore the message of 1st Samuel chapter 15. If you would like to speak with someone about this message or this ministry, please call the number on the screen. Leave your name and phone number and we will return your call very soon. I am thankful you joined us for today's lesson. Please tune in again next time, on this same channel, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."