God expects His children to be obedient, completely obedient! Partial obedience is disobedience in the eyes of our heavenly Father. We cannot pick and chose what we want to do when God directs us into action. King Saul learned this lesson and the consequences of His disobedience were very costly. In fact, his partial obedience is what cost him his kingship.
In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel is sent by God to anoint Saul as King of Israel. Samuel then gives Saul a message from God. “’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.’” 1 Samuel 15:3 (NKJV)
This may sound like a harsh command, but God’s ways are so much higher than our own. His thoughts are not our thoughts; they are way beyond our comprehension. If we are certain we have heard from God, even though we do not understand the reason or purpose of His instruction, we must still follow through and obey. This requires faith and trust. Trusting in God’s character, faithfulness, and love will give us the confidence needed to obey His leading.
“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9
“With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding.”
Job 12:13 (NKJV)
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 (NKJV)
But then again, God gave us free will. We have the gift of choice. We can choose to obey or disobey. When you read 1 Samuel 15, it appears that Saul is following the will of God. He is, mostly.
“And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.“ 1 Samuel 15:7-9 (NKJV)
Samuel found Saul and confronted him when he heard sheep bleating and oxen lowing. “And Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.’” 1 Samuel 15:15 (NKJV)
As the story continues, Saul lies about his disobedience. He says the Amalekites have been utterly destroyed yet the King of Agag was still alive. “And Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.” 1 Samuel 15:20 (NKJV)
Samuel agrees that the Lord delights in burnt offerings and sacrifices but not more than obedience. Samuel points out Saul’s rebellion against God and delivers a mighty blow. God has rejected him as king of Israel.
“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. 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.”
Saul made the decision to follow his own plan, rejecting God’s instruction. He did just enough to appear obedient but nothing escapes the eyes of God. Saul’s desire for control meant he rejected God’s will. Man is self-centered and rebellious and Saul let pride override his purpose, which was to obey the will of God… whole-heartedly.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2:14
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10 (NIV)