Saul Did Not Seek the Lord (1 Samuel 15)

Saul Did Not Seek the Lord, We Must Seek the Lord

(1 Samuel 15:15, 21)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on September 8, 2019

We are going to be turning to 1 Samuel 15 in just a moment so I invite you to turn in your Bible’s to that passage.

Os Guinness traces our contemporary idea of human freedom that “began in the Renaissance … blossomed in the Enlightenment and rose to its climax in the 1960s.” The classic statement of the Renaissance view is that of Pico della Mirandola, as he imagines God addressing Adam: “You, who are confined by no limits, shall determine for yourself your own nature …. You shall fashion yourself in whatever form you prefer.”

Throughout the centuries this same view of human freedom—limitless potential apart from God—has been expressed by other key thinkers.

  • Leon Batista Alberti: “A man can do all things if he will.” (15th century, Italy)
  • Karl Marx: “Man is free only if he owes his existence to himself.” (19th century, Germany)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: “If there were gods, who could bear not to be gods? Therefore there are no gods.” (19th century, Germany)
  • Herbert Spencer: “Progress is not an accident, but a necessity. Surely must evil and immorality disappear; surely must men become perfect.” (19th century, England)
  • Walt Whitman: “One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person.” (19th century, America)
  • John F. Kennedy: “Man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” (20th century, America)
  • Ayn Rand: “Man’s destiny is to be a self-made soul.” (20th century, Russian-American)
  • O. Wilson: “Humanity will be positioned godlike to take control of its own ultimate fate.” (21st century, America)[1]

The person we are going to talk about today only thought about himself. He did not seek the Lord. He was the anointed king of Israel, but he did not seek the Lord. Notice this in 1 Samuel 15:15:

 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

Notice the pronouns, Saul did not acknowledge the Lord as “our God” but as “your” God. Notice again in verse 21, 1 Samuel 15:21: But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Saul focused on himself and not the Lord.

We are preaching on people of the Old Testament. We have talked about Cain, Abraham, Esau, Achan and now we come to Saul.

My theme and application:

Saul Did Not Seek the Lord, We Must Seek the Lord

I am going to summarize Saul’s life and then we will settle down in chapter 15.

  1. Introduction to Saul
    1. In chapter 8 we see that the people of Israel wanted a king. This was NOT a good thing. They wanted a king to be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). But the Lord was their king.
    2. In 1 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Saul.
    3. Saul is of the tribe of Benjamin.
    4. He was looking for a lost donkey in the hill country of Ephraim, in the area of Shelisha, in the districts of Shaalim and Zuph, he finally approached Samuel in Ramah for guidance
    5. Samuel privately anointed him king (10:1). Samuel predicted certain events that would happen near Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin, at the great tree of Tabor, and at Gibeah of God (vv 2-8).
    6. He soon rallied Israelite and Judean forces to deliver Jabesh Gilead from their Ammonite oppressors. Saul might have been eager to do this since many Benjaminites of his day were descendants of women whose ancestral homes were in Jabesh Gilead (Judges 21).
    7. They left Gibeah of Saul to Bezek where he prepared the forces for battle (1 Sam 11:6-8).
    8. They crossed the Jordan and defeated the Ammonites.
    9. Israel confirmed Saul as king at Gilgal from that point on his kingship was not doubted by most of the populace
    10. Saul and his son Jonathon then mustered troops in Micmash, Gibeah of Benjamin, and the hill country of Bethel.
    11. The Israelites were probably dependent upon the Philistines for the manufacture and repair of copper and iron.
    12. In 1 Sam. 13:3 Saul’s son met the Philistines head on at Gibeon. He took their garrison.
    13. There is a war with the Philistines in chapter 13 and then Jonathon, Saul’s son, wins a battle in chapter 14.
    14. Saul has a great rise to power in 1 Samuel 9, but he was the people’s choice. He was head and shoulders above everyone else (1 Samuel 10:23).
    15. Then, beginning in 1 Samuel chapter 13 we see his epic downfall. He made his first major mistake in chapter 13, his second mistake in chapter 14 and his third in chapter 15.
  2. Saul is rejected: 1 Samuel 13 and 15
    1. In 1 Samuel 13 we have the battle with the Philistines
    2. Saul was supposed to wait seven days for Samuel to arrive and make sacrifices (verses 8-9).
      1. Kings were not to make sacrifices. They could make sacrifices for themselves but not the community.
      2. Samuel was to convey the Lord’s battle plans.
    3. Saul makes the offering himself. Saul takes matters into his own hands. Saul did what he was not supposed to do.
    4. Samuel arrives (verses 10-12).
    5. Saul is rejected verses 13-14.
    6. Saul moves on like nothing happened (verse 15). He did not repent or anything.
    7. In chapter 14, the Israelites defeat the Philistines but not led by Saul. The king’s son, Jonathon took his armor bearer on a secret raid of the Philistine’s camp.
    8. Saul makes a curse in that chapter and does not follow through with it. He makes another mistake. You can read that later on.
  • Saul does not obey again: 1 Samuel 15
    1. In verse 1 Saul is anointed again, the Lord gives second chances.
    2. 1 Samuel 15:1-3: Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
    3. We look at that and must think, we thought Saul was rejected, well it seems that God gives him a second chance.
    4. When we see that they were supposed to utterly destroy everything, this means that that area was “under the ban.” This means in certain cities they were supposed to kill everyone and not take bounty. Bounty goes back to the Lord. This goes back to Deuteronomy. Saul disobeyed.
    5. Verses 8-9: Hecaptured Agag the 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 not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
    6. They spared Agag, the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs.
    7. Saul disobeyed.
    8. God communicates to Samuel: 10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 “Iregretthat I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.
    9. Do things bother us? Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.
    10. Swindoll shares: The Hebrew word translated “distressed” here means to burn with anger. Samuel was incensed with Saul and sat up all night stewing in his righteous rage. The Lord gave the rebellious king yet another chance to do what was right, to bow in submission to Israel’s true King, but, again, he blew it.[2]
    11. Now look: 12 Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself,then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” 13 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” 
    12. Saul does not get it at all.
    13. He had no guilt.
    14. He setup a monument to himself.
    15. I like Samuel’s response: 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
    16. Samuel heard the sheep and knew that Saul disobeyed.
    17. Now, notice Saul’s response: 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord yourGod; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 
    18. Notice how he says, “The Lord, ‘your’ God”?
    19. Saul did not bow to the Lord.
    20. Now, verses 16-21: 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” 17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel,18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord yourGod at Gilgal.” 
    21. Once again, Saul would not bow to the Lord.
    22. Samuel’s next words: 22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
      As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
      Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
      And to heed than the fat of rams.
      23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
      And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
      Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
      He has also rejected you from being king.”
    23. Notice that Saul would not bow.
    24. If you read the rest of 1 Samuel, which I encourage you to do, you’ll see that Saul became totally self-absorbed the rest of his life. He chased the Lord’s anointed, David, all over Israel. But God was still at work.
  1. Apply:
    1. Swindoll shares these first few applications. How you finish is more important than how you start. Remember that, finish well. Finish serving the Lord.
    2. Rationalization is disobedience because it refuses to accept the truth.
      1. The most destructive lie is the one you tell yourself.
      2. Saul rationalized disobedience.
    3. Remain accountable. We all need accountability partners (Prov. 27:17).
    4. Reject pride.
    5. Pursue truth.
      1. Strict obedience is better than good intentions.
      2. There is truth that is not popular such as: Don’t marry a non-believer; Abstain from sexual immorality.
  • If you have messed up, don’t be like Saul, repent.
  1. More applications:
    1. We must submit to the Lord’s leadership.
      1. This means sometimes we must wait on the Lord.
      2. This means we must not NEED to be in leadership, or in front, or in powerful places to have fulfillment.
      3. This means that we must submit to the Lord’s people.
        1. We must submit to leadership in society (Romans 13).
        2. We must submit to church leadership (Hebrews 13:7 and 17).
  • We must submit to the Lord’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  1. We must submit to the Lord’s leading through the Word, the church, reason and the Holy Spirit.
  1. 1 Samuel 15:12 shows that Saul setup a monument for himself, or let the people do that. We must be humble and not take credit, but give glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31).
  2. 1 Samuel 15:17 shows that Saul was a no one and he knew that, and the Lord anointed him. We must recognize everything we have comes from the Lord. Positions we are placed in comes from the Lord.
  3. The Lord is sovereign, we must bow to Him and cast our crowns to Him (Rev 4:8-11). The Lord worked in this process and went to David, who is the Lord’s choice (1 Samuel 13:14).
  4. God is most glorified in us
    when we are most satisfied in him.[3]

A CEO has taken on a new job, and the outgoing CEO says to him, “Sometimes you’ll make wrong choices. You will. You’ll mess up. When that happens, I have prepared three envelopes for you. I left them in the top drawer of the desk. The first time it happens, open #1. The second time you mess up, open #2. The third time, open #3.”

For the first few months, everything goes fine. Then the CEO makes his first mistake, goes to the drawer, opens up envelope #1, and the message reads, “Blame me.” So he does: “This is the old CEO’s fault. He made these mistakes. I inherited these problems.” Everybody says, “Okay.” It works out pretty well.

Things go fine for a while, and then he makes his second mistake. So, he goes to the drawer and opens up envelope #2. This time he reads, “Blame the board.” And he does: “It’s the board’s fault. The board has been a mess. I inherited them. They’re the problem.” Everybody says, “Okay, that makes sense.”

Things go fine for a while, and then he makes his third mistake. So, he goes to the drawer and opens up envelope #3. The message reads: “Prepare three envelopes.”[4]

Own up to our mistakes, repent, serve the Lord.

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.



[1]Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide (IVP, 2012), pp. 154-155

[2]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.


[4]John Ortberg, in the sermon “Guide,”

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