Chapel Devotion, Concordia University Nebraska          
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
1 Samuel 15:10-31 Sermon                                                                    
December 4, 2012


1 Samuel 15:10-31:   10 Then the Lord spoke to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I made Saul king. He turned away from me and did not carry out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he prayed to the Lord all night. 12 Early in the morning he got up to meet Saul. Samuel was told, “Saul went to Carmel to set up a monument in his honor. Then he left there and went to Gilgal.”

                13 Samuel came to Saul, who said, “The Lord bless you. I carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

                14 However, Samuel asked, “But what is this sound of sheep in my earsand this sound of cows that I hear?”

                15 Saul answered, “The army brought them from the Amalekites. They spared the best sheep and cows to sacrifice to the Lord your God. But the rest they claimed for God and destroyed.”

                16 “Be quiet,” Samuel told Saul, “and let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”

            “Speak,” Saul replied.

                17 Samuel said, “Even though you don’t consider yourself great, you were the head of Israel’s tribes. The Lord anointed you king of Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission. He said, ‘Claim those sinners, the Amalekites, for me by destroying them. Wage war against them until they’re wiped out.’ 19 Why didn’t you obey the Lord? Why have you taken their belongings and done what the Lord considers evil?”

                20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul told Samuel. “I went where the Lord sent me, brought back King Agag of Amalek, and claimed the Amalekites for God. 21 The army took some of their belongings—the best sheep and cows were claimed for God—in order to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

                22 Then Samuel said, “Is the Lord as delighted with burnt offerings and sacrifices as he would be with your obedience?To follow instructions is better than to sacrifice.To obey is better than sacrificing the fat of rams.23 The sin of black magic is rebellion.  Wickedness and idolatry are arrogance.  Because you rejected the word of the Lord,he rejects you as king.”

                24 Then Saul told Samuel, “I have sinned by not following the Lord’s command or your instructions. I was afraid of the people and listened to them. 25 Now please forgive my sin and come back with me so that I may worship the Lord.”

                26 Samuel told Saul, “I will not go back with you because you rejected what the Lord told you. So the Lord rejects you as king of Israel.” 27 When Samuel turned to leave, Saul grabbed the hem of his robe, and it tore.28 Samuel told him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today. He has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. 29 In addition, the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind, because he is not a mortal who changes his mind.”

                30 Saul replied, “I have sinned! Now please honor me in front of the leaders of my people and in front of Israel. Come back with me, and let me worship the Lord your God.” 31 Then Samuel turned and followed Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.


            Being here in Weller Chapel this morning on the Concordia campus brings back a lot of memories for me of my own college days.  My college days were spent on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota, which began when I was 27 years old.  That was a little over 30 years ago.  That in itself is hard for me to believe, but it's true.

            When I was in college, I worked for the maintenance department as one of my on-campus jobs.  I was able to bring one of my skills into the picture, so I worked as an electrician.  I worked full-time during the summer; and during the school year, I would take care of maintenance issues as I had the time.  And since I was readily available, I would get called for all sorts of emergency situations.

            It was probably a month or so after the new school year began when I got a frantic call from one of the RA's in Teigen Hall, which is a men's dorm.  One of the washing machines wasn't working.

            Now I should explain that washing machines, specifically those used by the male students, were frequently subject to problems.  Quite often, it happened after school had been in session for several weeks.  Many of the male students came to the horrifying realization that their dirty clothes didn't pick themselves up off the floor and march down to the washing machine under their own power, although many of the clothes were dirty enough where they probably could have done that.

            Anyway, when a washing machine would fail, it almost always was a problem of overloading the machine.  And that's exactly what I encountered in this particular instance.

            When I got into the laundry room, here was a frantic student who had run through all of his clean clothes.  He had something going on that night where he needed some clean clothes, so he was trying to do a quick load of laundry.  And he was bitterly complaining about our cheap, no-good, junky washing machines.

            When I opened up the machine, I can honestly say that I had never encountered a washing machine packed that full.  Judging by the shoe prints on the top of the machine, I guessed that he had stood on top of the machine and packed the clothes down with his feet.  And when I pulled the clothes out of the machine, there was every bit of four complete loads of clothes in there, if not more.  That was the worst case of overloading I had ever seen.

            Above the machines were instructions printed in large letters.  There were warnings about overloading, which even said that the machines were capable of no more than 18 pounds of laundry.  If a person followed those directions, then they would have no problems at all.  But he ignored them, and he had problems.

            And then he argued with me.  He felt that we just wanted people to spend more money (it cost 75 cents to wash, and 50 cents to dry).  And then he told me that this is the way his mother told him how to wash clothes.  I told him that I sincerely doubted that, unless his mother worked in a commercial laundry.  No home washing machine could ever be expected to do what he was trying to do.  I even called his bluff by offering to take him to the maintenance office where he could get his mother on the phone, and she could tell me exactly what she had told her son.  That humbled him immediately, and no more was said. 

            So we wound up dividing up his laundry into proper size loads, and he got along just fine.

            Following instructions are important; and when you don't follow instructions, or you reckon that you know better, then you have to suffer the consequences.  You can't rationalize, you can't argue, and you can't shift the blame.  When you make the conscious choice to do the wrong thing, then you can expect to pay for it.

            In our Scripture reading for today, this is what we see happening with King Saul.  God had given him a very specific directive.  He was to completely annihilate the Amalekites.  Saul was to be God's arm of judgment against this wicked people.  We was to completely wipe them from the face of the earth, just like God did with the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

            But Saul had something far different in mind.  Instead of proceeding according to God's will, he does so according to his own will.  He completely and blatantly disobeys what God told him.  And to make matters worse, Saul even goes and erects a huge monument to memorialize himself!  Saul was proud of his disobedience!

            Of course this troubles Samuel no end.  Samuel had anointed Saul as King years before, and now he had the unpleasant task of chastising him for his sin.  Saul had started out good, but he turned against God.

            When he is confronted, Saul starts rationalizing.  He comes up with four excuses to justify himself.   First, he blames the people, not himself (They have brought them . . . the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen). Second, he includes himself in the obedience (the rest we have utterly destroyed). Third, he justifies what he has kept because of its fine quality (the best of the sheep and the oxen), getting rid of only the weak and helpless amongst the Amalekites.  Fourth, he claims to have done it for a spiritual reason (to sacrifice to the LORD your God).  It's like he's saying, "See God, I did this all for YOU!  Aren't you proud of me for thinking outside the box?  And look at the fine offering you're getting out of it (like he could buy God off)."  Of course it didn't work, and God was very displeased with Saul's complete lack of faithfulness and obedience.

            Pride and disobedience are two key things we see in our text for today.  We read in Proverbs 16:18:  "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."   And if we're honest with ourselves, those are sins that infect us all of the time. 

            We're all proud people.  We like who we are and what we do.  We make bold statements about how good we are, and how upright we are.  We stand up for how we have rationalized our own decisions.  We want God to adjust himself according to our will, rather than accepting the will of God for ourselves.

            And when we disobey God, then we can come up with all sorts of feeble excuses and rationalizations.  We justify our selfishness.  We justify greed.  We point out the sins of others without looking in the mirror at ourselves.  And far too often, we are just simply blind to the truth that we are sinners in desperate need of forgiveness.

            In contrast, we look at Saul's successor, King David, someone who God says is a man after his own heart.  Here is a person who commits adultery, and then tries to cover it up by committing murder.  But his relationship with God is altogether different than Saul's.

            In Psalm 139, listen to what David asks God in verses 23-24:  "23 Examine me, O God, and know my mind.  Test me, and know my thoughts. 24 See whether I am on an evil path.  Then lead me on the everlasting path."  And then in Psalm 130 David says in verses 3-4, "O Lord, who would be able to stand if you kept a record of sins? But with you there is forgiveness so that you can be feared."  

            And it's right here where we see our hope too.  Regardless of the size or type of sin that has infected our lives, we know that there is forgiveness through faith in Jesus our Saviour.  Even those sins of which we are not aware, we know that Jesus has paid the price for those sins, and he has put us on that path to everlasting life.

            When we come to Jesus, we don't do so in an attempt to justify our sinful actions.  We come to experience the justification he gives us through faith alone.  We come to him with broken spirits and contrite hearts, knowing that all of our sins are forgiven and will never be remembered again.  Our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.

            As we prepare to celebrate our Saviour's birth, may we do so with joyful anticipation, knowing that his kingdom is our kingdom because of his grace, his undeserved love for us.