Calvary Road Baptist Church


First Samuel 15.22-25


1. For hundreds of years God had ruled over the Jewish people through the Aaronic priesthood’s administration of the Law of Moses and its many ordinances. When particular dangers threatened God raised up judges to lead His people against their oppressors. It continued after this fashion in the land from the days of Joshua and their entrance into the land to the time of Samuel.

2. When Samuel, the last of the judges, was old the people petitioned him to make them a king. Samuel turned to the LORD in prayer: “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”[1]

3. After warning the people what they would be in for with a king, everything from increased taxes to what we would refer to as a military draft of young men into the army, Samuel then anointed an impressive looking man named Saul to reign as king.

4. King Saul did fairly well for two or three years. He waged war against Israel’s enemies, both the Ammonites and the Philistines, and seemed well-suited to be the king; until he got himself into a real bind and found his forces greatly outnumbered on the field of battle by the Philistines.

5. Almost surrounded by the enemy, Saul waited for Samuel to arrive so the man of God might offer a sacrifice and pray for divine intervention against the enemy. For seven long days Saul and the fearful Israelites waited for Samuel. Finally, when his patience ran out, king Saul offered the burnt offering himself, usurping the role of a priest.

6. Wouldn’t you know it? Just after king Saul did that Samuel arrived, discovered what Saul had done, and confronted him. Of course, king Saul justified his rash behavior and foolish presumption to do that which only an anointed priest had the authority before God to do.

7. It was then that Samuel gave Saul the bad news. I read First Samuel 13.13-14:

13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.

14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

8. Beloved, it is from this point forward that king Saul’s reign begins its steep decline. On the verge of being given a dynasty by God, he is told that he will be the only king in his line. Why? Because “the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart.” Saul was not that man. He proved it by his open disobedience.

9. Though Saul would be the only king in his line, he still had the opportunity to enjoy a measure of success in his reign. But one does not always have such opportunities to do right and to secure blessings. For that reason, one must always obey God when it is the season of obedience, which is when God is still willing to bless. But with King Saul it seemed that things only got worse and worse, as his lost condition became more and more evident.

10. You see, when anyone turns away from God it affects his judgment. We see that explained in Romans 1.21. In Saul’s life it is clearly illustrated. In First Samuel 14, we see that Saul’s lack of wisdom almost cost the life of his courageous son Jonathan. In First Samuel 15, it got even worse. Turn to First Samuel chapter 15 and stand with me for the reading of God’s Word:

1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.

2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.

5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.

6 And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.

8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,

11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.

13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.

19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?

20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.

28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.

29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

30 Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.

31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

32 Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.

33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul.

35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

11. Four observations to make in our text. Four things to help Christians become more skillful in discerning the events that occur in an unsaved person’s life:


In verse 22, we read:

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

1B. To be perfectly clear, let me state that it is not really possible to worship God apart from obedience. But what I am referring to in this verse is the notion of giving the appearance of worship.

2B. You see, some people like to do the whole religious thing, the whole swaying with the wonderful music and the singing a chorus over and over thing; they just refuse to faithfully attend all the church services, or tithe, or engage in evangelism. I say evangelism because it was, in part, their involvement in outreach that convinced Paul the Thessalonians were truly the elect of God.[2]

3B. Samuel’s question to Saul had to do with what does the LORD like more, burnt offerings and sacrifices, or obedience? The answer is obvious. God prefers obedience over religious observance any day. Not that there is a conflict between worship and obedience, between singing in the choir and turning out for evangelism. It is just that what God commands must take precedence over an outward form of religion.

4B. Evangelical Christianity is saturated with people who delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, who excel in putting on a display of outward religious form; they just do not want to do what God has commanded.


The first half of verse 23:

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”

1B. Let me recite this verse using the same word order that appears in the Hebrew text: For as the sin of witchcraft rebellion as iniquity and idolatry stubbornness.[3] We all think of witchcraft as a terrible sin, as are the sins of iniquity and idolatry. But how many realize that rebellion is witchcraft, and stubbornness is iniquity and idolatry? Though not the same act, they are sins of the same essence.

2B. Let me suggest to you that Saul’s was more of a passive rebellion than one might initially think. That is, he did not stand up and protest to Samuel and say, “I will not do that. I will do whatever I please.” But he did rebel, did he not? He never had any intention of obeying God if it was in any way inconvenient for him. But obedience toward God is always inconvenient, is it not?

3B. And how about stubbornness? Saul’s stubbornness only came to light when Samuel confronted him. Had Samuel not openly contested king Saul’s actions he would still have been stubborn. But it was when he was confronted that he resolutely persisted in his determination to portray himself as obedient when it was clear that he was not. Much stubbornness exists which is not on display.

4B. So, what we have here with Saul are basically two attitudes that Samuel’s confrontation exposed for all to see. First, there was the attitude of rebellion, a conscious decision to go his own way instead of God’s way, to let Agag and the best animals live. And next, there was the attitude of stubbornness, a refusal to consider yourself wrong in the face of evidence that proves you wrong.

5B. What Samuel wants Saul to realize, and what we should all realize, is that those two sinful attitudes of the mind and heart are every bit as wicked in the sight of God as are such sins as witchcraft, iniquity, and idolatry. And by the way, witchcraft, iniquity, and idolatry were punishable by death under the Law of Moses.


1B. Samuel’s precise words were, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” By sparing the life of Agag, instead of killing the enemy of God, and by sparing the animals that God wanted killed, Saul showed Samuel that he had rejected the Word of the LORD. Thus, what might not seem like so very much to many people, illuminated a profoundly serious condition of Saul’s wicked heart to the discerning prophet.

2B. And God’s judgment of that sin? My friends, God actually judges sins in two ways. He judges sins now, and He judges sins later. He judges sins in this lifetime, and He judges sins in the next life. There are temporal judgments for sins, and there are eternal judgments for sins. This portion of scripture deals only with God’s in-this-lifetime judgment of Saul’s sins.

3B. Remember, Saul had sinned against God before. He improperly intruded upon the ministry of a priest by offering a sacrifice before the arrival of Samuel. Upon Samuel’s arrival, he was informed that God’s judgment of his sin was, basically, to make the next king of Israel someone other than his son. Of course, that meant Saul would not be the head of a dynastic reign of kings over Israel.

4B. God’s judgment for this second great sin was even more severe. However long Saul might have been king over Israel, that reign was shortened because God was removing him as king and replacing him with someone else. Of course, the replacement would be none other than King David. But God’s judgment perfectly illustrates Galatians 6.7-8: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”


It is wonderful that God does forgive sins. What a display of God’s mercy and grace that He does forgive sins. But let us remember what we all know, and let us come to realize what some of you do not know.

1B. What we all know is that God does not have to forgive sins. Think for just a moment. If salvation is truly by grace, and if grace has to do with undeserved favor, then God does not have to. And, truly, God did not have to send Jesus Christ to die on Calvary’s cross for my sins. So, though God does forgive sins, be very clear in your mind that God does not have to forgive sins. That is what we need to remember.

2B. What some of you need to realize, that you may not have known before, is that there comes a time when God will not forgive sins anymore. There came a time when Noah and his family entered the Ark and God shut the door. From then on it was too late for forgiveness for those people who perished in the Flood. As well, there came a time when it was too late for Pharaoh to be forgiven when the children of Israel were delivered at the time of the Exodus.

3B. In this passage before us, Saul has come to the end of God’s patience. He seeks Samuel’s forgiveness and wants God’s forgiveness, but the prophet says “No. It’s too late for that.”


1. Christian, this record of Saul’s life and sins was made for your benefit, being “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”[4] So, before this morning’s sermon to the lost who are here today, let me restate what we have learned:

2. First, we have seen that obeying God is primary. There is nothing more important to God than simple obedience; not worshiping Him, not singing to Him, not praying to Him. Failure to obey is rebellion. Persistence in rebellion is stubbornness.

3. Next, sinful attitudes are just as wicked as sinful deeds. This should not surprise us at all, since the Lord Jesus Christ taught that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”[5]

4. Third, God judges sins. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”[6] “he hath prepared his throne for judgment.”[7] If God did not spare judgment for His Son when He became sin for us, He surely will not spare judgment for sin when it comes to His dealings with anyone else.

5. And finally, there comes a time when God does not do what He never had to do in the first place, forgive sins. We know that after a sinner dies it is too late for his sins to be forgiven. But how long before a sinner dies is it too late for him to find forgiveness? Only God knows.

6. Now, before this morning’s sermon, stand and sing as brother Isenberger comes.


1. King Saul lived 3,000 years ago, about 1,000 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When the virgin born Son of God was crucified on Calvary’s cross, He died and shed His blood as the sinless sacrifice for sins. Three days later He rose up in a glorified body and ascended to heaven.

2. Because He paid the price for sins, He commands sinners to come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing. Not to God. Not to the Holy Spirit. Only He saves sinners from their sins, and He has commanded you who are lost to come to Him.

3. So, King Saul was commanded to do something . . . and you are commanded to do something. Saul was commanded to attack Israel’s enemies as an instrument of divine judgment. You are commanded to do something infinitely simpler and more delightful. You are commanded to come to Christ.

4. Using Saul’s experiences as a guide, consider the following as you decide your response to Christ’s command to come to Him:


1B. To be sure, you can attend church, sing songs, read your Bible, pray at morning and at night, give offerings, and participate in evangelism. And all those things are good. But what Jesus Christ demands is heart compliance. You must come to Him, or forever be lost in your sins.

2B. Should you stay home until you come to Christ? Should you stop singing hymns with the rest of us until you come to Christ? Should you refuse to read your Bible until you come to Christ? Should you refuse to come to evangelism until you come to Christ? Heavens, no. These activities are not inherently sinful, and it may well be that the Spirit of God will make use of these things to prepare your heart in some way to come to Christ, as Christians around you minister grace to you.

3B. Just understand that, when you stand before the Great White Throne of God’s end time judgment, the only thing that will count with God insofar as your eternal destiny is concerned is if you have obeyed the gospel and come to Christ.


1B. I do not know why you have not yet come to Christ. I do not know the particulars surrounding your persistence in your lost estate. Maybe you have given up on getting saved. Maybe you are scared of the pain and disappointment associated with the conviction of sins. It may be that you are embarrassed about your sinfulness.

2B. Keep in mind that whatever you are thinking about, your refusal to come to Christ is nothing but rebellion and stubbornness. How has rebellion ever benefited you? How has your stubbornness ever made anything better for you? And do not attempt to persuade yourself that you are a Christian who is rebellious and stubborn, because that is simply not the case. Rebellion and stubbornness are the characteristics of lost people, not saved people. Christians are not hardheaded in their refusal to comply with the revealed will of God.


1B. Of course, we know that the primary consideration should be God’s eternal damnation for sins, and not just the wrecked family life, the ruined relationships, and the defective thinking and reasoning associated with God’s judgment of sins in this lifetime.

2B. But sometimes it is difficult for people to focus on an eternity in the lake of fire if they think they will live for 50 more years before having to face such a thing. If that is the case with you, remember two things: First, you don’t have 50 more years guaranteed to you. You may die tomorrow. And second, God’s judgment of you during this lifetime may end up being more than you can bear.


1B. My friend, I can assure you, based upon the testimony of God’s Word, that the Savior wants you now. But I cannot assure you that He will always want you, or that He will always receive you.

2B. So, how does it help you to resist, to refuse, and to reject the Savior’s invitation? Why did Paul write, “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”?[8] He wrote those words because the present time is the best time for every sinner to come to Christ.

3B. Oh, how I wish I had come to Christ when I was fifteen, or when I was thirteen. Some here today have wondered what their lives would have been like, what pain and suffering from sins would have been avoided, had they heard the gospel at a younger age and come to Christ sooner than they did.

4B. So, purpose in your heart to come to Christ now. Determine to seek the Lord while He may be found.


1. Sinners decide to rebel. Sinners also decide to be stubborn.

2. Decide to stop rebelling. Decide to stop being stubborn. Begin now striving to enter into the strait gate.

3. Purpose in your heart that you will seek the Lord while He may be found, so you can be saved from your sins.

[1] 1 Samuel 8.7

[2] 1 Thessalonians 1

[3] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 2, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989), page 194.

[4] 2 Timothy 3.16

[5] Matthew 15.19

[6] Genesis 18.25

[7] Psalm 9.7

[8] 2 Corinthians 6.2

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