Calvary Road Baptist Church

“NO BETTER THAN A WITCH OR IDOL WORSHIPER

First Samuel 15.22-25 

Having completed A Survey Of Satanic & Demonic Warfare in both First and Second Samuel, this evening, we will more closely examine the life of a man who was more involved with the Satanic and Demonic Warfare during that time in Israel’s history than many readers of the Bible recognize. For hundreds of years, God 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.

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] 

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.[2]

King Saul’s reign seemed successful for two or three years. He waged war against Israel’s enemies, both the Ammonites and the Philistines, and seemed well-suited to serve as Israel’s king; until he got himself into a real bind and found his forces greatly outnumbered on the field of battle by the Philistines. Almost surrounded by the enemy, King Saul waited for the prophet-priest 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.[3]

Wouldn’t you know it? Just after King Saul usurped the priestly role, Samuel arrived, discovered what Saul had done, and confronted him.[4] Of course, King Saul justified his rash behavior and foolish presumption to do what only an anointed priest had the authority before God to do. It was then that Samuel pronounced God’s judgment to Saul. 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. 

It is from this point forward that King Saul’s reign began its steep decline. Presumably the first king of a dynasty established by God, he was instead informed by Samuel that he would 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, and he proved it by his open disobedience.

Though Saul would be the only king in his line, he was still given 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, when God is still willing to bless. But with King Saul, things only got worse and worse, as his lost condition became more evident.

When anyone turns away from God it affects their judgment. We see that illustrated by the Apostle Paul’s declaration in his letter to the Romans, 1.21: 

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” 

In Saul’s life, this consequence of not glorifying God or being thankful to Him, resulting in awful judgment, was clearly illustrated.

In First Samuel 14, Saul’s lack of wisdom almost cost the life of his courageous son Jonathan. King Saul was an incompetent leader, and during a battle against the Philistines, he foolishly decreed that none of his warriors should eat anything until the battle was won verse 24. But Jonathan had not heard his father’s command and ate some honey to boost his energy, verse 27.

Upon learning what his son Jonathan had done, King Saul would have executed him but for the intervention of his soldiers, verse 45. Perhaps it is better stated that, but for the intervention of Jonathan’s comrades in arms, the king would have ordered his execution. The reflective reader of God’s Word must wonder, What kind of military leader issues such an order, since all but the most ignorant realize that an army marches on its stomach?

In First Samuel 15, Saul’s leadership deteriorated to an even worse level. Turning to First Samuel chapter 15, I invite you to 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. 

Five observations to make concerning our text. Might we label these five timeless realities to help Christians become more insightful in discerning the events that occur in an unsaved person’s life? You decide as we proceed. 

First, NOTICE THAT OBEYING GOD IS PREFERABLE TO WORSHIPING GOD 

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.” 

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. Some people like to do the whole religious thing, don’t they? Their preference is the whole swaying with the wonderful music and the singing a chorus over and over kind of thing. They just refuse to attend all the Church services, or tithe faithfully, or engage in evangelism. I particularly point out evangelism because it was, in part, their involvement in evangelism and outreach that convinced the Apostle Paul the recently converted Thessalonians were truly the elect of God.[5]

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

My most serious issue with modern Evangelical Christianity is its saturation with whole congregations of 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’s Word commands. An example of this that surprised me was a comment by one of our era’s most prominent evangelical leaders on a YouTube video I recently watched and will link to this sermon when uploaded to our Church website. Let me quote what he said: 

“I think it is very important to say that as a pastor for all these years at Grace Community Church, we’ve had a basic principle of membership in our church and it’s this. If the Lord will allow you into His kingdom, you can be in our church. That is the only requirement that we would have. We don’t set any requirement beyond conversion. If the Lord accepts you, believe me, we accept you. We have a doctrinal statement, but it’s titled, ‘What We Teach.’ It isn’t titled ‘What We Believe,’ because we don’t all believe it.”[6] 

That is the position the beloved John Bunyan took in Bedford, England, back in the day. He, too, was mistaken. The Jerusalem Church, and every other Church established by apostles of Jesus Christ, received as members those who persuaded the leadership they were converted and then submitted to immersion in water as a public assertion of their profession. This is because the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus Christ is a directive to evangelize, to baptize, and then to train. Congregations seek to reach the lost, immerse them in obedience to Christ’s command, and then train their members to live for, love, and serve Christ.[7]

What is commanded must take precedence over any outward form of religion. Obeying God is preferable to worshiping God. 

Next, NOTICE THAT WRONG ATTITUDES ARE JUST AS SINFUL AS WRONG ACTIONS 

The first half of verse 23 reads, 

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

Let me recite this verse using the same word order that appears in the Hebrew text, taking into account that Hebrew is written from right to left rather than left to right: For as the sin of witchcraft rebellion as iniquity and idolatry stubbornness.[8] We all think of witchcraft as a terrible sin, which it is, 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 spirit and essence.

Let me suggest 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, saying, “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 almost always inconvenient, is it not?

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.

So, what we have with Saul are two attitudes that Samuel’s confrontation exposed for all to see when actions expressed those attitudes: First, there was the attitude of rebellion, a conscious decision to go his own way instead of God’s way, resulting in the action of permitting Agag and the best animals to live. And, next, there was the attitude of stubbornness, a refusal to consider yourself wrong in the face of evidence that proves you wrong, which showed itself by Saul’s argumentative refusal to acknowledge his wrongdoing to Samuel.

What Samuel wanted King 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 sins punishable by death under the Law of Moses.[9] 

Third, NOTICE THAT GOD JUDGES SINS 

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 that enemy of God and by sparing the animals that God wanted killed, Saul convinced Samuel that he had rejected the Word of the LORD. Thus, what might not seem like so very much to many people, was sufficient to illuminate the profoundly serious condition of Saul’s wicked heart to the discerning prophet.

And God’s judgment of that sin? God 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 only deals with God’s in-this-lifetime judgment of Saul’s sins.

Do not forget that Saul had sinned against God before. We took note earlier that he had improperly intruded upon the ministry of the priesthood by offering a sacrifice before the arrival of Samuel. Upon Samuel’s arrival, Saul was informed by the prophet that God’s judgment of his sin was to deprive him of a dynasty by making the next king of Israel someone other than his son.[10] Of course, that meant Saul’s successor would not be his valiant son, the courageous Jonathan. This adds considerable weight to Jonathan’s later benevolent actions toward young David after his anointing by Samuel in First Samuel 16.13. Jonathan must have become aware of David’s anointing by Samuel. And he had observed his father’s disobedience at close quarters. This makes what transpired First Samuel 18.1-4 all the more remarkable: 

1      And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

2      And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.

3      Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

4      And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. 

“Jonathan, though heir apparent to the throne of Israel, stripped himself of his own royal regalia and placed it on David in recognition of David’s divine election to be king.”[11] It is because most sons will not stand for God when their fathers do not stand for God that fathers must stand for God as an encouragement for their sons to follow suit. Sons like Jonathan are rare gems, indeed.

God’s judgment for King Saul’s second great sin was even more severe. However long Saul might have served as king over Israel, that reign was shortened because God removed him and replaced him with someone else. Of course, the replacement would be none other than the sweet psalmist, David. But keep in mind how perfectly God’s judgment illustrates Galatians 6.7-8: 

7      Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8     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. 

Fourth, NOTICE THAT GOD DOES NOT HAVE TO FORGIVE SINS 

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

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 forgive or save anyone. He is not obligated. Indeed, 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.

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.[12] 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.

In this passage before us, Saul came to the end of God’s patience. He sought Samuel’s forgiveness and seemed to have wanted God’s forgiveness, but the prophet said, “No. It’s too late for that.” That is why there is such urgency to the Gospel. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else, knows when God will shut the door of opportunity to turn to Christ in repentance and faith. 

Finally, NOTICE THE EVIDENCE GOD PROVIDES ABOUT KING SAUL’S SINS 

The evidence I refer to related to King Saul’s sins is evidence of the spiritual warfare being waged and Saul’s unwitting involvement as a pawn, as a dupe, of Satan and his demons.

Recall, from “A Survey Of Satanic & Demonic Warfare In First Samuel,” we observed the evil spirit from the LORD troubling Saul in First Samuel 16.14-16. That occurred after the terrible offense we are examining in First Samuel chapter 15.

Recall, as well, First Samuel 19.11-13, where we learned that David’s wife, Michal, used a teraphim to aid David’s escape from her father, a teraphim being a household god, an idol.[13] Think it is a coincidence that mention is made of Michal’s idolatry only after her father’s downfall in First Samuel chapter 15, likening his attitude to idolatry?

Then, of course, there was King Saul’s involvement with the witch of Endor the night before his death, First Samuel 28.3-13. His downward spiral culminated in such calamity. But our concern is with the evidence of the inception of Saul’s downward spiral, its beginning. James tells us about the beginnings of sinful deeds, doesn’t he? In James 1.14-16, he writes, 

14    ... every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15    Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

16    Do not err, my beloved brethren. 

What, precisely, did the prophet say? 

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. 

Three observations: First, we observe that obedience, compliance, is what the LORD wants. Samuel asked, 

“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” 

The answer is a resounding, “No!” Form and ritual are nothing in comparison to simply doing what God tells us to do: 

“... to obey is better than sacrifice.” 

Next, we observe the contrast between what God wants from us and what is done instead. To obey has to do with doing God’s will. Hearkening has to do with hearing God’s directives. Sadly, many underestimate the seriousness of their wrongdoing against God’s prohibitions because they have never paid attention to God’s prohibitions: 

“to hearken than the fat of rams.” 

Finally, we see an instance of consequences. I cited the law of sowing and reaping before, from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Here we see the consequence of Saul rejecting the word of the LORD. God rejected him from being king. There are always consequences.

Perhaps as important to the youngster as being taught the meaning of the word “No,” is being taught the principle of consequences. So many parents fail to train their children to regard consequences when they are young. Therefore, many parents spend their old age shielding their children from the consequences of bad adult behavior. They might never have engaged in bad conduct had those parents made sure their youngsters realized that there are always consequences. It is not a mommy or daddy’s job to protect children from consequences, but to see that children experience consequences when they are young so they will appreciate consequences when they are adults. 

Christian, God recorded these episodes of Saul’s life and sins for your benefit, being “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”[14] So, let me restate what we have learned:

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.

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.”[15]

Third, God judges sins. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”[16] “he hath prepared his throne for judgment.”[17] 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.

Fourth, 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.

Finally, Saul was mixed up with spiritual adversaries than he realized. Who can maintain that his attitudes of rebellion and stubbornness, compared to witchcraft and idolatry, are not the result of spiritual seduction and demonic influence?

There is a spiritual conflict, and those whose attitudes and actions reflect stubbornness and rebellion suggest to the perceptive that they are at least wooed by supernatural propaganda, if not actually directly manipulated by supernatural beings.

__________

[1] 1 Samuel 8.7

[2] 1 Samuel 10.1

[3] 1 Samuel 13.6-9

[4] 1 Samuel 13.10-11

[5] 1 Thessalonians 1

[6] https://youtu.be/85HV-VcvXQo

[7] John S. Waldrip, The Church of Jesus Christ: 28 Truths Every Christian Ought To Learn, (Monrovia, CA: Classical Baptist Press, 2019), pages 41-53.

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

[9] Exodus 22.18; Deuteronomy 18.10

[10] 1 Samuel 13.13-14

[11] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1985), page 449.

[12] Genesis 7.16

[13] Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter W. Van der Horst, editors, Dictionary Of Deities And Demons In The Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Second Extensively Revised Edition, 1999), pages 844-850.

[14] 2 Timothy 3.16

[15] Matthew 15.19

[16] Genesis 18.25

[17] Psalm 9.7

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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