While Almighty God was thinking thoughts of judgement and finality with Saul, the man himself is exulting in believing that he has done a great job. How incredibly painful to consider that God was righteously judging Saul for sins that he seems to have believed were not sins. At least that is how this writer sees it. The man had some kind of “accountability blindness,” or even, “Responsibility Short-sightedness.” Either way, by all the dialogue of Saul that we read of in scripture, he seems to have thought he had done the right thing until Samuel confronted him with his actions. But more of that later.
Because of the saving of King Agag, and the rounding up of the best livestock, God looks for somebody to talk to. “The word of the Lord came to Samuel,” immediately. Imagine the concurrent scene in three different places.
Down somewhere between the Amalekite region, Carmel and Gilgal, it is the blood-bathed warrior’s “Happy Hour.” These soldiers are celebrating in keeping for themselves what used to be Amalek’s choicest live stock – both herds and flocks. Perhaps Saul, foolishly, did not tell them of the exact instructions that Samuel had delivered to him from God. Saul later explains to Samuel that the livestock he kept alive were for sacrificing to God. My thoughts are that the situation was utterly out of King Saul’s control, and that the soldiers were doing what they wanted irrespective of anything Saul had ordered or “suggested.” Telling the king what they were doing, left Saul utterly paralyzed with fear or ignorance – or was it apathy and despair. Saul did not know how to handle the masses. Scene one, therefore, is drunken debauchery in celebration of, “A job well done!” that was not actually done at all.
Scene 2 is Samuel (probably at home in the Naioth in Ramah) praying, worshipping, “getting things on,” with his school of the prophets. He is heavy in heart because he has been left stranded in a kind of limbo. He has, by the Spirit of God, told Saul that he will definitely lose his kingdom to another. He was not told whether or not the change of dynastic family would take place during Saul’s life, or after his death. The limbo of not knowing the future must have weighed on him extremely heavily. As a prophet of God, Yahweh could, and ultimately would, reveal how things were to be in the future after Saul had vacated the earthly throne room of Israel. But even that was to be only partially revealed. Samuel was aged and in the autumn of his days. There was, as far as we know, no other, “up and coming” prophet at that moment who would assume the role of pastoring the nation as he had done for so many years. He was sadly disappointed with Saul’s change of heart, causing him to dive into blatant disobedience and an insipid lack of leadership. We are not sure exactly what Samuel was doing at that moment of revelation, but we are positive he was in an emotionally pressured state. He had given Saul the divine command to rid the world of the Amalekites, and then had quickly withdrawn to his home again. He was getting on with life as he knew it, probably understanding by his human intuition that Saul was possible of anything – except the right thing.
Scene 3 is more complex to explain. We are talking about the all seeing God, seated in heaven. While Saul was merry making, and Samuel was paining in the deepest part of his being, God was in the heavenly throne room, panning His eyes over the spiritual state of Saul, and the disobedience towards Amalek.
God lives outside of time. God can enter our “Time, Space World” from any angle He wishes. God exists outside the linear parameter of time. He enters into time, and talks to us with glorious condescension, in terms suggesting an equality with man as far as existing within the limits of time. Thus, we hear of theologians and preachers arguing and debating about God being surprised, or regretting, and “repenting” of anything. God, here, sees and knows (and as we understand God – He must have known before it happened.) what Saul had actually done in disobeying the orders to kill all in Amalek. God’s desire, at that point of time, was to speak to His man in Israel, His key prophetic figure. Things have been utterly disturbed and disrupted in the heavenly sphere. A decree of God has not been submitted to. Saul is responsible for these foaming waves of white water in the smooth waters of God’s plans. Samuel is the man to deal with the issue.
Note that God will not do anything without telling His prophets. Amos 3:7 tells us that this is the absolute truth. God shares His feelings with His prophets. To our knowledge, as far as prophets in the earth at that time were concerned, there was Samuel and his school of the prophets at Naioth in Ramah, and surely there must have been other individuals dotted around the land of Israel, yet, God came to the prophet Samuel by His Word to prepare him for the shock he would have when he saw Agag and the livestock. God shared all He wanted to do with Israel, with Samuel, and no other. God, expressed Himself fully and succinctly to the elderly prophet. Observe that, just as it was when the angel informed Mary she was going to bear a son, so it was with Samuel’s revelation here, inasmuch as, we haven’t a clue as to what these two were actually doing when God communicated important things to them.
Yahweh did not waste a word or a moment. His statement to Samuel could not have been more informative, neither could it have been briefer. “It grieves Me that I have set up Saul to be King; for he is turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Some translations have it as, “I repent at having made Saul King.” I think the modern translations try to adjust the language as so many millions of atheistic thinkers cannot cope with the fact that, “If there was a God, how is it He can repent of anything?” The Hebrew word is better translated as, “grieves,” rather than repented.
To use modern street language, the revelation of Saul’s conduct and God’s mind on that conduct, must have blown Samuel away. The Word of the Lord came to Samuel in the manner I believe He nearly always had, that is, Yahweh came and stood before Samuel in order to speak with him. (See 1 Samuel 3:10 “Yahweh came and stood there, calling as at the other times.)
See the reasons that caused Samuel to be in “spiritual emergency” mode.
- God acknowledged that it was He, not Samuel, who had set up Saul as King. That would have eased Samuel’s heart very slightly.
- God is, “emotionally,” involved in Israel and humankind as a whole. He was grieved at what had happened with Saul. Samuel knew God’s heart and responded to it. God was grieved. He had said so. Samuel was also genuinely grieved.
- The fact that Saul was the King and set on the throne by God Himself, seemed to be something that Saul had lost track of. Israel as a people, the land that was given to them, the Tabernacle that they had worshipped around (until the Ark was taken by the Philistines), the prophets that taught them, the kings and priests that proliferated in Israel, were all placed there, with their existence justified by God Himself. How could Saul have lost sight of that?
- God was grieved because of Saul’s lack of submission to Him and His purpose, as well as all the priorities of the safety of the nation.
- It was not just the occasional refusal of Saul to follow God’s ways or obey His prophet. Saul had literally turned his back on God. Saul had willfully made the decision not to listen to God, and had walked away from being under Yahweh’s divine covering over him. Saul had turned his back towards God. That would be an insult in human relationships. It is a sin to knowledgeably and wilfully turn around from facing God.
- God wanted kings of Israel that would follow Him without question.
- Of all the people on the planet, God chooses to share His feelings with the prophet Samuel.
God speaks to mankind in human terms, in human ways, often working through people, in time, and conditioning his comments contextually, relative to the period and situation of the people to whom He is talking. Deuteronomy 9:8 informs us that God expresses emotion over the sin of people, such as anger. God also expressed things like pity in Judges 2:18, sorrow as in 1 Chronicles 21:15 and of course, regret here in the two verses we are considering. God shares these proper emotions at the proper time even though He knew from eternity that people, in general, would sin. He also knew that Saul would disobey against Samuel’s words, which were God’s words.
Saul had turned his heart away from Yahweh. God could see what was in Saul’s heart, He is God that sees everything. We humans, however, only see the fruit of what was in Saul’s heart. He was now living in a spiritual status that constantly and consistently disobedient to God.
Samuel was angry, for a good reason. My Hebrew Interlinear Old Testament says that Samuel, “was being hot.” The “heat” is translated as anger. But whether or not you agree with me about the nature of Samuel’s anger, in the midst of the anger, Samuel did something great. The prophet took all his anger, and spent the entire night pouring out his heart to God Himself, expressing his full emotion, feelings and intelligence on Saul and the nation. Herein is the secret of Samuel’s greatness.
The heart of God moves toward any person who is broken in spirit for the sake of others. That is the very nature of God Himself. Samuel was truly touched by the pains, disappointment and struggles of Saul, and the nation he had been ministering to all his life, as their prophet.
Saul’s sin screamed at heaven, and was displayed by all he said and did. His rebellion was openly exhibited, yet Samuel only dares to speak to Saul after having wept all night over the state of his heart, and the plight of the nation. Oh! For the heart of Samuel.
Even though Samuel had heard God indict Saul, Samuel acts in a divinely beautiful manner. Accusation , even when it is based upon truth, as Samuel’s divinely imparted knowledge was, cannot be any kind of substitute for intercession. In like manner to the Spirit of God, “Who helps our infirmities…” and “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”, so we also are called to pray for others in their time of weakness and failings. (Romans 8:26) Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Some principles of prayer, even though they are only taught and stated in the New Testament, are actually eternal unchanging principles that have always been rocks to stand since Adam first fell.
It is a wise practice to emulate Samuel, who, before offering criticism or rebuke to another person, even though it was God Himself who had broken the news to the prophet, spent time in brokenness before God. Your intercessions, tears and grief for that person will bear much weight before God. Maybe, if we haven’t been able to weep over someone’s failings, we shouldn’t address them or judge them.
Samuel’s prayers were not nice and tidy. He cried out to the Lord all night. That means Samuel took several hours to unburden his soul before God, so he could be in the right place when he spoke to Saul. Prayers of the night, in the silence, are prayers that are pointed, focussed and concentrated I find. With Samuel we distinctly get the message that praying in this manner was his continuous lifestyle.
We catch Samuel praying in 1 Samuel 7:9. 8:6. 12:18 and 23, and here in 1 Sam 15:11. It is always intercessory prayer, ie: on behalf of somebody else. The prophet appears to have been told by God the result of Saul’s probationary commission. Saul had failed the “test.” Agitated and distressed, moved and angered, yet not clearly perceiving it to be the fixed purpose of God that Saul should no longer reign over Israel as His recognized servant, king and vicegerent, Samuel literally gave of himself fully and holistically to prayer. If there was a way in which to save the day, save the nation and save Saul, Samuel was determined to seek God and get such prayers answered. It was with great intensity, if by any means of relating with Yahweh, he might avert the calamity for both Saul and the nation. Samuel’s agonising in prayer was chiefly, on behalf of the nation’s king, though not without regard to the whole nation, on which the rejection of the monarch seemed likely to result in disaster.
Prayer works. And well meant, intercessory praying in the Spirit is priceless and availing. We should intercede for individuals as well as communities, groups and even nations. “Satan hath desired to have you,” said the Master who was and is the perfect example of intercessory prayer, “but I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32). King Saul was in very great danger and peril. He was falling from high dignity, failing to accomplish the purpose of his appointment, losing the favour and help of Yahweh, and sinking into confirmed rebellion and complete ruin. “It grieves me that I have made Saul king; for he is turned back from following me.” The words spoken by God to Samuel have pathos and pain about them.
Samuel rose from his prostration before God in a state of holy anger against sin, and against the sinner, in so far as he had yielded himself to the power of God’s word, arising from sympathy with God and zeal for his honour. He was also deeply sorrowed over Saul, because of his loss and ruin in his essential personality, mingled with disappointment at the failure of the hopes entertained concerning him from the start. Saul had been so humble when Samuel first met him. He would not sin against Israel or Saul in failing to pray for them.
“And he cried unto the Lord all night,” with a loud and piercing cry, and in prolonged petition. He was shouting. He was calling out. Surely the old home at Ramah, which had been sanctified by parental prayers and his own incessant supplications, never witnessed greater fervour as at this tragic moment. “God, have mercy on Saul! Have mercy on Israel! Keep us from your wrath! Give us all grace to repent and walk with You!” No wonder the Psalmist quotes Samuel as an outstanding man of prayer who was heard by God continually (Psalm 99:6). These kind of moments were exactly what Samuel was created for.
Having said all that, one could suggest that his prayers were not answered. Saul did not repent, nor did Father in heaven reverse his rejection of the monarch. I am not sure, however, that Samuel failed at all. There are stages of human guilt which would be followed by the wrath of God, “though Moses and Samuel stood before him” (Jeremiah 15:1). The Apostle John wrote that, “There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it”” (1 John 5:16). Judgement had been arrived at in heaven. It was a judgement that would not have been made if there was the slightest hope of Saul returning to his erstwhile humility and submission to the Almighty and his prophet. Samuel had, “cried unto the Lord all night.” His cries had not been in vain, for they had brought Samuel himself into complete submission, and had nerved him to do his work calmly, without a quiver or a pang of personal feeling, as becomes God’s prophet. He had aligned his own spirit with the Spirit of God, and was ready to be the human instrument that would speak God’s word to the errant king of Israel.
It is the distinguishing mark of prophets, and others, that they cry for the offences and affronts committed by others against Yahweh. Jeremiah wished that his head were waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might be facilitated to weep day and night (Jeremiah 9:1). King David declared, his tears ran like rivers, because men kept not God’s laws (Psalm 119:136). Paul wrote about having continual sorrow in his heart for his unconverted brethren the Jews (Romans 9:2). And when God would point out the grand mark by which his own were to be known, he says, “Go through the midst of the city, the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4). So we are rationally challenged to ask; when wickedness is going on in our towns, or in the secret chambers of power, in our nation, do we shut our door about us, and cry to the Lord all night?
Whether Samuel slept at all that night we are not told. We are only made privy to the fact that he rose early in the morning and set out to speak to the king.
- Samuel: A Study In Character – “The Afterthought” (presbymusings.com)
- Why have we hurt the Lord’s anointed one? (christopherscottblog.typepad.com)
- The Spirit of God came upon him and he stripped off all his clothes (dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com)
- Tricky Passages: 1 Samuel 15 – The Amalekite genocide (apologistshandbook.wordpress.com)
- How did I get to this point ??? (free2worship.wordpress.com)
- On 1 Samuel 15-17 (reflectingchristian.wordpress.com)
- 1 Samuel 15 (sisterspray4me.com)
- Obedience – Daily Text Fav (myspiritualresearch.wordpress.com)