I was offended. I was embarrassed. But most of all, I was angry.
It was 2016 and I was on a mission trip in Mexico. The women’s leader had just corralled the ten or so college women on the trip and sat them down for a very stern meeting.
The problem? We were showing too much skin.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard one of those talks, but it was the first time where I felt personally attacked. It was summertime. I was the hottest (temperature-wise) I had ever been in my entire life. The humidity in Mexico made 80 degrees feel like a death sentence.
And they wanted me to cover my shoulders??
I remember nodding and smiling, all the while deciding within myself that I was not going to change how I dressed. I felt smugly proud of myself for that.
Should I have been?
A little dramatic
King Saul desperately needed an excuse to feel proud of himself, especially after last chapter’s embarrassing tug of war between him and his son.
His chance came in 1 Samuel 15 when Samuel gave Saul a message from God: Go and destroy the Amalekites – every person, every animal – leave nothing alive (verse 3).
A chance to redeem himself! Saul jumped at it. He assembled his army and got to work. He quickly conquered the Amalekites, just as God asked.
Only he didn’t kill every living thing. He let the king of the Amalekites live, as well as some of the nicest sheep and cattle. No big deal, right?
Wrong. God was not pleased.
He sent Samuel to tell Saul that officially, the jig was up. Because of his disobedience, Saul was no longer king in God’s eyes. God had chosen another man to sit on Israel’s throne.
I don’t know about you, but on first read, God’s reaction seems to be a bit much. A few measly sheep and donkeys are breathing, a king is held captive (which is more merciful than killing him, hello), and Saul has to be rejected for it? The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
Why is God so upset?
Why did you not obey the Lord?
Instead of asking “why did God”, let’s try asking another question – one God already knew the answer to.
Why did Saul disobey?
It wasn’t because he had misread the instructions. We know this because despite the impressive innocent act Saul puts up for a couple of verses (13-20), as soon as Samuel starts talking consequences, Saul admits that he was wrong (verses 24-25).
He knew what God wanted all along. So why did he disobey?
It could have been greed. It could have been laziness. It could have been to make his soldiers like him better. It could have been because he felt bad.
The surface level reasoning for why Saul did what he did is something we might never know. But the deep down, core, fundamental reasoning behind his sin sounds a bit more familiar.
It sounds eerily like what I felt when I defied the modesty police during my mission trip. Yes, I was hot. Yes, I was offended. But a little voice inside me spoke louder: You’re not the boss of me.
The mission trip leaders were not the boss of me. But God was the boss of Saul. And when an employee rejects his boss’s authority and tries to take charge of what he does not own, it’s grounds for termination.
So how much less surprising is it for God to deal severe consequences to His children when they reject His love, reject His authority, and in the process, reject life itself?
It sounds harsh, but rejecting God’s authority is harsher.
Not because of what it does to God, but because of what it does to us.
“Let Me sit on the throne in your life.”
You and I are almost as good as Saul at playing innocent.
Because when we sin we blame our past, our trauma, our parents, our education, our church, our culture, or our universal favorite: our humanity.
And although any or all of those things do play a part in the decisions we make, how often do we dig deeper? How often do we ask ourselves where this boldness came from? What was the final trigger that got us to cross the line? Why did we sin against God?
I cannot answer those questions for you, but I know that for me, too often the reasoning is the same arrogance and pride that removed Saul from Israel’s throne.
I sin because I want me to sit on the throne of my life, not God.
Thankfully, one of the beautiful things about God is that He can change us. He’s not waiting for us to change our prideful tendencies ourselves – He’s waiting for us to give Him permission to step into our lives and change them for us.
The first step is easy: honesty. The second step is harder: surrender.
The next steps? We don’t have to worry about those. Because they’ll be performed by the King on the throne of our lives, the King who will make our hearts and our lives beautiful.
What do you think? Why do you think Saul disobeyed God in this chapter?