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A Monumental Collapse (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 25, 2022 3:00 am

A Monumental Collapse (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 25, 2022 3:00 am

Many have heard of Robin Hood, the legendary heroic outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Does God overlook disobedience if it’s done for good reasons? Hear the answer as we conclude our study in 1 Samuel on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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You have no doubt heard of Robin Hood, the legendary heroic outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. So does God overlook that kind of behavior? Does he reward it?

Does he ignore the disobedience if it's done for a really good reason? We'll find out today as we conclude our study in 1 Samuel on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter 15. Somewhere around verse 12 or 13, where Samuel and Saul now link up with one another, interestingly, at Gilgal. That's there at the end of verse 12.

And he turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal. Now, fascinatingly, he determines that he can approach Samuel somewhat enthusiastically, religiously, and at the same time naively, declaring there, as it is recorded in the text, Blessed be to you in the LORD, I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And the answer, of course, that Samuel gives is, Well, then, if you've done that, what then, verse 14, is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear? Now, again, this ties back to the very clear directive that God had given. It wasn't simply that there was to be a removal of the political structures of the Amalekites. It was that there was to be a wholesale destruction of the Amalekites, and that it involved not only people, but it also involved the beasts. And therefore, the presence of the beasts and the noise that they inevitably made testified to the fact that Saul was in violation of the command of God. God had said, I don't want you to spare anyone, and Saul had decided that he would spare someone.

And so it is in light of that that the blame game begins. And in verse 15, you will notice that Saul, who is very fond of the first-person singular, I, immediately employs they. Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites. And then, as he follows up on that, he says, Because it was, notice, the people who spared the best of the sheep, and so on. God said, Don't spare anybody, but they went ahead and did it. Now, we know already that down in verse 9 that Saul was complicit in this. In fact, he was the leader in this. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and the oxen. You were involved in this, Saul. That's the point.

You can't now simply say that it was the people that did it. And will you notice as well what is a very sad word there? They spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God.

Your God. You see, when you turn your back on the living God, when you start to willfully sin against the command of God, it will become apparent. It will become apparent in conversation.

It will become apparent in lifestyle. And it is apparent here that Saul has already, even in the expression of these public elements, begun to drift away from the Lord who has anointed him as the king. And then he says, But of course, I know that this has happened, but nevertheless, you'll notice that we spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest, the stuff that we found to be worthy of destruction, we went ahead and destroyed. And Samuel, he can't stand it any longer, and he simply shouts, Stop! Stop! You're driving me nuts, Saul! That's enough! Just don't even say anything else!

Just stop! Because I'm gonna tell you what the Lord said to me this night. What you need to do, Saul, is do what I told you at the beginning of the chapter. Listen to what the Lord says. And when you don't listen to what the Lord says, the Lord will come and make himself known to you in ways that will get you to the point where you're forced to listen. And so, I'm going to tell you. And what else can Saul say except, Speak?

And then in verse 17, Samuel picks it up. Now, if we had time, and we don't this evening, and we were in another context, then we could have some dialogue about this opening sentence—indeed, the opening half of the sentence—"though you are little in your own eyes." Now, what does that mean?

What does he mean by that? It may well be that he's saying to him, Now, you, although in your eyes you're only a little bit of the problem, you're only a small part of the program—that's what you're saying. You're saying that it's not really me, it's the people. And so though you are only a little part of the problem, the fact is, Saul, aren't you the head of the tribes of Israel?

Aren't you the king of Israel? And hasn't your mission been made unambiguously clear to you? And haven't you failed in the mission?

Well, of course, the answer to that is absolutely yes. The Lord sent you on a mission, verse 18. He told you, Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed. But let me ask you a question, Saul. Why, then, did you not obey the voice of the Lord?

It can't be because it wasn't clear. Why? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord? It speaks to the absolute senselessness of sin. See, sin is represented to it as being quite attractive. You know, I think it's a far more sensible approach to go in this way, if you would consider it, you know.

You can rationalize various things. God doesn't really mean extermination. Extermination doesn't mean extermination. Destruction of everything doesn't actually mean destruction of everything.

Well, yes, it actually does. Why did you do this? Why have you pounced? You haven't just made a silly choice. You have done evil in the sight of the Lord.

Now, what happens is that as Samuel gives to Saul his report card, Saul now is prepared still to go on the defensive. And in verse 20, look at it. I have obeyed. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. Well, strictly speaking, you obeyed some of it. I have gone on the mission. Well, yes, you did go on the mission. Why he says, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek back, I don't know, because that's not a plus.

Because why would you do that? The judgment of God is against you for it. And I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. And then once again, he throws the people under the bus. Verse 21. What kind of leadership is this?

Who would want this fellow as a king? The people took the spoil, the sheep, the oxen. It was the good stuff, though, Samuel, the best of the things, devoted to destruction, so that they could sacrifice. You see? It's wonderful if you can couch your sin and your rebellion in the language of devotion. The only reason that they did this was so that they could do what they ought to do.

The only reason they have sinned is in order that they might sin for a very good reason. See? And so Samuel challenges that kind of faulty thinking. Immediately, he responds. And in words that are familiar to those of us who know our Bible, he says, Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

See why language is important, why you need to know the English language if you're going to read an English Bible. He doesn't say, Has the LORD delight in burnt offerings? He clearly does.

The as comes twice. Has the LORD as great delight, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? It's relative here. God does not delight in sacrifices that come unaccompanied by obedience.

That's the point that's being made. It's made throughout all of Scripture. God has introduced these sacrifices for the good and for the well-being of his people. But he doesn't expect that the formal acts, the routines, the regulations of religion may be used as a mechanism to stand back from a hardcore obedience to the clear instruction of God himself. In other words, what Samuel is saying is, formal worship can't be substituted for a life of heartfelt obedience. I wonder if we could put it in just contemporary terms this evening. You can't get away with flat-out disobedience by showing up for communion.

There's not a service that can cover for the absence of an obedient heart. This is a sobering chapter. I recognize it, and so do you. And so, verse 24, Saul finally comes clean. And then I put a dash in my notes, and I wrote, Sort of!

Because he does and he doesn't. I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I fear the people and obeyed their voice. Sounds like Pilate, doesn't it? Do you know how many of us have fallen into sin because we fear the people in our office, fear the people in our school, fear the people that said, you know, you're such a little, pathetic little Christian, if you had any backbone to you at all, you would come and join us and do all these things, and the voice of the people sounded so loudly in our ears that we went with it.

What was the problem? The Saul problem. We refuse to listen to the voice of God. We listen to the voices in our heads. I fear the people. The fear of man brings a snare.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I obeyed their voice. Well, there you have it. And so, he says, now that I've got that over with, verse 25, could you please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD?

This is sort of, can we just move on? We're familiar with this kind of confession on TV, sports personalities and so on. They stand up and say, I made a bit of a mess of it, now let's get on. Can I have my sponsorship back again? There's a very great difference between a sort of repentance that is there on the fight that I have been rumbled and a repentance which reveals itself in godly sorrow.

The kind of repentance that reveals itself in godly sorrow does not immediately ask for reinstatement, I guarantee you. Now, I have listened to their voice. I have done this. Now, can we just get on with things?

And can I go back to where I was? Samuel says, No chance. Remember, Samuel speaks as God. Samuel speaks as the prophet of God. Samuel has been entrusted by God to speak the Word of God to the anointed king of Israel, whose kingdom is collapsing before his very eyes. And the judgment of God here, which has been expressed, is now reinforced.

It's tragic stuff. I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as the king of Israel. It's all over now.

Nothing left to say. Just his dreams, and the orchestra's playing, and the tune has turned plaintive, and the melody is in a minor key. And what a picture in verse 27! And Samuel turned to go away, and Saul grabbed him. Grabbed his robe.

The last vestige and possibility of restoration and of usefulness is leaving through the door, and he lays hold of him. The robe comes all the way through, doesn't it? Samuel's robe.

His mom made it for him every year. Samuel is identified by his robe on the day of his death, and the robe appears now, torn as a metaphor of the kingdom being taken from Saul. Torn to give to another, and this is final. That's the significance of verse 29. And also the glory of Israel, he says, will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man that he should have regret. This doesn't mean, incidentally, that Saul is beyond personal recovery. What it does mean is that his kingship is rejected irrevocably. And verse 29 is here to speak to us of the fixity of the purposes of God. If verses 11 and 35 about the regret of God in making him king express to us the feeling, if you like, of God, then this is here as the counterbalance to let us understand that, on the one hand, God is not immobile. He's immutable. But he's not rocklike.

He's not unfeeling. But nor is he ebbing and flowing in relationship to his promises and to his warnings and to his judgments. God was grieved by Saul's disobedience—a disobedience he knew was coming, but his intentions hadn't changed.

In fact, everything is actually unfolding, as God had said through his prophet, it would unfold. If you will not obey the voice of the Lord but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and against your king. The whole approach that we need to take in these kind of things is to make sure that we don't allow some detail in the story of the Bible to create such a problem for us so as to prevent us from paying close attention to what isn't a problem for us and what is so clearly spoken. Because we do know this, that God is consistent in his dealings, and he's also sorrowful in his response. And frankly, only a God who is true to his warnings and his promises, and yet who is described for us as being grieved by the disobedience—that is the only God, actually, who's worthy of our praise and our worship.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear. And so he comes back to it again, and he says, verse 30, "'Well, I have sinned, yet honor me now before the elders of my people.'" Now, the commentators say, well, this is his last vestige of hope. He says, well, at least let me go back, you know, and move amongst my people and come with me so that, you know, I'm not just a complete and utter disaster. You see, I take it that that's really what he's hoping for now. There's no question of there being any restoration of his kingship.

He's already given up on that. And what he had in mind in asking that in verse 30—and why Samuel accedes to this second request—I don't know. And neither do you, because we're not told. So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul bowed before the Lord. Well, wouldn't it just be fine if it ended there? But no, there's another matter. And it falls now to the prophet of God to do what the king, the anointed of God, was called to do and in his disobedience wouldn't do.

The terrible sentence is fully deserved. As we said in the morning and tried to reinforce, we're not dealing here with murder. We're dealing with the righteous, judicial judgment of God.

Saul has failed to do it, and Samuel steps forward. And surely, without anything other than a grim commitment to obey the command of God, he destroys Agag before the Lord in Gilgal. We struggle with this, because of our culture, because of the philosophical underpinnings of our worldviews, because, in some cases, of our sheer unbelief, because we say, I don't like this, I don't want to believe this. And ultimately, what we're saying is we don't believe the Bible. We don't believe that God is God. We don't believe that God does not express regret like a man.

We want him to be made in our image so that we can represent him to a world that is in need of God. And the fundamental underlying reality is the question of the evil one in the garden, Did God really say this? And the problem was, yes, he did. And Saul understood it, but he wouldn't do it.

And Samuel had to step forward. Wow. You say, well, that was all a long time ago, the Old Testament stuff again.

No. Remember the apostles? When Peter is explaining at the house of Cornelius what's going on, he says to the gathered assembly, and Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed to judge the living and the dead. And so, chapter 15 ends, the music fades, the characters depart. It is for sure the stuff of tragedy. Saul didn't listen. And now, without Samuel, there will be no one to speak and nothing to hear.

What an unbelievable tragedy with which the chapter closes. What do you find yourself saying? I tell you my only retreat in all of this—and I suppose it is a retreat in order to advance—is to find myself, along with Paul, when he tries to make sense of all of the wonder of God's purposes from all of eternity. And eventually, after he's wrestled with it—and he had a big brain and a big heart and a great capacity, such as none of us can equal—but eventually he just casts himself on God and says, Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD?

Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. As we saw in 1 Samuel today, to obey is better than sacrifice.

That's an important principle. That's Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Well, we know today is the biggest shopping day of the year, and many of you are searching for Christmas gifts for family and friends. We want to encourage you to browse our collection of great books for people of all ages in the Truth for Life online store. All of our gift recommendations are available to purchase at our cost. One gift in particular that you'll find there is a leather-bound, large print, English Standard Version Bible. This is a Bible that normally sells for about $200.

We're making it available to you today for $35 so you can give it as a gift and as a gospel-sharing opportunity. You may want to pick up a Bible for yourself as well. In addition to the Bible, you'll find in our online store a collection of hardcover children's story books, a set of devotional books for middle schoolers.

There are books for older teens as well. Scroll through all of the gift options when you go to truthforlife.org slash gifts. And when you add a donation to your purchase to help support Truth for Life, we'll invite you to request an Advent devotional written by Sinclair Ferguson titled The Dawn of Redeeming Grace. 24 daily readings to help prepare your heart for the celebration of Christmas.

This devotional is yours when you donate at truthforlife.org. Our offices are closed today. Our team is enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend with their family. We'll return on Monday. I'm Bob Lapine. How can we respond when somebody challenges the truthfulness of the Gospels? Find out as you join us Monday. We're beginning a new series in Luke's Gospel. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-26 22:30:14 / 2022-11-26 22:38:21 / 8

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