For this lesson just read everything in 1 Samuel 9-17. It is all useful and good information. The purpose of this lesson is to encourage class members to trust in the Lord rather than in their own understanding.
Trust in the Lord’s understanding
The first hint of our lesson’s theme comes when Samuel goes to choose David as King of Israel and sees David’s oldest brother. Evidently he cut quite a figure, because Samuel immediately assumed from looking at him that this must be the new king the Lord wanted him to anoint. But the Lord told Samuel that he was not to look on the outward appearance of man, because the Lord judges us, not by our looks (which we seem so obsessed with), but by our hearts. This is the difference between God and man. We are fooled by looks, but by seeing our hearts, the Lord sees us for who we really are, and is not fooled by our antics and the shows we put on for others. He knows exactly why we do what we do. The Lord wanted to show Samuel that he needed to follow the Lord’s will, and not trust his own eyes.
When Samuel was speaking to Israel and rehearsing their sins to them, he concluded by telling them that the Lord would allow them to have a king, even though doing so was a rejection of the very God who had been protecting them for hundreds of years. But he warned them what the conditions of peace versus tragedy were. 1 Samuel 12:20, 21.
20 And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart;
21 And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things,which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
The conditions of having a king and maintaining peace as a people is that the people have to follow the Lord. If the people turn from following the Lord they will “go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver.” The Lord has always promised us that he would grant to us the desires of our hearts, whether that be to life eternal or to eternal death. This is what mortality is for. This is where we discover what our true desires are. The Lord knew what would happen to Israel if they got a king, but that was what they truly wanted, so they got their king.
In 1 Samuel 13:8-14 Saul is told by Samuel to wait seven days, in which time Samuel would come to him to prepare for war by offering sacrifice for Israel. At the end of the seven days Samuel had not arrived, so Saul convinced himself that it was up to him to do the sacrifice. Instead of trusting in the Lord’s servant and waiting patiently until the prophet had arrived, he took the power and authority of the priesthood sacrifice on himself. No sooner had he done this than Samuel showed up. The result of Saul’s actions was to have his calling as king rejected by God. The Lord told Samuel that He had found another person to be king whose heart was after His heart, or more like the Lord’s heart.
Saul felt completely justified in usurping the priesthood authority to offer the sacrifice because of the circumstances. He showed no remorse for his arrogance.
Despite Saul’s justifications for disobeying the Lord, he was given another chance. This time, in 1 Samuel 15, the Lord commands Saul to kill every living thing among the Amalekites, men, women, children, and all animals of every kind. Nothing was to be left alive.
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.
In verse 11 substitute the word “repenteth” with “saddens.” Remember the scripture that says that many are called, but few are chosen because they set their hearts of the things of the world? This is such a case. The Lord had offered greatness to Saul, but because Saul became puffed up in his own sense of importance, he did not feel any obligation to be obedient to the God who made him king. Notice in verse 11 how this affected Samuel.
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.
Saul was so sure he knew better than Samuel that he declared boldly that he had performed the commandment of the Lord. Samuel said, ‘So why do I hear the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen?’ Remember, the commandment was to kill every living thing. Saul informed Samuel that the people had reserved the best of the best to be offered as sacrifice to God. Saul decided that he knew better than God. God said kill them all, but Saul not only said “No,” but he took it upon himself to use what was supposed to have been killed as sacrifices to the very God who had commanded the animals’ destruction.
In the following verses from chapter 15, Samuel reminds Saul that when Saul was small in his own sight, and humble, the Lord exalted him above all the house of Israel and made him king. The Lord sent him on an errand to do His bidding, but Saul failed the Lord and committed sin. Saul then defends himself by stating that he brought the king back alive, and that it was the people’s fault that the animals were brought back for sacrifice. He was not willing to take any responsibility for the sins he had committed.
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.
In verses 22-24 we read the famous seminary scripture on obedience. Samuel asks Saul which he thinks gives the Lord greater pleasure, obedience to His words or the offering of sacrifices? He then answers his own question and tells Saul that the Lord takes greater delight in obedience than in sacrifices. He takes greater joy in those who listen to Him than in the burnt fat of a ram. Rebelling against God’s commandments is as bad as practicing witchcraft, and being stubborn and refusing to follow the commandments is as bad as outright sin and idolatry. Finally, after this pointed lesson, Saul admits to the prophet that he sinned because he feared the people more than the Lord. This is like Eli in last week’s lesson, who was more afraid of his sons than he was of God.
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.
The lessons we can learn from Saul are many, but a few of them are these: When we stop being humble, and begin to feel that our station in life is deserved, instead of a gift, we begin to act in unholy ways. When we fear others more than we fear the Lord we start making excuses for why our way is better than His way (the very definition of pride), and we commit sin by not being fully obedient to the Lord. Saul may not have understood why the Lord wanted everyone killed, but he was not being judged by God on his understanding. He was being judged on his obedience.
Whatever the Lord commands us to do is the right thing. That has to be a fundamental part of our belief. We must fully accept that our Father in Heaven and Christ would never ask us to do something that was not the right thing to do. If we cannot accept that then we will never have the faith necessary to pass all our tests in mortality, and we will fail in the end. We must come to believe that the Lord’s understanding surpasses our own, and that every decision He makes is based on the love that He has for His children. Proverbs 3:5 says,
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
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OT Week 22