The Cost Of Disobedience

I’ve been able to cover some various Old Testament accounts lately on the blog and podcast.  I have felt like the Lord keeps giving insights into those stories and since I’m reading through the Old Testament this year, much of this material is fresh.  One story arc I love to dive into is the whole time period between the call of Samuel to David’s kingship.  Within that period of time is the sad retelling of King Saul…a man who really never lived up to his full potential as Israel’s first king.  

Today’s blog focuses on one part of Saul’s reign.  It comes to us from 1 Samuel 15 and in my Bible this chapter is titled “The LORD rejects Saul.”  As I read that title I take a step back and think, “Wow, that’s a pretty heavy statement for one to bear.”  Yet this was the path Saul took and today we’ll look at how he got to this place.  Really it’s a discussion of what obedience vs. disobedience looks like and how the Lord responds to each in our lives.  

As we dive into this topic, it’s natural to ask “Does the Lord still place a high value on obedience?”  His treatment of Saul seems harsh, but does God still feel that way today about our disobedience?  I believe He does.  And I would go as far to say that it is our disobedience, even in seemingly small things, that causes His hand of blessing to be lifted and removed from our lives.  It is a big deal.  This topic is heavy but there is a promise that can be taken in the midst of it (more on that at the end).  Let’s dive in once again.  

1.God takes seriously the call to obey

And Samuel said, “Has 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 listen than the fat of rams.”  1 Samuel 15:22

This first point is a bit longer as some context is necessary.  Saul and the armies of Israel are commissioned by the Lord (through the prophet Samuel) to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites.  This is an enemy nation of God’s people and God is jealous for His own.  We read in verses 2 and 3 “I [the LORD] have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt.  Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have.“  There are times within the Old Testament that God is very clear and His demands for total destruction of a people group is conveyed to Israel’s rulers.  There is no middle ground and no maybes.  In this case, the people of Amalek are to be wiped out…they are an evil people, they have opposed Israel, and the Lord’s judgment is upon them. 

Where this breaks down with Saul is in the implementation of destroying “all that they have.”  We read in verses 7-9, “And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.  And he took Agag king of the Amalekites alive…Saul spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them.”  In short, Saul disobeyed.  Because of this, the Lord regrets that He made Saul king, “for he has turned his back from following Me and has not performed My commandments” (vs. 10).  

Whew.  It’s clear that even what might seem minor to us (sparing a king and a few choice animals), was not at all minor to God.  As we read further, we see Saul even thinks he has obeyed the voice of the LORD…until Samuel points out that no, the call was to bring total destruction.  What Saul has done and what we do is often “partial obedience” which is really disobedience.  Whatever sacrifice we bring and whatever good we think we are doing for the Lord is in vain if it is still rooted in partial obedience.  

2.Our sin can cause us to pass blame 

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”  1 Samuel 15:24

Saul comes to a point of repentance but it is not complete repentance.  Why?  Because he wants to justify his own sin.  “I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”  This is a dangerous place for any of us because instead of owning up to our sin, we try to cover it and manage our mistakes with excuses.  “He made me do it.”  “She made me do it.”  This blame-casting goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden with Adam’s original sin:   The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12)  Adam ate the fruit, yes.  But Eve made him do it.  In our minds, it’s easier to pass blame than to own up to our failures.  

I have 5 kids, 4 of which are boys.  I see the blame-shifting game played at my house on almost a daily basis.  It really comes from a place of “Don’t look at my mistake…look at his.”  As a dad, my goal is to get each individual to admit to their own mistake.  Otherwise it gets easier and easier over time to justify oneself.  As adults we still play this game.  But don’t miss this point:  Saul’s disobedience goes quickly from admission of wrong to deflection.  We are better off just admitting and owning the mistake.  Better yet, we are better off when we just obey the Lord in the first place.  

3.Our disobedience allows the enemy a foothold 

“…the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire” 1 Samuel 30:1

The fact that the Bible is still talking about the Amalekites by chapter 30 of 1 Samuel should tell us something:  Saul’s disobedience would have ripple effects.  It would be much later, during King Hezekiah’s reign, that the Amalekites would be defeated and pushed out of the land (1 Chronicles 4:39-43).  Saul’s refusal to completely obey the word of the Lord meant that the “can would get kicked further down the road.”  Inevitability, the problem of Amalek would need to be dealt with.  The enemy that was supposed to be totally defeated was given a foot in the door, literally a foothold in the land.  

We don’t often think about the consequences of disobedience in this way.  But when we fail to completely follow the Lord’s plan and even shift the blame, we allow Satan a piece of territory in our spiritual hearts.  We have to pull the roots out completely.  We have to address any area that is not whole-heartedly in agreement and in obedience to the Lord’s voice.  Yes it will always be easier to compromise.  It will be easier to take a short-cut.  At least for a season.  But in the long run, the enemy gets more emboldened and more entrenched when we refuse to deal with our disobedience.  

I said there was a promise at the end of this entry and I want to come full circle back to that.  We must remember:  God always has a plan.  Within the very next chapter (1 Samuel 16), we see Samuel anoints David as king.  In David, we find a humble servant of the Lord.  If Saul is the example NOT to follow, David is the one to follow.  If Saul is a lesson in what obedience does not look like, David is a lesson in what it should look like.  David is not perfect.  But we see the blessings that follow his rule and even extend to being in the line of the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ.  

So what is the promise?  If we are careful to obey, God reverses all the things just mentioned.  Our sacrifice is not in vain.  We don’t pass blame but take full account for our actions.  And the enemy has no access into our lives.  The cost of disobedience is steep, as seen in the life of Saul.  But the promise of following the command of the Lord is a real promise:  one which David got to experience and we do as well.  

If you have any comments or questions regarding this blog, I’d love to chat more offline.  If you have prayer requests, I’d love to respond to those as well.  You can message me at 

Let’s keep fighting the good fight of the faith.  I love you guys and I love walking this journey with you.  

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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

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