Samuel said to Saul, “…This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel…Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ” (1 Samuel 15:1–3, NIV 1984).
When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” (1 Samuel 15:13–15, NIV 1984).
My Musings – Did you ever notice that when we are asked how our favorite sports team did we typically have one of two responses, depending on the outcome. “We won,” or “they lost.” “We” if they won, or “they” if they lost. We want to identify with success and disassociate ourselves from failure. It is easy for us to criticize Saul for this, but we have a tendency to do the same thing.
Let’s not get caught in the weeds over the apparent ruthlessness of God’s command to totally destroy the Amalekites. In this instance He demonstrates both His righteousness and mercy. Righteousness in bringing judgment to those who had shown themselves to be evil and unrepentant (the adults) and mercy by preventing the innocents (infants and children) from growing up and becoming accountable for the same. I suspect the destruction of the animals had to do with God testing Saul’s willingness to totally carrying out His instructions.
But let’s take a close at Saul’s response. “I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.” I, Saul was successful (obedient). Really? “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD.” They (Saul’s men) failed (disobedient). Who is King and commander here? Where does the “buck stop” President Truman? “But we totally destroyed the rest.” We? What don’t you understand about totally?
My Advice – God prefers obedience over accountability. But when we do disobey, He desires that “we” own up to it (repent and ask forgiveness) and not shift, excuse or spin the blame.