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Co-Dependent (1 Samuel 15)

 

    There are few words that sum up the Western culture like the word independent. We like the idea of independence, don’t we? From the time we signed our nation’s declaration of independence, we have been drawn to the idea of independence. It’s what lured people out of the east and into the wild west, the idea that you could be out on your own and own your own land and do whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it. Independence.
    We raise our children to be independent, don’t we? It’s a very Western idea that the moment your children hit 18 years of age, they better have a self-supporting job and be living in their own place, as far away from their parents as possible. Every parenting moment that we have is more often than not, aimed at teaching our children to be as independent as possible from an early age so they don’t have to rely on us. Independence.
    We love independence, don’t we? But at what cost? Have we sacrificed anything for the sake of gaining independence? Have we maybe sacrificed close family bonds that we see in other cultures? What affect does our independence have on our Christianity? Is it okay to be independent Christians?
    Today, we’re going to be in 1 Samuel 15. In 1 Samuel 13 & 14, King Saul begins to act in more self-assured ways. He starts to move toward doing things that God says are not right, and makes rash decisions, without consulting God first. The chapter we’re going to look at today is the last straw. Saul makes a bad decision, and doesn’t seek God’s guidance first, in fact, he goes directly against what God had told him to do, and it doesn’t go well for Saul.
    Let’s look at this last straw, and see what happened. 1 Samuel 15:2 tells us this, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.”
    We start with the Lord setting out to punish the Amalekites for consistently being a thorn in the side of the Israelites. The Amalekites were long-time enemies of the Israelites. They can trace their lineage back to Isaac, just like the Israelites. The Amalekites however, were descendants of Esau, Isaac’s firstborn son; whereas the Israelites were descendants of Jacob, later named Israel, who was Isaac’s second-born son, and Esau’s younger twin.
    We have to remember that Jacob schemed to steal his brother’s birthright, and then schemed to steal his brother’s blessing from Isaac. He got both, but it put him and Esau at odds. Jacob had to flee from his home because Esau had his heart set on killing his brother Jacob. They were eventually able to reconcile, but it seems like their descendants weren’t able to leave the past alone.
    The incident that God is talking about in 1 Samuel 15:2 we can read about in Exodus 17:8-16, Numbers 14:45, Judges 3:13, 7:12. It happened while Moses was still alive, and Joshua was his second-in-command. Just as the Israelites got out of Egypt and into the area near the promised land, the Amalekites came against them, possibly to keep them from entering the promised land. And now, the Lord had in mind to punish the Amalekites for coming against His people.
    1 Samuel 15:3 tells us what God told King Saul, “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, cattle and sheep, camel and donkey.”
    If you’re taking notes in your bulletin this morning, your first two blanks are CATTLE and SHEEP. God wanted Saul and his army to completely and totally destroy the Amalekites. To not leave one single person or animal belonging to the Amalekites alive.
    We’ve talked before about how odd it may seem to us that God commanded the death of people we might think would be innocent. Why put to death children and infants? Surely, they must be innocent, even if their parents aren’t? And what’s with killing the livestock?
    To answer that, I want you to remember Israel’s past. Samuel reminded the people of that past in the passage we read last week, 1 Samuel 12. They have a past of forgetting the Lord is their God. They have a past of serving other gods because they forgot that their God is the only God. They have a past of idolatry being their “pet” sin.
    Because of this past, God knows that if His people allow foreign, pagan people into their midst, it’s very possible that the Israelites will be persuaded to turn back to idols and forget their God again. In the past, this was proved to be true, when the Israelites would marry foreigners, they would indeed forget their God and worship false gods. Ordering the Israelites to put to death everyone assures that this won’t happen.
    We need to keep in mind as well, that the depths of evil that were prevalent in these ancient cultures around Israel were truly abominable. We’re talking child sacrifice, temple prostitution, and other very evil things. God didn’t want His people to be tainted by the evil that was passed from generation to generation.
    What about the animals? What is the sense in killing the livestock? It’s not to prevent the continuation of evil in Israel, or the temptation of Israel’s people to idolatry. Destroying even the livestock would show that Israel wasn’t fighting to try to get rich or gain anything; rather, they were fighting as an act of obedience to God, to carry out God’s will as He set out to right a wrong. The point wasn’t to get wealthy, the point was to do God’s will.
    So, the command is to destroy the Amalekites, people and livestock, and leave nothing and no one standing.
    What is Saul’s response?
    1 Samuel 15:9, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”
    Saul and the army, the people spared the king of the Amalekites and the livestock. They were not willing to destroy them utterly. Why? We’ll see that in a bit, but the thing we need to know right now is that  once again, Saul did things his own way. He went against God’s command, a very specific command that really didn’t leave any room open for interpretation. But, Saul figured he knew better, that he could go it alone and do things his own way. He was wrong.
    God spoke to Samuel and told Samuel that He regretted making Saul king, so Samuel went to Saul to find out why. What had Saul done that would cause God to regret making him king? Saul assured Samuel that he had done exactly as God had commanded, that he had done nothing wrong.
    1 Samuel 15:14 is, in my opinion, one of the most humorous verses in the entire Bible. “But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the cattle which I hear?”
    I can almost hear Samuel saying, “Really, Saul? You’re innocent? You’ve done nothing wrong? You’ve obeyed the Lord’s command? Then why do I hear sheep bleating? Why do I hear cattle lowing?”
    “Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” 1 Samuel 15:15 is Saul’s reply to Samuel’s skepticism.
    Saul claimed that they kept the sheep and the cattle to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord. But that’s not what God asked them to do. He didn’t ask for a sacrifice, He asked for them to do His will. To trust Him, depend on Him. The last thing He wanted was for Saul to do things his own way, even with good intentions.
    Isn’t that just like us, in so many ways? How often do we do things in our daily lives, going about from place to place, sometimes with the best intentions, but it’s not what God wants us to do? How many times do we just do what we want to do with our days, instead of seeking what God desires of us? We love our independence, don’t we? But the Christian life is not meant to be independent.
    We are meant to be co-dependent on God. We’re not meant to go it alone, we’re not meant to be lone cowboys. We need to depend on God, for everything. Every tiny little detail of our lives is meant to be dependent on the Lord. We are supposed to seek Him first for everything, to know His will for each and every step we make.
    What about Saul? Look at 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
    OBEY is the next blank in your bulletins this morning. See, regardless of our best intentions, regardless of how independent we are and how well we think we can run our own lives, none of that matters. God doesn’t want us to just do things our own way and hope for the best. He wants us to do things His way, because it is best!
    Now, Saul had said that he spared the king and the livestock because he wanted to make a sacrifice to God, but verse 24 shows us that this isn’t true. “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.”
    He feared the people and listened to their voice. We don’t know what the voice of the people was saying, exactly. Maybe they wanted to keep the plunder of livestock to provide the best food for their families. Maybe they wanted the livestock to show their power and might over the Amalekites. We don’t know what exactly the people wanted, but it’s clear that Saul was more dependent upon what the people said, than what God said.
    This verse shows us that what Saul’s sin was, and the next blank in your Bible this morning, was a lack of DEPENDENCE on God!
    Even though God was quite clear about what He wanted from Saul, clear on what Saul’s actions should have been, Saul didn’t walk in God’s ways. Saul didn’t depend on God to work in the situation and handle the victory. Saul didn’t depend on God to provide for Israel.
    This isn’t just Saul’s problem. This is a problem with humanity in general. We love our independence. We like to think we don’t need to rely on anyone for anything, including God.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
    These two verses hit all the areas of our life where we need to depend on God: our hearts—our emotions and our feelings, we must depend on God to be the source of the emotions we dwell on because our own hearts cannot be trusted. Genesis 6:5 says that every inclination of our hearts is evil. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” God needs to be the source of our emotions.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 also says we should not lean on our own understanding. We need to depend on God to be the source of what thoughts we dwell on. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on the things of God.
    And, Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways which speaks to our actions, what we do. Do we acknowledge God with all our actions? Do we ask Him what He wants with our days? Do we ask Him to plan each day so we depend on Him? We should!! Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we should walk in the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand. Psalm 32:8 says that God will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. All we have to do is ask, and be dependent upon Him.
    See, Christians aren’t called to independence. We are called to be DEPENDENT on God in all our ways. That’s your last blank this morning. We must be dependent on God for everything. Our emotions, our thoughts, our actions all must spring from our dependence on God. There’s more too, though, isn’t there? The example of prayer that Jesus gave His disciples says that we should depend on God to provide for our daily needs. He also told us not to worry about those things because God knows we need them, but rather we should fix our eyes on the things of God, in other words, we need to depend on God!
    We’re even called to depend on one another! The New Testament is full of examples of how the early church depended on one another. They depended on each other to be the means that God used to provide for their needs. They depended on the prayers of their brothers and sisters. They depended on their Christian charity and love. They depended on their work for the kingdom. We are not lone cowboys. We need God, and we need each other.
    We cannot be independent and be Christians.

1. 1 Samuel 15:24 reveals Samuel’s true heart issue: a lack of dependence on God. Are there areas in your life you need to be more dependent on God? What are they?

2. What was the response to Saul’s lack of dependence and disobedience in 1 Samuel 15:27-29?

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