I Samuel 15: Because I Said So!
“ Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, and infant and nursing child, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey. “ ( vs.3)
That sounds like an order one does not expect from God, doesn’t it? Destroy the enemy, ok. Destroy the live stock? Well maybe ok. Kill the women? Kill the infants, the nursing child? I am confused Lord. Is this really necessary? Why are we doing this, Lord? ‘ Because I Said So.
For the second time, I realized I understood Saul’s behavior. In fact I knew how he felt when he did not wait for Samuel to arrive out of fear of the negative circumstances he faced. He faced overwhelming odds: outnumbered by a military force better equipped combined with the growing problem of desertion by his own under-equipped army. It was a recipe for disaster and a catastrophic defeat. So Saul leaned to his own understanding and left God out of the equation and did what he thought was best in the situation. He went ahead and offered the sacrifice himself instead of waiting for Samuel. I understood his actions, have done the same thing in the past, as you probably have also. A mistake- but an understandable mistake. Or was it more than just a mistake? A test designed by God to see if we understand the importance of obedience.
Now comes this order and we see Saul again not obeying God’s command completely. And again I understand and empathize with Saul more than I understand God’s command. I was troubled because this command of God’s seems overly harsh. I wanted to understand so I could know as much as I possibly could know and understand what was happening here.
One thing became obvious- if I was siding with Saul and his actions, I was on the wrong side and did not want to be. Please help me understand Heavenly Father what was happening here.
Now every parent has had those moments when a child questions their wisdom or ask why they should be doing something the way they were told to do it. And the reply was, “ Because I said so..” We use this explanation, because we know the child is incapable at their age and level of wisdom to understand the explanation.
Deuteronomy 29: 29 tells us the same: “ The secret things of God belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
And Paul writes in Romans 11: 33: “ Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out.
Does this mean I cannot understand or expect to know why? Or do I continue to try and find out. Now some would wave their hands in dismissal and say that was the God of Wrath of the Old Testament, not the loving Savior of the New Testament. But God made it clear in Malachi- “ I the Lord, do not change.”
So my thought process was this: Generals and leaders in war make decisions when it comes to attacks, knowing there will be innocent victims who will be killed in the battle. These finite men make the best decisions they can in difficult situations knowing there will be no perfect solution. But God is not like us- He is perfect and His decisions are perfect. But- if I can understand more about His reasons, I want to know if I can. If I exhaust my search without finding a suitable answer, then I will know it is simply a secret of God I cannot understand( at least at this time) and will accept it as best as I can.
Verse 2 which precedes the Lord’s command of utter destruction of these people points me in the right direction. It takes us back to the reason for this command. It is a reference to what occurred in Exodus 17, so my search led me there.
THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
Sometimes we are so consumed by what we want, we miss God is wanting to provide us with what we need. I have discovered my flesh, that is my old nature can distract me with its wants, while God is wanting to provide me with what I need. The wants, or the things my flesh want are keeping me from getting what God knows I need. The Israelites who were led out of Egypt by God’s mighty acts performed through Moses are an example to us. They constantly complain about what they wanted, while God provided everything they needed. He provided them with daily bread, the manna which came down from heaven. The incident in Exodus 17 is another situation in which the people were in need of water. They were thirsty. God instructs Moses to take his rod and strike the rock . Water flows from the rock and people drank the water from the rock. Now Ezekiel’s vision in the first chapter of Ezekiel allowed him to see visions of God in heaven. Of all the strange and wonderful sights he saw was what he described as “ the appearance of wheels and their workings was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. A wheel within a wheel. Thus is how God’s Word works, a story within the story- a truth within a true story. I wanted to find the story within this story if I could.
For example we know the story within the story of the Passover Lamb and the blood posted on the doorpost which represents the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose shed blood for our sins saves us from the wrath of God.
Paul helps us find the story within the story in I Corinthians 10 he tells us of the meaning of these truths in Exodus: “ Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of the Spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
Here is the picture, the metaphor, the symbolism, the truth within the truth: they were baptized into Moses- a picture of the believer identified with Christ and taken with Him in baptism through the death, burial and resurrection, and thus the resurrection life. They were partakers of the daily manna, the picture of the believer receiving the witness of the Holy Spirit enabling us to understand the Word of God, the spiritual truths. This occurred as we were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, an eternal spring.
In other words, in New Testament language, when the people drank of the water from the smitten Rock which was Christ, they were a picture of the Christian believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Make sense- do you get the picture?
No sooner had they drank of the water then came the attack. “ Now Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.” Who is this Amalek and the Amalekites? Amalek is a direct descendant of Esau. And Esau is clearly and consistently a picture of the flesh. The sinful nature which has nothing to do with God or spiritual things of God. God even said: Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated. Esau despised his spiritual birthright. And that which is born of the flesh is flesh. This why we must be born again of the Spirit. And the flesh must be put to death.
Guess what as soon as you and I were saved and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to indwell and seal us and restore us and begin the process of sanctification- our flesh, the old nature attacks , resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. We are told what to do: “ Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things you wish.” ( Galatians 5: 16, 17)
Paul describes his own internal, infernal battle in Romans 7 where he shares with us- what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate – that I do. He said evil was always present when he wanted to do good.
The Amalekites are descendants of Esau. They attacked Israel shortly after they left Egypt. In Exodus 17 we read of their attack, where Moses lifted up his arms and prayed to God during the battle. With him were Aaron and Hur helping him hold up his hands to God. Joshua led the army in the defeat of Amalek and his people with the edge of his sword. But it was God who gave them the victory. We must remember it is the Lord’s battle. “The Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17)
Now where was the nation of Israel headed? To the Promised Land. The Promised Land is the spirit-filled, spirit-led, abundant resurrection life the Lord wants us to live here and now. Standing in your path to the Promised Land, the land of spiritual maturity is Amalek. He is there at the beginning of this journey at the very outset of your Christian life. He wants to keep you wandering in the wilderness of carnality. For the carnal Christian is the flesh’s goal. If the flesh can keep you from spiritual maturity, if it can keep you living in the wilderness, complaining and griping and constantly giving into what your flesh wants and you cannot live a victorious life.
This is why God told them to remember and write it down as a memorial this enemy must be utterly destroyed for he will plague and battle every generation. He will attack you children, and your grandchildren and your grandchildren’s children.
Now when God spoke through Malachi, he knew there would be no more additions to the Old Testament. Interesting the things He wanted to remind us of in the last book of the Old Testament: “Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated.” God then says of Esau’s descendants: “They may build, but I will throw down. They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness and the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever.” (Malachi 1) Later on God says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Malachi 3: 6
Amalek and the Amalekites are always a symbol of the flesh. He is always attacking the Spirit of God. Always after God’s children from generation to generation. Not only are the Amalekites descendants of Esau, so also are the Edomites. King Herod who had the infants of Bethlehem killed in his attempt to kill Jesus was an Edomite. Haman who in the book of Esther, devised a plot to destroy the Jewish people was a descendant of Agag, the very king of the Amalekites, Saul had refused to kill. And we will discover Saul’s assisted suicide is with the aid of an Amalekite- how fitting that the man who would not utterly destroy that which is a symbol of the flesh- is destroyed by the flesh.
God has all knowledge and He has given us a picture of our flesh in the Amalekites. In it dwells not good thing. Saul thought at least we should save the best of the flocks. That is like saying let’s give God the best of that which is evil in His sight. He says there is only one way to deal with the flesh- utterly destroy it. He says I want you to write this down and remember it.
In Hebrews 10: 17, God says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” What God forgets and remembers not more, we are to forget and remember no more. He has put them away as far as the east is from the west.”(Psalm 103: 12) Though my sins were as scarlet, they have become white as snow.
God says we do not have the right to remember what He tells us to forget. And we do have the right to forget what He tells us to remember.
Samuel told Saul, the Lord said: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up out of Egypt.” And He had it written down for us not to forget- He, Almighty God, would blot the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
“For He said, BECAUSE THE LORD HAS SWORN THE LORD WILL HAVE WAR WITH AMALEK FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION.
Now this sounds harsh, even difficult to think of God destroying a nation because of what they did centuries before. The nation of Amalekites were unspeakably wicked and empowered by the evil one, they wanted to destroy the nation of Israel. They wanted to exterminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth, just as Hitler and Nazi Germany wanted to in World War II. These people were not just opposing the Jewish people, they were opposing Almighty God and His plan of redemption for the whole world. As Abraham said in Genesis 18: 25: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do Right? “ God has the right to what He does and He always does what is right. God’s promise to Israel was: I will curse those who curse you.
So as I come to the end of my second revision of this lesson. I find it is as much about me as it is about Saul.
That I can find myself understanding his motives, his reluctance to obey fully God’s difficult commands, and in doing so I realize I and Saul have much in common. We have an old nature which if not utterly destroyed will try to block our path to the Promised Land.
We find our paths to spiritual maturity blocked by our own Amalekite, our flesh. Who when finding something hard to understand, lean to our own understanding.
Having begun in the Spirit, we sometimes find ourselves attempting to accomplish God’s will in our own ways in our own strength and might.
*Now a word to the wise: the devil loves to twist and invert the word of truth. He may have said something like this: ‘try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and then you will walk in the Spirit. But the truth is we are to walk in the Spirit and then you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Now I do understand more about this command to utterly destroy the Amalekites. For the flesh always lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
The enemy will try to get you to remember what God told you to forget and forget what He told you to remember.
But sometimes we forget, don’t we. Sometimes our flesh questions God’s commands because they seem difficult.
It is all right to ask God why. And I asked Him why in this lesson, because my flesh was lusting against the Spirit. But the Spirit gave me answers I could begin to comprehend which are in keeping with God’s attributes and character and knowing He always does what is right.
So when I sometimes do not understand or can trace His hand, I trust His heart.
And I will do what He says – BECAUSE HE SAYS SO.