Are You Sparing King Agag?

Submitted December 28, 2011

Becoming a Christian means changing your way of life to live the way that God wants, primarily by turning from sin. While it's easy to reject sins such as murder, some of the more "harmless" or "fun" sins can be hard to let go of. You may even be fooled into thinking that they are better than what God commands! The story of Saul and King Agag speaks powerfully to this issue, providing a lesson that we should examine ourselves by.

In 1 Samuel:15:3, God commanded Saul to wipe out the Amalekites, specifically telling him to kill every man, woman, child and animal in their land. As happened so often in those days, Saul and his army didn't follow that command to the letter:

"[Saul] also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 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 unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed" (1 Samuel:15:8-9).

Saul and his men did exactly what people today do: they obeyed the part of the commandment that made sense to them, that fit in with the view that they already had, and then they threw the rest out the window while still thinking that they were pleasing God! Saul was certainly satisfied with himself when he told Samuel in verse 13, "I have performed the commandment of the LORD" (1 Samuel:15:13), but Samuel delivered the harsh reality to him that this sin would ultimately end his reign as king. Saul continued to try to justify what he had done, even claiming that the livestock had only been kept alive to be an offering to God (1 Samuel:15:21). While this may sound reasonable--after all, God likes offerings--their good intentions did not change the fact that they had disobeyed God's word (1 Samuel:15:22-23).

God put this story in the Bible so that we could learn a lesson from Saul's mistake: God, not us, decides what is right, wrong, good, and bad; and it is sinful for us to think that we know better than He does or to try to get away with doing less than He commands. For centuries, even to this day, professing Christians have been plagued by this exact problem by obeying only the parts of God's law that they thought were good, and they have made all kinds of justifications for their behavior, just as Saul did.

It is easy to denounce murder, abortion, adultery, and theft because these are almost universally accepted by every culture as bad behavior - these are like the "despised" and "worthless" things that Saul destroyed from the Amalekites - but the same God who commanded "do not murder" also gave many commands that people disregard because they do not see anything wrong with them. For example, God said to keep the Sabbath day holy (this is even one of the Ten Commandments, Exodus:20:8-11), to celebrate His appointed festivals (Leviticus:23:2), and to only eat certain kinds of animals (Leviticus:11:2). Instead of obeying the clear commandments of God, the bulk of Christians today do whatever they want on the Sabbath day, celebrate man-made holidays such as Christmas and Easter instead of the God-given ones, and eat whatever they please. 

Saul repented after Samuel continued to confront him, and Agag was "hacked in pieces before the LORD" (1 Samuel:15:33). Likewise, God has said that a time is coming when "the way of the ungodly shall perish" (Psalm:1:6)! If you have been sparing Agag in your life, take this opportunity to learn the truth about how to live the way of life that God says will not perish--"the way of the righteous" (Psalm:1:6). Our free booklet The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?  is a great starting point for understanding what God's law is, what its role in the New Covenant is, and what God expects from you as a Christian.

Blog posts do not undergo review by the doctrinal review team of the United Church of God. This post represents the personal opinion of the author and should not be considered the official stance of the United Church of God. If you have any questions or concerns please direct them to

linda effenberger

linda effenberger's picture

This article was recommended to me to read. You bring the issue of obedience right to the point. Sin is what God says is sin and not what we think is ok and not ok.

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