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:15:3Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass., 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 And he took Agag the 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, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly. ).
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:15:13And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.), 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:15:21But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.). 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 And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. ).
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 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. ), to celebrate His appointed festivals (Leviticus:23:2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.), and to only eat certain kinds of animals (Leviticus:11:2Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.). 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:15:33And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.). Likewise, God has said that a time is coming when "the way of the ungodly shall perish" (Psalm:1:6For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.)! 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:1:6For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.). 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.
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