The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 61: Saul Rejected
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Saul had failed to bear the test of faith in the trying situation
at Gilgal, and had brought dishonor upon the service of God;
but his errors were not yet irretrievable, and the Lord would
grant him another opportunity to learn the lesson of unquestioning
faith in His word and obedience to His commands.
When reproved by the prophet at Gilgal, Saul saw no great
sin in the course he had pursued. He felt that he had been
treated unjustly, and endeavored to vindicate his actions and
offered excuses for his error. From that time he had little
intercourse with the prophet. Samuel loved Saul as his own son, while
Saul, bold and ardent in temper, had held the prophet in high
regard; but he resented Samuel's rebuke, and thenceforth avoided
him so far as possible.
But the Lord sent His servant with another message to Saul.
By obedience he might still prove his fidelity to God and his
worthiness to walk before Israel. Samuel came to the king and
delivered the word of the Lord. That the monarch might realize
the importance of heeding the command, Samuel expressly declared
that he spoke by divine direction, by the same authority
that had called Saul to the throne. The prophet said, "Thus saith
the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel,
how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from
Egypt. Now 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." The Amalekites
had been the first to make war upon Israel in the wilderness;
and for this sin, together with their defiance of God and their
debasing idolatry, the Lord, through Moses, had pronounced
sentence upon them. By divine direction the history of their cruelty
toward Israel had been recorded, with the command, "Thou [p. 628] shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven;
thou shalt not forget it." Deuteronomy 25:19. For four hundred
years the execution of this sentence had been deferred; but the
Amalekites had not turned from their sins. The Lord knew that
this wicked people would, if it were possible, blot out His people
and His worship from the earth. Now the time had come for the
sentence, so long delayed, to be executed.
The forbearance that God has exercised toward the wicked,
emboldens men in transgression; but their punishment will be
none the less certain and terrible for being long delayed. "The
Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in
the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange
work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act." Isaiah 28:21.
To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act.
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."
Ezekiel 33:11. The Lord is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering,
and abundant in goodness and truth, . . . forgiving iniquity
and transgression and sin." Yet He will "by no means clear the
guilty." Exodus 34:6, 7. While He does not delight in vengeance,
He will execute judgment upon the transgressors of His law. He
is forced to do this, to preserve the inhabitants of the earth from
utter depravity and ruin. In order to save some He must cut off
those who have become hardened in sin. "The Lord is slow to
anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked."
Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate
the authority of His downtrodden law. And the very fact of His
reluctance to execute justice testifies to the enormity of the sins
that call forth His judgments and to the severity of the retribution
awaiting the transgressor.
But while inflicting judgment, God remembered mercy. The
Amalekites were to be destroyed, but the Kenites, who dwelt
among them, were spared. This people, though not wholly free
from idolatry, were worshipers of God and were friendly to
Israel. Of this tribe was the brother-in-law of Moses, Hobab,
who had accompanied the Israelites in their travels through the
wilderness, and by his knowledge of the country had rendered
them valuable assistance.
Since the defeat of the Philistines at Michmash, Saul had
made war against Moab, Ammon, and Edom, and against the [p. 629] Amalekites and the Philistines; and wherever he turned his
arms, he gained fresh victories. On receiving the commission
against the Amalekites, he at once proclaimed war. To his own
authority was added that of the prophet, and at the call to battle
the men of Israel flocked to his standard. The expedition was not
to be entered upon for the purpose of self-aggrandizement; the
Israelites were not to receive either the honor of the conquest or
the spoils of their enemies. They were to engage in the war solely
as an act of obedience to God, for the purpose of executing
His judgment upon the Amalekites. God intended that all nations
should behold the doom of that people that had defied His
sovereignty, and should mark that they were destroyed by the
very people whom they had despised.
"Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest
to Shur, that is over against Egypt. 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 everything that was vile and refuse, that they
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