You Had ONE Job!

1 Samuel 15

1One day Samuel said to Saul, “I anointed you king of Israel because the LORD told me to. Now listen to this message from the LORD! 2This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.’”

4So Saul mobilized his army at Telaim. There were 200,000 troops in addition to 10,000 men from Judah. 5Then Saul went to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. 6Saul sent this message to the Kenites: “Move away from where the Amalekites live or else you will die with them. For you were kind to the people of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites packed up and left.

7Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. 8He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. 9Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.

10Then the LORD said to Samuel, 11“I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has again refused to obey me.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the LORD all night.

12Early the next morning Samuel went to find Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel to set up a monument to himself; then he went on to Gilgal.”

13When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the LORD bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the LORD’s command!”

14“Then what is all the bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15“It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the LORD your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

16Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the LORD told me last night!”

“What was it?” Saul asked.

17And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The LORD has anointed you king of Israel. 18And the LORD sent you on a mission and told you, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.’ 19Why haven’t you obeyed the LORD? Why did you rush for the plunder and do exactly what the LORD said not to do?”

20“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep and cattle and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

22But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. 23Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:1-23, NLT)

The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever seen a meme with the phrase, “You had one job” stamped on it? Usually, it’s a humorous photo of something that has been completely botched (like the photo above) because whoever was responsible for doing that task was obviously not paying attention to what they were doing.

The idea is that the instructions for the task aren’t that complicated so success in the task should be rather high.

In this chapter of 1 Samuel, Saul’s response to the Lord’s command could be portrayed in a meme with the words, “You had one job” stamped across it.

Saul had ONE command from the Lord – completely destroy the Amalekite nation, including all people and their livestock. These instructions weren’t vague or subject to misinterpretation. It was a straightforward command, the outcome of which was not dependent on factors outside of Saul’s control. Therefore, the end result should have been straightforward as well.

However, when Samuel arrives on the scene after Saul and his men have finished their task, he sees that not only has much of the Amalekite’s livestock been spared but Agag, the Amalekite king has been spared as well.

Notice that when Samuel shows up Saul says, “I have carried out the LORD’s command!”

Samuel knows this isn’t true so he questions Saul about the sheep and cattle he sees and hears.

Saul rationalizes his behavior – he seeks to justify his actions in an attempt to circumvent the obvious truth that he and his men have not fully obeyed the Lord’s command.

The text tells us that the reason they spared the livestock was because it appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless and kept what was valuable – the fat lambs and calves.

Saul tells Samuel that the reason they haven’t destroyed the sheep and cattle is because they were intending to sacrifice them to the Lord. There are two reasons why we know this is not true, one practical and one logical.

Practically speaking, it doesn’t make sense that they kept all the sheep and cattle in order to sacrifice them. We’re talking about thousands of animals, not just a handful. Since this doesn’t make sense practically, we have reason to be suspicious about the veracity of Saul’s claim.

Secondly, a sacrifice is really only a sacrifice if you’re offering up something of your own to the Lord. None of these cattle or sheep belonged to Saul or his men so there is no logical way that they can say they are making sacrifices. Hence, his claim gives the added impression of being a ruse.

Now suppose the Lord had told them that they could destroy the people but keep the plunder for themselves, as He did in Joshua 8. Let’s further suppose that after destroying the people and the city and taking all of the goods, including livestock, for themselves, that the people decide to offer up some of their plunder to the Lord, as an act of worship. In this case, it would be a true act of sacrifice and worship because the people would be offering back something to the Lord that He had already given to them.

This is not the case with Saul. The command was to destroy the livestock as well as the people. Hence, the argument that they had obeyed and were intending to sacrifice the livestock does not add up.

There is one more reason we can know that Saul’s claim that he had fully carried out the command of the Lord was disingenuous.


Even if you believed that Saul was intending to slaughter all the livestock in some sort of ginormous sacrificial ceremony, there still appears to be no logical explanation for the sparing of Agag’s life.

Samuel knows all of this intellectually, of course, which is why he responds by saying, “Obedience is far better than sacrifice.”

It’s so easy to fall into the sin of rationalizing our partial obedience. And just like Saul, the temptation to not fully obey is always rooted in our selfish, covetous nature. That is to say, we decide to not fully obey because full obedience would not allow us to get the outcome we want for ourselves, whether that’s some material gain (sheep and cattle) or some lifestyle preference.

We can try to rationalize our choices by saying things like, “I’m going to use this for the Lord” or “this situation is different” or “that doesn’t really apply to me” but Samuel’s words are just as true today as they were then, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”


What is an instance where you were tempted to partially obey the Lord? What were the circumstances? How did you rationalize your choice?

Saul rationalized his disobedience because he wanted something (sheep and cattle). What are some things you are more prone to desire and covet that might be a source of temptation to disobey?

What are some modern ways people today make “sacrifices” to the Lord that are used as rationalizations to cover for choices that are clearly disobedient to God’s commands?

What advice would you give someone who wanted to know ways of developing a character and lifestyle of obedience to the Lord?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Spankings, Samuel and a Box of Lemonheads

Proverbs 23

13Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. 14Physical discipline may well save them from death. (Proverbs 23:13-14, NLT)

1 Samuel 3

11Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family. 13I have warned him continually that judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” (1 Samuel 3:11-14, NLT)

The Daily DAVEotional

I’ve mentioned before that the Bible reading program I’ve been following for the past several years in the Grant Horner Bible reading plan. You can read about the plan here from a pdf that includes a handy list of the 10 “lists”.

What’s unique about the plan is that every day, you read one chapter from each of 10 different lists – Gospels, Pentateuch, Wisdom literature, Psalms, Proverbs and so on. Each successive day, you read the next chapter from that list. When you reach the last chapter in any list, you return to the beginning. Since each list has a different number of chapters, you will never be reading the same 10 chapters. What you begin to realize, as a reader, is how Scripture is interwoven and how different sections comment on and bring clarity to other sections.

A perfect example of this occurred just a few days ago.

On one day, I read Proverbs 23, which included verses 13-14 and the writer’s admonition to not avoid spanking your kids.

Spanking was very common when I was a kid but it seems that there has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether or not spanking is moral. Those against spanking generally feel that it is abusive and unnecessary and that there are more effective ways of dealing with bad behavior and problem youths.

I agree that spanking, when done in anger, and done in a punitive manner, can absolutely be abusive. But it doesn’t logically follow that all spanking is abusive. When done properly, it can be very corrective.

I remember when I was 10 years old, I used to walk home from school with a friend. Some times we would stop off at a Pharmacy that was on the way home and browse and maybe by some candy. When my dad found out that I was sometimes stopping at the pharmacy, he told me he didn’t want me doing that anymore.

Not long after that, as I was walking home from school, my friend wanted to stop at the Pharmacy. Against my dad’s wishes, I went along, and I even bought a box of Lemonheads.

When I got home, my dad happened to be home from work early and he noticed the bulge in my front pocket where the Lemonheads were. He asked, “what’s that in your pocket?” I pulled out the Lemonheads and my dad replied, “you stopped off at the pharmacy didn’t you?” I told him I had and he reminded me that he had expressly forbid me from going there on my way home from school. I was supposed to come straight home and I hadn’t done that.

My dad then informed me that there were consequences for my disobedience. I had been spanked before with a belt and I expected that would be forthcoming. But my dad actually gave me a choice. I had a Little League game later that afternoon and I was scheduled to be the pitcher. My dad told me I could get a spanking, or I could skip the game – it was my choice. I told him I wanted to think about it.

So I went to my room and I thought about it, and I thought about it some more, and even more. I honestly didn’t want to get a spanking. I was a small, scrawny kid and I didn’t have a lot of meat on my glutes to soften the leathery blows.

But I was scheduled to pitch in the game and I knew that if I didn’t get the spanking, I would be letting my team down and my coach would be wondering why I didn’t show up.

At the last possible moment, I went to my dad and told him I would take the spanking, after which, I threw on my uniform and we raced to the field, where I was already late for pre-game warm-ups. I didn’t miss the game though, and like the verse states, I didn’t die from getting spanked. Instead, it was a valuable lesson in obedience and consequences, one that I obviously still remember to this day.

So what does this have to do with the Grant Horner system?

Well, the very next day, I read the chapter in 1 Samuel 3. Actually, on the same day I read Proverbs 23:13-14, I read 1 Samuel 2, where I learned that Eli’s sons Phineas and Hophni were priests who were taking advantage of Israelites who came to the temple to worship the Lord. The text calls them “scoundrels”. Eli is warned by God about what his sons are doing but Eli essentially does nothing about it. He does not discipline his sons. He provides no meaningful correction.

As a result, in 1 Samuel 3, the Lord speaks to the boy Samuel and tells him that he’s going to bring about justice for the wrongs committed by Eli’s sons. Verse 13 says that God is bringing this about because he has warned Eli about what his son’s are doing but Eli “hasn’t disciplined them.”

I think our culture has a hard time with physical discipline like spanking because we think of discipline as punishment. But the more general understanding of discipline is the word “training”. Athletes discipline themselves in order to train their bodies. Spiritual disciplines are for the purpose of training ourselves spiritually.

So when we think about disciplining our kids, we are not trying to punish them, though there may be negative consequences for disobedience and bad behavior. Instead, we are training our children to know what is right and to respond in right ways in varied circumstances. This is godly and as we can see from these passages, it is also biblical.


What was your experience with discipline growing up? If you’re a parent, what has been your practice of discipline with your kids? What do you think are some effective ways you have found for correcting and disciplining your kids?

The idea of spanking has become a controversial issue in our culture today. What are your views on spanking and physical discipline? What has shaped the position you hold today?

In what ways can physical discipline, such as spanking, be done in a way that is corrective and not abusive? 

We often think of discipline as “punishment”. When you think of discipline in it’s broader sense, as training, how does this affect your view and understanding of discipline as a corrective measure?

What are some common ways you discipline or train yourself (i.e. finances, fitness, sleep, other habits and routines)? 


Photo by Dave Lowe