Samuel’s Last Activities
November 27th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 13-15
SAMUEL’S LAST ACTIVITIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 13-15
11-27-60 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message in the life of Samuel entitled The Closing Days of the Great Prophet. In your Holy Book, in these blessed Scriptures, you can easily follow the message of the morning if you turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 13, and the message follows chapters 13, 14, and 15.
Last Sunday morning at this early hour, we watched Samuel as he installed his successor, Saul the son of Kish. There is to be a new administration, there is a new leadership. They have a new king. So Samuel resigns his office of chief magistrate, and he places into the hands of his young successor all of the destiny of the people of God [1 Samuel 12:1-2]. And the people ask Samuel to remember them in prayer as they begin this new adventure [1 Samuel 12:19], this new departure under Samuel’s successor. And Samuel replies, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for thee: but I will teach you the good and the right way” [1 Samuel 12:23]. So Samuel turns aside from judging Israel, an office that he had held for many, many years. And he turns the reins of government over to the new king.
Now, we begin this morning with the life of Samuel, as he touched his successor in the closing days of Samuel’s ministry. It says in the thirteenth chapter and the first verse, “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years” [1 Samuel 13:1], then you have the incident described in this thirteenth chapter of 1 Samuel which delineates the beginning of the fall of the first king [1 Samuel 10:8, 13:8-12]. And isn’t it a remarkable thing—though sometimes it takes years to work out—isn’t it a remarkable thing that almost immediately and almost without exception, that immediately, how a man is in the course of his life, and how a thing is to be, is almost immediately apparent?
As I listen to people speak to me about their marriages, almost immediately—it’s not a matter of five years or ten years or thirty years or forty years—almost immediately, the course of the marriage is set. If there is to be trouble, and turmoil, and unhappiness, and dissatisfaction, it will almost immediately appear. If there is to be confidence, and assurance, and gladness, and happiness, almost immediately it is apparent. It is the same way in practically all other relationships of life. Almost immediately these things appear, and the set of a man’s soul and the destiny of a man’s life and the turn of a man’s fortune is almost immediately seen.
You have that so many times illustrated in the Scriptures, as well as in this following through in the life of Samuel and Samuel’s successor. For example, it seems in the Word of God that almost immediately Adam fell [Genesis 3:1-6]. I sometimes find it humorous; these people who teach that those days in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis were eons and were ages. In that event, Adam, who was created on the sixth day, lived thousands and millions of years as he lived out the remainder of the sixth day [Genesis 1:26-27]. Then the next day was the seventh day in which God rested [Genesis 2:1-3], and Adam lived through the seventh day, another millions and millions and uncounted millions of years. Then it was that the incident happened when he fell in the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:6]. According to them, if those days are eons, if they are ages, if they covered vast, untold periods of years, then Adam was millions and millions and millions and untold, uncounted millions of years of age when he and Eve fell into that transgression. There’s no such presentation in the Word of God at all. The day was an evening and a morning. It was a day as your day is, as our day is, in the revolution of the earth one time. And Adam immediately fell. It wasn’t a long process. Almost immediately you have that story coming to pass, when he and his wife fell in that transgression [Genesis 3:1-6].
Almost immediately Noah fell after God had made a new earth for Noah and rejuvenated all creation and the race had a new beginning and a new start [Genesis 9:1-19]. Almost immediately you find Noah drunken and naked [Genesis 9:20-24] and bringing upon a part of his family an infinitely hurtful disgrace and an awful weight and curse; it didn’t take long. Israel was that way. One day Israel said to Moses, “Tell God, all that He says, we will do. Every word that He speaks we will obey” [Exodus 19:8]. And immediately, almost the same day, when Israel said, “Everything that God says, we will do, and every word that God commands, we will perform” [Exodus 19:8], then, as Moses remained on the top of the mount talking to God face to face and receiving the laws and the statutes and the commandments [Exodus 19:20], the people down there in the valley who had just said, “All that God shall speak, we will do. Every word God commands, we will perform” [Exodus 19:8], immediately the people down there in the valley said to Aaron, “Up, up, make us gods that we can bow down and worship before them, for as for this man Moses, we wot not what has become of him” [Exodus 32:1]. Almost immediately; that is a pattern of life.
In the thirteenth chapter of 1 Samuel, in Saul’s reign, one year [1 Samuel 13:1], it becomes apparent the destiny of this man. And the terrific inexcusable secularism of his heart and his reluctance to wait upon the Lord becomes immediately apparent [1 Samuel 13:8-12]. Now, God had said to Samuel, “You tell Saul, when he goes down to Gilgal and when he gathers Israel together for battle, you tell Saul not to go into that battle until first he has the approbation of God. Wait on Me, I will give him the victory. And tell him to tarry seven days” [1 Samuel 10:8].
All of this was carefully rehearsed in Saul’s ear by Samuel the prophet. We did that last Sunday morning, going through the Scriptures, rehearsing these things that Samuel said to Saul; “And you wait on the Lord. Don’t you attempt this thing by yourself. You wait on the Lord, and you wait seven days, and in those seven days the prophet will come, and he will make sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord, and God will give you victory” [1 Samuel 10:8]. So, now we begin at verse 8 in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Samuel:
And Saul tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed; and Samuel did not come . . .
And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And Saul offered the burnt offering.
And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering
(on that seventh day; it was to be seven days, and the seven days had not yet passed)
It came to pass, that as soon as Saul had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to salute him.
And Samuel said, What hast thou done?
[1 Samuel 13:8-11a]
“What hast thou done?” Does that strike a familiar ring in your minds? “What hast thou done?” That was the question God asked Eve in the day of the transgression: “What hast thou done?” [Genesis 3:13]. That was the question that God asked her son, Cain: “What hast thou done? For the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth up unto Me from the ground” [Genesis 4:10].
And Samuel said, “What hast thou done?” and Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed”— that was not true. Seven days, God said [1 Samuel 10:8], and on the seventh day Samuel came [1 Samuel 13:8]; but Saul says, “Thou camest not within the days appointed” [1 Samuel 13:11]. That was not true. On the seventh day, Samuel came [1 Samuel 13:10]. “And the Philistines were gathered at Michmash; Therefore, said I, The Philistines will come down upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord; I forced myself, therefore, and offered a burnt offering” [1 Samuel 13:11-12]. And Samuel said to Saul:
Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which He commanded thee; for had you obeyed the Lord, the Lord would have established thy kingdom forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord hath commandeth thee.
[1 Samuel 13:13-14]
Ah, I know it’s hard. It is always hard. I know it is difficult. It is always difficult when we get restive and we become anxious and we persuade ourselves that all of this depends upon us; we have to do it. And as Saul says, “I forced myself [1 Samuel 13:12]. It doesn’t matter about God; this is my affair. Don’t talk to me about waiting on the Lord; I’ve got to move. Don’t speak to me about getting God’s approbation and God’s approval and God’s favor; this is my work, and I’ve got to get it done.” That’s Saul.
How much better had it been had the king obeyed the commandment of God and waited those full seven days upon the Lord’s prophet? And how much better would it be for us, instead of rushing into things foolishly and seeking to do things in our own strength and in our own power, our own ingenuity, our ableness, which is actually our feebleness; how much better to wait upon the Lord, praying about it, asking God’s wisdom in it, and then, having found God’s will and God’s purpose and obeying God’s commandment, then doing God’s work in God’s strength? How infinitely better!
But Saul is not so turned. “I felt this way,” he says to Samuel, “and I saw this,” he says to Samuel, “and I felt this,” he says to Samuel, “and I forced myself to go ahead and do this,” he says to Samuel [1 Samuel 13:12]. And Samuel replies, “Thou hast done foolishly” [1 Samuel 13:13]. How infinitely better to obey the injunctions of God and to wait upon the Lord! So you have the beginning of the dissolution of the ministry and work and kingdom of Saul at the very start of his reign [1 Samuel 13:14].
Now, in chapter 14, you have an illustration of the foolishness of this man Saul. He is being besieged on every side by Philistia, but Saul has a wonderful son [1 Samuel 14:1]. I preached a sermon one time here on that glorious boy. There is not in the Holy Word of God a single sentence by which one would gain an impression that there was even a flaw in the character of Jonathan. If ever there lived a son in whose heart shined the glory of God, the Spirit of Jesus, that son was Jonathan. About two weeks ago, I ate dinner in a pastor’s home, and he had a boy in that home, and the boy’s name was Jonathan. I like that. If I had twins and they were boys, I think I would like to name them David and Jonathan. Jonathan is beautiful in every gesture, in every facet of his character; a son above sons. Now, he was not only flawless in his character, in the beauty of his life, but he was brave, and he trusted God. He had an illimitable faith in the Lord.
And Israel, pressed on every hand by these blaspheming, uncircumcised Philistines, Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, “Come, let us go up against the garrison of Philistia,” just the two of them [1 Samuel 14:1]. And the armor-bearer, who’s called the young man, his armor-bearer, the young man says, “As God shall place these things in your heart, I will be with you to do” [1 Samuel 14:6-7].
Isn’t that a glorious thing? That armor-bearer had an illimitable trust in Jonathan, as Jonathan had an illimitable trust in God. So Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, “Let us go up against this garrison of Philistia, and this will be the sign. When we approach them, if they say, ‘We are coming down to slay you,’ why, then that is the sign God does not want us to attack it. But if they say to us, ‘Come up here and we will show you a thing or two,’ that will be the sign God has delivered them into our hands” [1 Samuel 14:8-10]. What an unusual sign, when the natural thing would have been that these Philistines would have come down to slay those two as they approached.
And it was an impossible situation—on a high pinnacle, on a high rocky eminence—that Jonathan and his armor-bearer could even get up there, if that was to be the sign, the difficult thing to do. So Jonathan and his armor-bearer approached the rocky garrison high up there on a pinnacle. And when he disclosed himself to them, why, the mocking infidels said to the two down there below them, “Come up here.” And that was an impossible thing in itself to do without the help of God. “Come up here, and we will show you a thing or two. You come up here and we will cut your head off!” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “That is God’s sign. Let us go” [1 Samuel 14:11-12].
Well, you can hardly believe such a thing. And Jonathan and his armor-bearer, just those two, climb up that steep and difficult eminence of that high rock upon which the garrison of Philistia was built, and he and his armor-bearer jump down over the ramparts into the court. And you never saw such a fight in your life as those two, Jonathan and his armor-bearer, attacking the entire garrison of Philistia. Well, it was a rout, and the whole garrison falls to pieces, either in death or in fear and in fleeing. And from the fall of that garrison, there goes out throughout all of the armies of the Philistines a great trembling [1 Samuel 14:13-15].
The way the Bible describes the thing is very impressive. Look at the fifteenth verse of this fourteenth chapter: “And there was trembling in the host.” There was trembling “in the field.” There was trembling “among all the people: the garrison and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked.” The very earth trembled, so that “it was a very great trembling.” Well, it wasn’t long until the entire forces and armies of Philistia were in flight. They were afraid of each other, they were slaying each other. It was a great victory, brought to pass by that marvelous son Jonathan and his devoted, loyal, faithful armor-bearer [1 Samuel 14:15-23].
All right, so much for Jonathan and the great victory God gave that son. Now, I want you to look at Saul. Now you look at Saul, verse 24, “And the men of Israel were distressed that day.” Why? Why? “Because Saul had put a curse upon the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food” [1 Samuel 14:24].
And they were faint; that was a war, that was a battle, that was a fight, and they hadn’t had any food, and they were distressed, they were faint, they were weary, they were weak; not because God said anything like that, just because of the foolishness of this king who says the big “I”—not that God may get a victory, or for the glory of the Lord, but that “I may be avenged on mine enemies” [1 Samuel 14:24].
What does God’s Book say? “Vengeance belongeth unto Me” [Hebrews 10:30].
But, Saul says, “It belongs to me. Cursed be the man that eateth any food” [1 Samuel 14:24].
Now, Jonathan didn’t hear that oath of King Saul. And Jonathan, as he fought for God and fought for the people of the Lord, Jonathan came to a place in the woods where wild honey had flowed out of a tree and had dropped on the ground, and Jonathan ate of that honey [1 Samuel 14:27].
And when Israel learned that Jonathan had eaten it and his eyes were brightened—enlightened [1 Samuel 14:27], the Bible says—why, they came up to him and said, “Did you know that your father has put a curse on us? Cursed if any man eateth any food this day?” [1 Samuel 14:28]. And Jonathan rightly said—look at verse 29: “My father hath troubled the land” [1 Samuel 14:29]. Instead of being a blessing to the people, instead of rejoicing in the victory, instead of thanking God and giving glory to God for the great deliverance from the enemies of the Lord, why, Saul acts foolishly and full of himself and full of “I,” and, full of his own purposes, does this foolish thing of cursing the people; “My father hath troubled the land” [1 Samuel 14:28-29].
Now turn the page to the latter part of that chapter, to verse 43, “Saul said to Jonathan”—now, you can’t believe this—”Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, you say I must die” [1 Samuel 14:43]. And Saul answered, “God do so and more also; for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan” [1 Samuel 14:44]. Why, you can hardly believe that, that’s almost impossible to believe! This glorious son—and because of the faith in God that Jonathan had, and because of his own personal devoted bravery, God had given to Israel, through this son Jonathan, a great victory and deliverance from their enemies. And then, because of a foolish thing that Saul had said [1 Samuel 14:24], he turns to this wonderful son Jonathan and says, “Thou shalt surely die” [1 Samuel 14:44], when Jonathan didn’t even know of the foolish curse that Saul proposed to place upon the people.
Well, let’s thank God for the people. You know, it’s like Abraham Lincoln said: “You can always finally and ultimately trust a verdict to the people. They may make mistakes, but give them time. Give them time. Wait.” And that’s the Lord’s truth. People make mistakes, but they don’t make mistakes like one so-called dictator, or one so-called infallible, or one so-called all-important and all-powerful; it is far better that government and that authority lie in the hands of the people than for it to lie in the hands of one self-chosen, self-made, all-important dictator. That’s true in a church; far better that the government of a church and the leadership of a church lie in the hands of the people than for one man to assume it, even though he may be the preacher.
Look what the people do: and the people said unto Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, Jonathan who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel?” No, sir. “God forbid: as the Lord liveth,” say the people, “there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not” [1 Samuel 14: 45]. Aren’t you proud of the folks? Aren’t you proud of the people? “And they rescued Jonathan, that he died not.”
You know, the wisest man in the world will sometimes do very foolish things; the best of men, the wisest of men, and all of us together. What is that saying? “Two heads are better than one,” even if one’s a goat’s head. That’s the Lord’s truth; it’s a whole lot better for all of the people to share in the decisions that are made rather than for the decision to be made for just one man—all of us sharing in it, all of us a part in it. There is strength in a multitude of counselors.
Well, we must hasten now in just the few minutes that remain. This is the last contact that Samuel has with Saul. Chapter 15: Now, the Lord had said to Samuel, you go tell Saul this: “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” [1 Samuel 15:2]. You know how long ago that was? That was over four hundred years—four hundred years. Now the Amalekites were a Bedouin tribe that lived between Palestine and Egypt in the Sinaiitic Peninsula. They were the descendants of the grandson of Esau, whose name was Amalek.
Now, when Israel came out of Egypt, the new nation just beginning, they came to a place in the desert called Rephidim, and they didn’t have any water; and the people thirsted for water. And God commanded Moses at Rephidim to take the rod of his staff and to smite the rock, and out of the miraculous power of God, there flowed water [Exodus 17:1-6].
When that Bedouin tribe, the Amalekites, saw the spring of water that God had miraculously given to Israel, they attacked Israel in order to take away from them the miraculous gift of God. Now, Amalek was not only trying to deprive Israel of the means of life—you can’t live without water—but they were also trying to wrest away from God’s people God’s miraculous gift [Exodus 17:8].
God had done that [Exodus 17:5-6]. It was a miracle of the Lord. And Amalek sought to take away the very means of life for God’s people, and not only that, but the miraculous gift of God—Amalek tried to take it away from them. And, of course, they sought to destroy the infant nation just as it was coming out of slavery and of bondage, and the Lord God said, back there in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Exodus where the story is told, “The Lord has sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek forever from generation to generation until they be destroyed” [Exodus 17:14-16].
Now, God doesn’t forget. These things, you know, we say, well, time hides them away. They don’t hide them away from God. There’s no such thing as time with God. He looks on everything as present. All of it is before God, from the beginning to the end, right there before Him.
And God looked upon that four hundred years later, and He says to Samuel, “You tell Saul this is to be a holy war. Everything of the Amalekites is to be destroyed. Everything is to be devoted. Nothing is to be kept. Destroy all the people, all of them, and everything that they have—oxen, sheep, goats and all” [1 Samuel 15:2-3].
Now, Saul goes down there, he wars against the Amalekites, and behold, instead of obeying the commandment of God, he keeps Agag, the king [1 Samuel15:8-9], in order to lead him around in triumph—”Look what I’ve done; this is the king of the Amalekites” —just like the Romans did: they tied their vanquished to their chariots and they raced their triumph through the streets of the city. That was what Saul was going to do with Agag.
And then Saul, as you know, was a herdsman, and when he looked on the best of the sheep and the oxen and the fatlings and the lambs, why, his covetous heart said, “Why, I can’t destroy them, I can’t devote these to God! This is no holy war to me, this is a way to enrich my own self.” So he kept the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good he kept for himself [1 Samuel 15:9]. And then, coming back to Israel—coming back up into Palestine into Canaan—why, the Lord God said that night to Samuel, “Samuel, it repents Me that I have set Saul to be a king; he has turned his back from following Me, and he hath not performed My commandments” [1 Samuel 15:10-11].
Now, look at Samuel. “And it grieved Samuel, and he cried unto the Lord all night long” [1 Samuel 15:11]. Isn’t that a glorious man, this man Samuel? Isn’t he a glorious man? You know, we think it’s a compliment to a preacher that nobody can follow him, and if a fellow comes and follows a preacher and he succeeds, some of the people hate him because he’s succeeded. You see, that’s an insult to the former preacher that he should have a successor that was able to carry on his work, as though it were a compliment to the preacher that the work should die when he died. There’s not even secret satisfaction on the part of this man Samuel that his successor is failing, and Samuel cries unto the Lord all night long. What a glorious man, Samuel; when his successor failed, Samuel cried and grieved [1 Samuel 15:11].
So God sends Samuel to meet Saul as he comes back. And can you imagine this man Saul? There’s nobody like him. Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said unto him, “Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. I have done it” [1 Samuel 15:12-13]. And this is humor, this is irony. And Samuel said, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” [1 Samuel 15:14]. God said it was a holy war; you were not to be enriched by it, but all was to be devoted to God. What is this that I hear and what is this I see?
And then Saul says, “Oh, but, you see, I have kept these for sacrifice” [1 Samuel 15:15].
And then when Samuel says to Saul, “Sacrifice? When God says you are to obey My word?” [1 Samuel 15:19]. Then look at him—in the twenty-first verse, Saul says, “The people did it. I didn’t do it. The people did it” [1 Samuel 15:21]. How opposite David. When the sword of the Lord was raised high above Israel, David said, “O God, let that sword fall on me, and on my father’s house: but the people, these poor sheep, what have they done?” [2 Samuel 24:17]. Just the opposite: David, like our Lord, seeking to take upon himself the burdens of the people” [2 Samuel 24:17]; Saul says, “It’s their fault. They did it” [1 Samuel 15:21]. Then that famous word, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of the rams” [1 Samuel 15:22]. And Samuel himself hews Agag to pieces before the Lord and according to the commandment of God [1 Samuel 15:33].
And then, verse 35, “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death” [1 Samuel 15:35]. That’s the last time Samuel ever looked on the face of Saul. When we disobey God, the prophetic Spirit leaves us. “And the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” [1 Samuel 16:14]. From that day until he died, wretched, miserable, lost, like any man is without God. Oh, how we need the Lord! Need to wait upon Him, need to ask His counsel and direction in every decision, in every obedience, “Wait, I say, upon the Lord” [Psalm 27:14].
Now, we’re going to sing a stanza of a hymn. Somebody this morning to give his life to Christ in faith, in trust; somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church, a family you or one somebody you, while we sing this song and make this appeal, would you make it this morning? In the balcony round, the great throng on this lower floor, if God bids you here, would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
SAMUEL’S LAST ACTIVTIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 13-15
I. Samuel turns his past leadership of Israel over to the new king Saul
II. Decline from sin begins immediately
1. Saul’s decline as king set in motion from the start
2. Adam’s sin was soon after Eve was created
3. Noah declined just after leaving the ark
4. Israel after deliverance from Egypt
III. Saul disobeys God’s command for him to wait seven days
1. Saul lies about how long he actually waited
2. God removes Saul’s lineage from ruling Israel
IV. Saul makes foolish decisions
1. Fails to acknowledge God in victory
2. Puts a needless requirement on his own army with the threat of death if they disobey
3. Jonathan did not hear Saul’s warning and in ignorance disobeys
4. Saul foolishly states that victorious Jonathan’s punishment is death
V. Saul commanded to destroy the Amalekites
1. Saul is victorious but disobeys God’s requirements
2. Saul blames the disobedience on the people
3. Samuel’s last words to Saul is that obedience to God is better than sacrifices