April 24.—Morning. [Or August 15.]
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
1 Samuel 15:1–3; 9–11; 13–23
SAMUEL also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord.
2 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.
3 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.
This wandering people had wantonly attacked the Israelites in the desert, in the most cowardly manner, and this national sin had long been registered in God’s book against them. They were moreover a barbarous race of plunderers, most dangerous to their neighbours and to all settled government. The time was come when divine justice required that they should be brought to condign punishment. Saul was therefore sent of God to be the executioner, and was commanded to do his work thoroughly.
9 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. (This was half-obedience, which is whole rebellion. Many are ready to slay their disreputable sins, but their fashionable transgressions they cannot give up.)
10 ¶ Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying,
11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night. (The rejection of sinners is a great grief to saints: God has no pleasure in the death of sinners, nor have his people.)
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.
He brags most who has most reason for shame.
14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. (He lays his fault upon others, and pleads the good intention of the act. Neither excuse would avail.)
16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.
17, 18, 19 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?
20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
21 But 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.
22 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.
23 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.
Nothing can compensate for a want of obedience to God’s will. We may pretend great zeal for God’s glory, but wilful neglect of divine commands will condemn us. External religion cannot be a substitute for holiness. Those who pretended to witchcraft were put to death by Saul, but so long as he himself would not do as the Lord bade him, he was as guilty as the witches whom he slew. Idolatry was known to be overt rebellion against Jehovah, but obstinate disregard of his law was quite as evil a form of rebellion. May the Holy Ghost make us scrupulously obedient, for nothing short of this will prove us to be the true servants of the Lord.
April 24.—Evening. [Or August 16.]
“Rend your hearts, and not your garments.”
THE plea of Saul that he had preserved the cattle for sacrifice, when the Lord had bidden him destroy them., reminds us of the folly of those who imagine that religion lies in outward forms, and forget that it is a matter of the heart. To such persons the Lord spake by the mouth of his servant Isaiah, and said—
10 ¶ Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah was intended to be a warning to them of the certain punishment of their crimes. On account of their forms and ceremonies they reckoned themselves to be the favourites of heaven, but for their hypocrisy they were named after the most accursed of men.)
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (They stopped at the outward shell, and never entered upon the kernel of real love to God; hence their religion was useless.)
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? (God wants not the superstitious to adore him, he has never invited them to his house. He seeketh those who worship him in spirit and in truth, and not mere formalists.)
13, 14 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. (While they were cruel and oppressive, it was idle to offer elaborate ceremonies, devout postures, holy days and many prayers, for God abhors a heartless worship. Men who do not really believe in the Lord Jesus and obey the Lord’s will, might save themselves the trouble of attending upon sacraments, for they only make their case worse, and add to their sins.)
16, 17 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Repentance, practical and thorough, is a great gospel duty, and a grain of His better than a ton of ceremonies.)
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Have done with the vain boast of your religiousness, and be indeed religious, spiritually and practically. Seek mercy of the Lord with humble heart, since he is ready to bestow it, for the vilest sins can be put away by Jesus’ blood; but mere ceremonies avail nothing.)
To the same purport is that memorable passage in the book of Micah.
6 ¶ Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (The true proof of godliness is not expensive rites, but hearty obedience; not a loud profession, but holy living; not large subscriptions, but a yielding up of the heart. Have we this vital godliness? Has the Holy Spirit wrought in us a change of heart?)
Not streaming blood, nor cleansing fire,
Thy righteous anger can appease;
Burnt offerings thou dost not require,
Or gladly I would render these.
The broken heart in sacrifice,
Alone, will thine acceptance meet:
My heart, O God, do not despise,
Abased and contrite at thy feet.
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1964). The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (pp. 238–239). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.