Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

Rabbi Cal Goldberg, Beth Shechinah, “Blessed Be Mordecai,” Message from the Bema, 24.02.18, posted 09.03.18   

Partial obedience is disobedience. Yahweh recruited David, a shepherd boy at the time, to eventually replace King Saul as king, due to Saul’s partial obedience.

“I remember what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike down Amalek and put all he has under the ban of destruction—so have no pity on him; but kill both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys’” (1 Sam.15:2,3).

There are several important points to note from this passage: (1) Yahweh/God remembers; (2) Yahweh/God reminded Saul about this past occurrence; (3) Yahweh/God was assigning to Saul the task of bringing justice to the previous injustice wrought against Israel; (4) Yahweh/God gave very specific instructions, ALL of which Saul was to carry out exactly as directed/specified.

Saul’s verbal response was compliant: “So Saul summoned the troops and numbered them . . . .  advanced to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley” (1 Sam.15:4,5). It would seem that there was every right intention of following Yahweh’s orders. So what went wrong?

“He captured King Agag of Amalek alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword;” (1 Sam.15:8) seems like he’s on the right track. “But Saul and the people spared Agag as well as the best of the sheep, the cattle, even the fatlings and the lambs, and all that was good, since they were not willing to utterly destroy them; everything that was worthless and feeble, they destroyed completely” (1 Sam.15:9). Is this sort of like the serpent in the Garden . .. . .  i.e., “God didn’t really mean . . . .?”

Saul and his Generals took it on themselves to revise Yahweh’s plans and alter His instructions a bit more to their own liking. Since they didn’t really want to destroy them all, they made the unanimous decision, bypassing any consultation with the Lord, to spare a few select individuals, cattle, sheep, etc. – keep the choicest for ourselves .  .. .

When Samuel the prophet came back to King Saul, admonishing him for his disobedience, Saul attempted to make excuses, rationalizing and justifying: “But I did obey the voice of Adonai,” Saul said to Samuel. “I went on the mission on which Adonai sent me, and brought back Agag the king of Amalek—and utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen—the best of what was under the ban of destruction—to sacrifice to Adonai your God in Gilgal” (1 Sam.15:20,21), thinking this would clear him of guilt. But Samuel admonished him yet again, advising him that Yahweh requires complete obedience, and is not pleased by, nor will He accept, sacrifices in place of obedience (1 Sam.15:22,23). Even after Saul pleaded for forgiveness, Samuel refused. It was too late; Yahweh’s verdict was final: “you have rejected the word of Adonai, and Adonai has rejected you as king over Israel . . . . . Adonai has torn the kingship over Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbour who is better than you” (1 Sam.15:26,28).

It may seem rather harsh that Yahweh insisted that Saul “have no pity . . . . kill both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and sheep . . .” It may seem harsh also, that Yahweh would not budge, and Saul’s attempt at pleading and bargaining was not acceptable; but “His ways are higher . . . . His thoughts are not our thoughts . . .” (Isa.55:8,9), besides which Yahweh owes humankind no explanation for anything. “Thus says Adonai,

your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am Adonai, Maker of all things, stretching out the heavens alone, spreading the earth abroad by Myself, causing the omens of boasters to fail, making fools of diviners, turning wise men backward and making their knowledge foolish” (Isa.44:24,25). It should be apparent that upon taking in such a declaration, it would be deemed foolishness to question our Father about His decisions. Our response should be only one of awe and submission.

But God always has a reason . . . .  As pointed out by Rabbi Cal Goldberg, in his message from the Bema based on the story of Esther: “Mordecai was a descendant of Saul; Haman was a descendant of Amalek/Amalekites. God recruited Mordecai to complete what Saul had failed to do . . . . If King Saul had done what he was supposed to do, Israel would not have been placed under threat of annihilation 600 years later . . .” (“Blessed Be Mordecai,” Message from the Bema, by Rabbi Cal Goldberg, 24.02.18, As Purim approaches, the story of Esther serves as a reminder of how Yahweh saved His people, that He is a God of justice, and “Vengeance is Mine . . . (Deut.32:35). God works in many different ways, through many different people, leaders, or nations, to bring about justice and His sovereign plan.

Because no individual can ever know how any seemingly minor act of obedience may be part of a much larger and much more important plan than one can possibly perceive, it behooves each one of God’s people to treat each and every call, instruction, assignment as valid and important, in fact, mandatory; and to therefore walk in fear of disobedience. There are consequences for disobedience; and partial obedience = disobedience.

For this very reason Yahweh said:  “If only there were such a heart in them to fear Me and keep all My mitzvot [this includes any individualized instructions and/or assignments] always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! . . . .  So you must take care to do as Adonai your God has commanded you—do not turn aside to the right or to the left. You are to walk in all the way that Adonai your God has commanded you, so that you may live and it may be well with you” (Deut.5:26,29,30).

May it be a lesson to us all, that partial obedience will not satisfy God’s requirements; and partial disobedience is no different than actual disobedience. May it be evident to all that the principles of how God operates is not confined to Kings, or OT times, etc., but applies to us all. Blessings are lost . . ..  there are always consequences for disobedience when God’s people fail to follow whatever it is the Father dicatates.

© 2018, revised 2019 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.


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