Cautionary Tales: Good Lessons from Bad People

I Samuel 15


Disobedience is a short-term decision with long-term consequences.


God often asks ordinary people to do the most extraordinary things. No matter how crazy it may seem, when God makes a request we must obey. Think of some of the unusual things God asked His people to do:

  • Noah, build a boat even though it’s never rained
  • Abram, leave behind everything and go to a land I will show you
  • Moses, throw down your staff and pick up the snake
  • Joshua, march around the city with horns and scream
  • David, go kill a giant
  • Hosea, marry a prostitute
  • Joseph, mary a pregnant woman
  • Disciples, go change the world

With every command, there is a choice. With every choice, there is a consequence. Obedience will bring blessings, and disobedience will bring a burden.

Now, here is what I have found, and this leads us to the big idea of the message today. Disobedience is a short-term decision with long-term consequences. Obedience is a long-term decision with short-term consequences. 

When you choose to disobey, you are making a short-term decision to do what you want, but you reap the long-term consequences. When you choose to obey, you are sacrificing something in the short-term that will lead to long-term blessings.

We are in a series called “Cautionary Tales: Good Lessons learned from Bad Lives.” Today I want for you to consider the life of Saul, a man who was put into power because of his image, but died violently because he lacked integrity. 

Saul was anointed because of his image. David was anointed because of his integrity. Saul’s life ended by the sword. David’s ended in successfully establishing a great Kingdom, a dynasty, a lineage, and an empire. Saul died violently.  David died peacefully.

“After he became King of Israel, his actions and decisions soon revealed to the people that he was a selfish, angry, hateful, mean-spirited man. Eventually, something happened in his mind, and during the later years of his rule, he lost touch with reality, thus proving himself unqualified for the job. Not long after Saul began his reign, Samuel caught him in three serious acts of disobedience: first Saul made a terrible decision (1 Sam. 13); then he made a rash vow against his own son (1 Sam. 14); and finally, he openly disobeyed God (1 Sam. 15).”

(Chuck Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997), p. 13)

A life in three chapters demonstrating the perilous progression of sin. Why did it all fall apart? Why did Saul sink so low? Saul looked right, but he didn’t live right. Saul had the right image, but he didn’t have righteous integrity.

We looked at two of the signs of disobedience last week, today we will consider the third.


  • You do things your own way.
  • You say things you shouldn’t say.
  • You keep things God asks you to throw away.
    1. 1 Samuel 15:1-3
    2. On the surface, this seems to be a harsh command from God. “Smite the Amalakites. Destroy them. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
    3. Many have asked how a loving God could ask such a thing. Isn’t this harsh? Isn’t this horrible. But listen, God who knows all things and sees all things not only looks at the future but lives in the future and He knows all the intentions and all the decisions that all of humanity will make for all time.
    4. The point of this command is not genocide; the point of the command is obedience. God knew that if the Amalakites were given 100,000 generations, they would still not turn to him.
    5. So God, in His infinite wisdom, told King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites.
    6. But look down in verse 9. “But Saul and the people spared Agag (King) and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.”
    7. God said, “Throw it away,” but King Saul and the people said, “we’ll keep it anyway.”
    8. In verse 10, God spoke to the prophet Samuel and told him that He was grieved over Saul’s disobedience. And so Samuel rose and went and confronted Saul.
    9. As they met, Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” This was a bold-faced lie. And in verse 14, Samuel call’s Saul’s bluff. “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears and the lowing of oxen that I hear?”
    10. Saul then continued to shovel lies. “I only kept them to make sacrifices.” Samuel said, “Stop it. Let me tell you what God told me. Why did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what is evil?” 
    11. And Saul had the audacity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD.” Friends, there is a fundamental misunderstanding in Saul’s mind. Saul believed that 99% obedience is 0% disobedience. But here is the real truth: 99% obedience is 100% disobedience.
    12. Saul was deluded. He was deceived. And immediately, he began to pass the buck. “I did what I was supposed to do, but the people disobeyed.” And then he rationalized again! “We did this to offer a sacrifice to the LORD your God.” We disobeyed so that we could offer a sacrifice.
    13. But Samuel cut right to the heart of it. “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than to sacrifice.” Obedience is better than sacrifice. Doing what is right is more important than being religious.
    14. And Saul said, “I have sinned…” This is the first truth out of his mouth! But did he mean it? Let’s consider the ways Saul was disobedient.
      • Saul was disobedient because he placed personal pleasure over pleasing God.
        1. Look back at verse 9. “But Saul and all the people spared King Agag, and the best of the sheep and oxen and fattened calves and lambs and all that was good…All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.”
        2. They kept what they liked and destroyed that which was of little worth. Despite what God had said, they were more concerned with pleasing themselves than pleasing God.”
        3. Give God your best and you will be blessed with the rest.
      • Saul was disobedient because he placed the fear of man over the fear of God.
        1. Verse 24 says, “I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
        2. It is a terrible thing when you are more concerned with pleasing man over pleasing God!
      • Saul was disobedient because he placed personal honor over honoring God.
        1. Verse 30 says, despite all of Samuel’s accusations and God’s rejection, “yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel…”
        2.  Saul was more concerned with his name that he was with God’s name.
      • Saul was disobedient because he placed the wisdom of self over the wisdom of God.
        1. Through all of this, Saul was doing what he thought he should do, and not what God had asked him to do!
        2. God knows what is better for you than you do for you! His way is better than your way.
    15. Through all of this, Saul’s kingdom was rejected. “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you.” God transferred the Kingdom of Israel from the hands of Saul into the hands of David, because David was a man after God’s own heart.


  1. Be a God-pleaser, not a people pleaser
  2. Obeying God is always right, but it is rarely easy.
  3. Obedience before God is more important than your image in front of others.
  4. Destroy whatever God wants you to destroy before it destroys you.
  5. Disobedience is a short-term decision with long-term consequences.
    • Saul made a decision in a moment that had monumental consequences. It only took a second for Saul to decide to do things his way instead of God’s way.
    • Obedience is a long-term decision with short-term consequences. Let me explain. When you chose to obey God, no matter how difficult or crazy it seems, you will have to give up something in the short-term that will be repaid to you with long-term blessings.


Let me put a little post-script on this message. In chapter 31 of 1 Samuel, Saul is overtaken by the Philistines. His men are routed. His son is killed. And so Saul falls on his own sword in an attempted suicide, his armor-bearer does the same. What a horrible way to die. But if you flip in your Bible’s over to Chapter 1 of 2 Samuel, there is a little note.

King David has just returned from routing the Amelikites. You see, the battle kept going on because Saul didn’t do what the LORD required of him. And David comes across a man from Saul’s camp. This young man says to King David, “By chance, I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him and saw me, he called to me. And I answered, “Here I am.” and he said to me, “Who are you?” I answered him, “I am an Amalekite.” And he said, “Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, yet my life lingers.” So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen.”

When David heard this he wept. And then he asked the man, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amelekite.” And David said, “Go execute him.” And they struck him down and he died.

Notice the irony. Saul failed to kill an Amalekite, and the Amalekite killed Saul. 

So it is with sin. Failure to destroy what God has commanded you to destroy will eventually destroy you.

500 years later, a descendant of King Agag named Haman hatched a plot to destroy Esther, Mordecai, and all the Jews. God graciously intervened and mercifully saved the Jews. But that is how far the consequences of one sinful decision can be.

And so I ask you. Is it worth it? Is it worth hanging on to what God has called you to destroy? Destroy it today. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s a habit. Maybe it’s a hidden bank account, or a secret sin, on an internet account. Destroy it now, before it destroys you.


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