We've been thinking this week about the enemies of God's people, the Amalekites. God had declared them his enemies, and sanctioned the warfare with them through the centuries until the memory of them is blotted out. Eventually, Israel has a King, and it looks like he will obey God's command and defeat his enemies.
'And [Saul] did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.' (1 Samuel 14:48) A promising sign indeed. And then it all goes horribly wrong.
God's command is simple: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" (1 Samuel 15:2-3).
While we may find it difficult that God commands such widespread slaughter, not just of animals but also people, it is clear that this is the action of a just and gracious God. The Amalekites had been consistently oppressing the people of God, and the measure of their sins was full. God's wrath comes slow, but when it falls, it surely comes.
But Saul failed to carry through his orders. Missing the 'all', he spared their king, Agag, and some of the best of the sheep and the oxen and the fattened calves and the lambs (1 Samuel 15:8-9).
Saul, the protector and leader of God's people fails in his task. Because of his disobedience and rejection of God's commands, God rejects him as king, and thus David is anointed for the top job. 'Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.' (1 Samuel 15:22)
Samuel himself kills Agag, and yet some Amalekites live to see another day, to yet again oppose the people of God... In that generation, with a raid on David's family at Ziklag, and had carried off David and his men's wives, sons and daughters to be captives. David attacked, leaving just 400 Amalekites to ride off to safety on camels (1 Samuel 30:17). Yet, in another generation an Amalekite will seek to destroy the children of Israel and the Messianic line for good...