“And Saul defeated the Amalekites…But Saul and the people spared Agag 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” (Chapter 15:7-9).
Saul was given the assignment to carry out the “ban,” against the Amalekites. According to this form of warfare, Israel was to utterly destroy every man, woman, child and animal. The command to ban the Amalekites continued the warfare that the Lord declared on Amalek in Exodus 17:8–16. The Amalekite story is an undercurrent through the rest of the Old Testament, finally coming to resolution in the book of Esther, when Mordecai, a descendant of Saul’s father Kish, overcomes Haman the “Agagite,” a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag.
In the aftermath of the battle, Saul interprets God’s instruction in his own way. Saul makes his own value judgement about those things that God has cursed. He decides what is good and what is worthless, when God said that it was all worthless and must be destroyed.
God waited over four centuries to fulfill his plan to destroy the Amalekites. Yahweh deemed nothing of the Amalekite nation worthy of being spared. Saul disagrees. Saul shows mercy to Agag, the king and his choicest livestock. Saul doesn’t spare the women and children, but the things Saul deemed worthy of salvation, valuable, profitable. Saul’s judgment is opposed to God’s Judgment. Saul spares things God commanded him to destroy.
The word translated as “spared,” means to have or show compassion. It is translated as mercy in Lamentations 2:2. This is difficult ground. Saul is showing mercy where Yahweh commanded him to show no mercy.
Mercy is one of the most essential qualities of God so it is important to understand what mercy means. “For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them,” (Deuteronomy 4:31). Mercy designates that quality in God by which he faithfully keeps his promises and maintains his covenant relationship with his chosen people, despite their unworthiness and unfaithfulness.
God’s mercy is more than punishment withheld. At the heart of the concept of mercy is the love of God, which is freely manifested in his gracious acts of salvation on behalf of those to whom he has pledged himself in covenant relationship. The Lord says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3). If God were to not curse those who dishonor us, then he would not be a merciful, compassionate or a covenant keeping God. To show mercy to the Amalekites would be to withhold it from Israel.
Christians struggle with these kinds of distinctions. We take words like love and mercy and compassion and miss apply them with our own fallen ethic, like Saul. Christians are called to hate what God hates and love what God loves. Failing to do either is sin. To give and withhold mercy based on God’s command, not our own reason.
Saul has usurped God’s moral judgements; Saul has seized Yahweh’s Lordship as Lawgiver and judge for himself. The scriptures are full of difficult passages that frame our understanding of love, mercy and hate.
A good example of this confusion is highlighted by Paul.
“As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills,” (Romans 9:15–18).
God hated Esau. What is our responsibility then? To be more righteous and loving than God? God forbid such a thought. Should we hate Esau according to the world’s standards? God forbid. But many go back to Genesis hating both Esau and Jacob, treating them both as equally sinful. Or they pity and sympathize with Esau and hate Jacob. I mean, the Christian thing to do would have been to feed the hungry – like Jesus – and just give Esau the stew! And in this we show how far from God’s ethics we truly are.
Why did God hate Esau while he loved Jacob? Only the perfect and hidden wisdom of God knows. What we have to do is reconcile ourselves to who and what God reveals himself to be and do and imitate Him.
Remember, “the fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate,” (Proverbs 8:13). Would our Netflix cue demonstrate our hate for evil ways and perverted speech?
God curses the Amalekites and commands Israel to show them no mercy. Therefore, showing them mercy is sin. God commands us to hate pride, arrogance, evil and perverted speech and to fail to hate them is sin. Is that easy to understand? No. Should we therefore reject it? No. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways are perfect and righteous.
This issue plagues us. Christians oppose the death penalty, which God commands in Genesis 9:6. Woke Christianity wants preferential treatment for particular races while and supporting racial unity based on Critical Race Theory, which is contrary to God’s word in Galatians 3:28. Modern Christians send their children to be indoctrinated at atheistic, Marxist, Darwinian, revisionist public schools, justifying it for financial reasons or poorly conceived arguments about the Great commission or the lie that academics are, or can be, neutral. All of these violate God’s command in Ephesians 6:4.
Christians are always compromising. Showing mercy to own sins, those “respectable sins,’ those “every-body-does-em,” sins in one another, like gluttony, drunkenness, avarice, pride, gossip, apathy and indifference. We flatter ourselves with our holiness, forgiveneness, compassion and love. But what if we are loving things God hates? Or showing mercy when God desires us to show no mercy? Or we create idols out of half-truths, supplanting biblical ethics with the idols of “nice.” As if offending people is the unforgivable sin.
Ashamed of the word of God, and of one another, we compromise with sexual sins, homosexual sins, feminism, Americanism and conservatism. Failing to differentiate between the spirit of the age – progressivism and the spirit of God. We stay home from church justifying our disobedience by ham-fisted arguments about Romans 13.
We probably all have a favorite verse on love. But what about our favorite verse about hate? Or showing no mercy? Try Deuteronomy 25:11-12.
“Loving your neighbor,” is used to justify all kinds of disobedience. The fruit of the spirit are used to justify all kinds of disobedience. The great commission is used as justify for all kinds of disobedience. Let the hearer understand. We need to love what God loves and hate what He hates. And must study the word of God until those definitions are down in our bones. Loving and hating the way God loves and hates.
We need to conform to his Character and command, no matter how hickified or “old-fashioned,” or “unscientific,” the world thinks it is. We need the whole counsel of God. A Love for God and neighbor. The Fruit of the Spirit and the Sword of the Spirit. We need to baptize and teach the nations ALL that Christ commanded from Genesis to revelation.
Marxism is not the collectivism of Acts 2. Deistic evolution is antithetical to Genesis 1. Romans 13 does not teach absolute obedience to the state. To raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, means there is not neutrality in any academic subject. The Law of God ought to be the Law of the land because it is the law of love. And our society is need of love. Homosexuality, greed, envy, sexual perversity, avarice, apathy and anger are all surefire paths to hellfire. There is no queer treasure that heaven will accept. The gay culture, just like the Scottish culture, American culture, Japanese culture and Portuguese culture – all have to die. They have to be placed under the ban. They must be refined by the fire of baptism. Everything that is Amalekite must be devoted to God in utter destruction, without mercy.
So that the culture of heaven will prevail.