He Wanted to Justify Himself

Day 99

Prayer for the day

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of the ram’s-horn. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is King of all the earth; sing praises with all your skill. God reigns over the nation; God sits upon his holy throne.

Scripture for the day

1 Samuel 15-16, Luke 10:25-42

From the standpoint of almost any human, what Saul did to the Amalekites was awful. Yet God was upset not because Saul slaughtered a nation, but because he failed to ENTIRELY slaughter the nation. This seems barbaric, and wasteful, and hateful. At least, we would argue, he saved some of the sheep and cattle. They weren’t sinful. At least it wasn’t a total loss!

Yet the very thing we would commend Saul for is the very thing that ruined him. He disobeyed God’s injunction to slaughter everything that lived (something we’ll have to explore later), and in doing so, he displeased God.

Of course, he tried to justify himself to Samuel, the prophet, by saying that he only saved the cattle and sheep in order to sacrifice them later. That story will change with time, but it is the beginning of the self-justification, the seeking out of the loophole that makes what he did seem not quite so bad.

The Levite in the Second Testament story, as well as Martha in the other, give us good examples of further justification. The Levite knew the law about caring for neighbours, but wanted to ensure that he knew exactly who his neighbour was, so that he could ride the line of the law without deviating from his comfort zone. Jesus put the man in his place.

Martha wanted to justify her hard work before the Lord by accusing her sister of laziness, and Jesus put her in her place as well.

All of these stories collude to teach one important point: sacrifice that doesn’t come from obedience is hollow and empty; obedience that brings sacrifice will be full. The Lord does not delight in meaningless self-justification but in a heart totally committed to full surrender and obedience.

May we be His delight.

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