Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 15

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-35


1 Samuel 15:10-23

Obedience is a sacrifice better, because more profound than any other sacrifice can be. 'It is much easier,' Matthew Henry remarks, 'to bring a bullock or a lamb to be burnt upon the altar than to bring every high thought into obedience to God, and make the will subject to His will.' Sacrifice is as the presents which Hiram sent to Solomon; but obedience is like the artist whom he sent to remain in Jerusalem and do the finest work of the Temple for obedience is a living power, which returns from every altar stronger than when it went.

When an officer of Engineers urged that the directions he had received were impossible to execute, the Duke of Wellington replied: 'Sir, I did not ask your opinion; I gave you my orders, and I expect them to be obeyed'.

References. XV. 16. J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. i. p. 73. XV. 22. H. Alford, Pudsea Chapel Sermons, vol. iii. p. 390. XV. 23. Ibid. Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii. p. 44. XV. 24. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i. p. 105. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 113.

Saul's 'I Have Sinned'

1 Samuel 15:24 ; 1 Samuel 15:30

Saul said 'I have sinned' oftener than any other person in the Bible. Was he, therefore, the truest penitent? Was he a penitent at all?

His was the case of a backsliding man; backsliding still at the moment when he said them; on the decline going down the slope of sin at the same time that those godly words were on his lips. That is the characteristic, and there lies the bane of Saul's 'I have sinned'. He was on the incline; going further and further; lower and lower; and the words, spiritless and untrue, only precipitated him farther. Why was his 'I have sinned' so barren?

I. A Lack of Reality. His words had no reality. There was no religion in them. They failed all the tests of a true confession. It was simply remorse, the child of fear. It curried favour with man, and it sought to appease God for a temporal end.

II. He Implicated Others. Now observe, for your warning, some of the marks of a spurious and false confession. Saul's did not isolate itself. True repentance always does isolate itself. The penitent is alone with God in the matter of his sin. It is 'myself. He implicates no other. Saul said, 'I and the people'; and 'we'. Saul did more. He did what, from the time of Adam, a convicted but unhumbled heart always does, he skulked: he acknowledged the fact; but he transmitted the blame. 'I feared the people, and I obeyed their voice.' It is the very opposite to confession. Confession is always generous.

III. Would Stand Well with Men. It is plain, also, that Saul thought more of how he should stand with man than how he stood with God. 'Yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.' For man to honour him is just what the real penitent thinks nothing of. What is all that man can say to a mind sensible of God's regard, and that is dealing with God and eternity? What an impertinence! Rather is not human honour, at such a moment, always distasteful to a man?

IV. No Relationship to God. And observe that ' Thy God'. The Christian always says, ' My God'. 'Notwithstanding all I have done, my God.' The appropriation is as necessary to the faith as the faith is necessary to the grace. However you have sinned, always say, ' My God'.

V. Clave a Religious Cloak to his Sin. And what was the worst of all? Though Saul said, 'I have sinned,' he gave a religious cloak to his sin! 'We did it to sacrifice to the Lord.' Pious phraseology is very often the bane of a good faith.

References. XVI. 1-13. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 1. XVI. 2. F. Corbett, Preacher's Year, p. 125. XVI. 4 J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons (2nd Series), p. 71. XVI. 6, 7. James Moffatt, The Second Things of Life, p. 48. XVI. 6-13. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 188. XVI. 7. S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 84. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Common Life Religion, p. 197. XVI. 11. A. P. Stanley, Sermons for Children, p. 32. XVI. 11, 12. J. Vaughan, Sermons to Children (5th Series), p. 1. XVI. 13. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 39. Bishop How, Plain Words to Children, p. 68. XVI. 14. Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 297. I. Williams, Characters of the Old Testament, p. 171. R. D. B. Rawnsley, A Course of Sermons for the Christian Year, p. 281. XVI. 14-23. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 13.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 15". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.