Have you ever read a passage of scripture (primarily about obedience or animal sacrifice) and thought, “Whoa! Chill out, man. Isn’t that a little extreme?!” This week I’m reading in Deuteronomy and I’ve had that thought several times.
For example, in chapter 7 of Deuteronomy, while Moses is giving one of his final speeches to the people of Israel, he gives them instruction on what to do when they enter into battle and overtake the current residents of the land promised to them by God….
Moses says, “…..and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.”
Complete destruction? No mercy?
Then in chapter 9 Moses reminds them of the Golden Calf debacle. Check out how he describes what he did with the golden calf….
“Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.”
Geez! Moses didn’t play around! He burned it with fire. He crushed it to dust. And if that wasn’t enough, he threw the dust into the river.
The scriptures are also very serious on the topic of temptation/sin. Scripture says we should not just simply say, “no thanks” when we’re tempted, but rather, turn and run for our lives! That’s intense!
All these examples make me think, “Why so serious?”
Why do the scriptures tell us to take drastic measures regarding obedience?
Why do the scriptures tell us to run for our lives regarding temptation/sin?
I think we find the answer to these questions in the story in 1 Samuel 15:
God spoke to Saul through Samuel the prophet, saying, `Go and wipe out the Amalekites — the people who snuck up behind you and attacked the weakest and most feeble when you were wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 25:18). Make sure you destroy every man, woman, child, and beast. Leave nothing behind.’
So Saul gathered 200,000 footmen from Israel and 10,000 footmen from Judah, marched on the Amalekites and utterly destroyed them — all except for one: He kept Agag, king of the Amalekites, along with some sheep. As Saul returned victorious to Israel, he saw Samuel in the distance. `Blessed be the name of the Lord!’ Saul said. `I have obeyed all of His commandments!’
`Really?’ said Samuel. `Then what’s that bleating I hear?’
`Well, we saved the best of the sheep and the oxen to bring back as a sacrifice to Jehovah!’ declared Saul.
Samuel looked at Saul and said, `To obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken more than the fat of rams. Rebellion is as witchcraft and stubbornness is as idolatry. Who’s he?’ asked Samuel, catching a glimpse of Agag.
`Agag, King of the Amalekites. I brought him back as a trophy,’ answered Saul.
Samuel grabbed a sword and hacked Agag into pieces right there on the spot, threw down the sword in utter disgust and said, `Saul, you have disobeyed. No longer will you be king — neither you, nor your descendants. The kingdom is taken from you.’ And indeed his kingdom was taken away.
`That seems pretty harsh,’ you say. `I mean what’s wrong with bringing home some sheep to sacrifice, and Agag as a trophy to march in the victory parade?’
Read on . . .
At the very end of I Samuel and in the first chapter of II Samuel, we see Saul about twenty years later on Mt. Gilboa, fighting the Philistines. Wounded in battle, he heard the voice of his attacker behind him.
`Who are you?’ Saul cried out.
`I am an Amalekite,’ came the answer.
You see, the period between the time Saul brought Agag back until the time he talked to Samuel was probably less than a week, but since 1 Samuel 15:8 says that Saul `utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword’, Agag must have escaped and fathered a son. Saul died by the hand of an Amalekite.
We think we have sin under control, but whenever we keep a little trophy hanging around to show how powerful we are, we’re playing with fire. Ask Saul. `MTV used to be a problem,’ you boast, `but I’ve got it under control now. No need to block out that channel. I can turn it off whenever I want.’ Watch out. Son of Agag is going to get you.
That’s why a Father who loves you says, `Destroy completely every Amalekite. If something is wrong, if something is tempting, if something is pulling on you carnally, if something is attacking you from behind annihilate it. Don’t play around with the Amalekites because if you leave even one, he’ll come back and get you.’
– Jon Courson
Why are the scriptures so serious about taking drastic measures regarding obedience and sin?
Maybe because we don’t fully grasp the seriousness of the battle we’re in – or the reality of the power we war against. Maybe God knows how these things will come back to bite us in the long-run if we don’t deal with them effectively.
What does this mean for me practically? If there’s an area of my life I’d like to change, I must not fall into the trap of lazy, half-hearted efforts.
May I be like Moses and burn, crush, and throw the dust of my issue into the river. May I listen to Moses’ advice on obedience by ‘completely destroying’ and showing ‘no mercy’ to the issue that’s holding me back from what God has for me. May I learn from Saul’s mistake and completely annihilate the issue in my life – leaving no trace of it that could eventually come back and bite me later on.
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”