Saul made his fatal blunder last night in the passage that I read. The command was to go and destroy the Amalekites, since they had plagued the children of Israel on their way into the Promised Land. If I’m not mistaken, this was a fulfillment of prophecy that the Lord had against them. The command was to obliterate them from the face of the earth; however, Saul decided that he’d like the king around, as well as the best of the people’s livestock.
When Samuel appeared on the scene and asked why there were animals left, Saul made a good argument. He said that he saved the best to sacrifice to the Lord. He wanted to praise Him for what He had done. Sounds pretty plausible.
Then, in one of the most profound statements of the Bible, Samuel replies with “to obey is better than to sacrifice.” I can just see the look on Saul’s face. Here he thought he’d done something good– while at the same time he was already making excuses like “my men made me do it.” (They must not have had the now famous “the devil made me do it” yet.)
Looking back at it, it’s pretty obvious that Saul messed up. Yet we continue to do the same thing today. We derive a modern statement from this: “the ends do not justify the means.” How often do we justify what we do because we believe the end product will be good? In our work? In our dealings with others?
In our service to the Lord, do we look at the ends– people saved, lives changed, etc.– and justify poor means to get there– pressure/salesmanship tactics, unholy music or presentation, and the like?