Phony Piety

By on January 24, 2015

“Phony Piety”
1Samuel 15

October 21, 2007
by C.W. Powell

This sermon could also be called, “How to Ruin a Good Parade.”

There is nothing more common than to use religion to advance a personal agenda. This is a religion that is for the purpose of display. It is performed to be seen of men. It is of the earth, earthy, and it receives its reward on the earth. It does not proceed from truth that is in the heart and soul of man, embedded in his character renewed by the Holy Ghost, but proceeds from some earthly desire. The desire might be for wealth, fame, to please men, or to gain power.

The prophet said, . “7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17:7-10 AV)

Only God can search the heart, and only the word of God can penetrate to the heart to discover the true motives for action and sweep away the façade of lies that we erect to protect those motives from being seen.

Today we have insight into the heart of King Saul and the tragic wickedness of his heart. He surrounded himself with a debased and corrupt priesthoot, he sought by external things to gain the favor of God, but his heart was corrupt and reflected the spiritual condition of the people that he ruled, for Israel’s heart was not right with God, as all the prophets testify.

But let us look at the words of chapter 15 of 1Samuel. This chapter divides naturally into several convenient sections, which we will look at one at a time. My sources for this study include Delische and Kiel, Matthew Henry, among others, and a lifetime of Bible study. I will also follow the format I used last week, and read a portion, and then comment upon it. The purists in homelectics might accuse me of not really preaching a sermon, but just making a commentary on Scripture, but I will take the risk.

I. God’s judgment against Amalek: 1Samuels 15:1-7:

“Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. 2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. 4 And Saul gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley. 6 And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

A. Those who think that God will not judge the world and judge the enemies of His people are sadly mistaken.

B. God is merciful and kind, but He is also just. We have been forbidden to exact revenge, and must not even think it in our hearts, for we do not know how to separate between the elect of God and those who carry the elect in their own loins, and David was in the loins of Judah, but God knows the difference and will surely bring revenge in His own time and way.

C. One of the errors of the Federal Vision, Theonomy, and the New Perspectives is a failure to make a distinction between the Old Covenant and the New. Jesus never sent his disciples out with swords to kill His enemies. No, we are commanded to pray for our enemies, do good to them, and show mercy to them. “Vengeance is mine, I will repary.” Passages such as this have been used down through the history of Christianity for false churches to justify persecution and the slaughter of their enemies, men and women and children. This has brought a blot upon Christianity and a stain upon the name of Christ.

D. It is true, however, than God’s covenant with Noah is still in effect, and nations have the right and duty to wield the sword to restrain the evils of murder and excessive wickedness. It is wise that this be done within the community of nations, but not restricted to this, if the community has been so corrupted by the evil that they cannot act. I will not develop this idea, but expect to write shortly upon it in Basket of Figs.

E. God had told Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed Him. The command to Saul concerning Amalek is a concrete expression of God’s protection and care for his people, which are those in Christ from all the eras of human history. Because the elect are included in the future of Israel, as well as all the nations of the world, this means that we must do good to all men and seek the wellbeing of all the nations of the world, for God’s love is to the whole world, for the elect will come from every nation. God’s saving love and grace is not to every individual in the world, for He took that from King Saul himself.

F. It is also true that even in His judgment against the Amalakites God remembered mercy, for He had Saul give the Kenites an opportunity to escape, for they had not been part of the persecution of Israel when they came out of Egypt.

II. The Disobedience of King Saul. ISamuel 15:7-9:

And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

A. “Destroyed all the people” means all of those that came into their hands. We find Amalekites in the future history of Scripture, so some must have escaped, lived in other places, were on vacation, or away on business. All, does not always mean all, but is restricted to the nature of the matter before us.

B. He kept Agag. The most probable reason, Saul wanted to be like the other kings of the nations and was abetted in this by the princes and rulers of Israel. He could have a triumphal entry into his capital. It would enhance his royal image to have a king for a slave.

C. He kept the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, and lambs, and all the good stuff. This was plain greed and worldly lust and desire, not only by King Saul, but by the people of Israel, for all were involved.

D. Greed and Coveteousness are the most deceitful of all sins. I suppose this is the reason that Jesus said to beware of the deceitfulness of riches. I suppose this is true because the coveteous man often masquerades before men as a benefactor and a wise and upstanding citizen, both in the state and in the church. The very things that men most glory in, their wisdom, their strength, and their wealth are the very things that we are commanded NOT to glory in, but rather to glory in that we know the Lord, who executes judgment, righteousness, and lovingkindness in the earth. Of course you are not to glory in your poverty, your weakness, or your stupidity either, but that is a different story.

E. Everything was to be destroyed, so that the witness to the world would be that Saul and Israel were the instruments of God and not motivated by greed and the desire for fame.

III. The Rejection of Saul and the Prayers of Samuel. 1Samuel 15:10-11:

Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, 11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

A. “Repented” is a figure: it is often used to describe an action of God or an attribute of God which compares Him to a man, in order for us to understand. Hence, God is said to have eyes, ears, hands, etc. He loves, hates, decides, changes his mind, and so forth. They are not to be taken literally, for God is an eternal, unchanging, and pure Spirit. He doesn’t change His mind for He never gets new information which would give Him insight and wisdom He did not have before. He is eternal and does not dwell in time.

B. Reason for Saul’s rejection: He hath not performed my commandments. Now Israel would suffer for the transgressions of their king. But God had not descended from His throne because Saul was king. God still expected His people to obey His words, in spite of their king. No human authority can absolve you and me of the necessity of knowing the will of God and doing it. Israel could not abrogate their responsibility to serve God their King.

C. This was a sore trial to Samuel, for he loved Saul, and knew the distress this would bring to Israel. But the book of 1Samuel is not about Saul, nor is it about Samuel. As all the Scripture, it is about the Lord Jesus and the one who would be a figure and type of the Lord: King David.

IV. Samuel’s rebuke of King Saul. 1Samuel 15:12-23:

And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. 13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. 14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? 15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. 16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. 17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? 18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

A. Samuel had done his business with the Lord, praying all night, receiving his instructions. Though the task was not a pleasant one for Samuel, he performed it with vigor and strength.

B. Saul, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Partial obedience is not obedience. The facts refuted Saul pious declaration. He was hoping that his pretenses would mask his failure to obey. He wanted to get out on top of the matter, to put Samuel into the awkward position of calling him a liar. Now Samuel has to expose the lie as well as the disobedience. How human this all is. How predictable. The disobedient often become bullies, and this was a bullying tactic that Saul used. “I have done everything.” “Are you going to call me a liar?” is the implication.

C. Samuel is faithful. He has been alone in his closet with God, and is bold and courageous before the King.

D. The facts, the facts, the facts. It is true that we interpret them according to our presuppositions and prejudices, but the facts are from God. Samuel did not have to expose the lie of Saul; the bleating of the sheep did; the lowing of the oxen. Dead sheep don’t bleat and dead oxen do not low.

E. Samuel exposes the pride of Saul, and the arrogance of his disobedience, although Saul denies it, blaming the people for taking the spoil. Saul became an apologist for the people, saying they wanted to offer a sacrifice. But this was for their own advantage, for the people would eat of the sacrifices.

F. Samuel’s classic rebuke to Saul:

a. Hearing God’s word is better than the fat of sacrifices.

b. Obedience is a greater delight to the Lord the burnt offerings and sacrifices.
c. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft: Rebellion has the smell of hell and is the very work of the devil. Saul would end in witchcraft and go to hell.

d. Stubbornness is ‘iniquity and idolatry” two words as is common in Hebrew that import the same thing. A heart that is hardened against God and following other words, as Adam in the Garden of Eden.

e. Saul is rejected. That is, his house. For Saul would yet rule many years in iniquity and violence.

V. The Afterman. ISamuel 15:24-35:

24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. 26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. 27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. 28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. 29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. 30 Then he said, I have sinned: 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. 31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD. 32 Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. 33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. 34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

A. There is a great difference between being sorry and saying your sorry. Saul wanted to be justified in the eyes of the people. He need Samuel for this. How could he survive without Samuel. Every ruler need to indicate that there is some supernatural reason for his rule, and must so justify it.

B. Saul blames the people. This was probably true, knowing the wickedness of the people in rejecting God to be their king and wanting to be like the other nations.

C. Samuel’s execution of Agag indicated that he was no pious wimp, but was able to execute the decrees of God. Agag deserved death because of the violence and iniquity of his reign over the Amalakites, a most violent and wicked people.


A. The church is not given the sword of steel, but the sword of the Spirit. We contend in the realm of ideas. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of the world, or my servant would fight. I came to bear witness of the truth…..” when He stood before Pilate in John 18. Pilate had never heard such a thing and cared nothing for the truth, showing that he and his kingdom WERE of the world.

B. Phony piety includes all those devices that men use to pretend devotion to God to hide their cowardice, their cruelty, their violence and wickedness. I could give many, many illustrations of this that I have encountered over the years. One that I will give happened to Penny before we ever got married. That is so many years ago that it is probably safe to tell it now. I hope I get all the details right: Penny worked in the cafeteria in college and part of her job was to secure the money box at the end of the shift. One day, she was excused to leave early, leaving her best friend to close up. The money box was left out, and Penny was reprimanded by her supervisor the next day. After the rebuke, Penny thought back and realized that she had left early and it was not her responsibility to close the shift. Penny asked her friend, “Why did you just stand there and not say anything?” Her friend said, “I just didn’t think the Lord wanted me to.” This is an example of Phony Piety. “You have made me serve with thy sins….” [Is. 43:24] We are called to serve the Lord, not to make Him serve with our sins. Shall you and I tempt the Lord our God? Will we make God weary of us by using His gifts as cover for our iniquity.

C. We must not invoke providence as an excuse. “The woman that you gave me.” “I was afraid of the people…” etc. Providence will often appeart contrary to the command or the promise, to test us and discover what is in our hearts, whether we will walk in faith: Faith follows that which cannot be seen, proving the substance of unseen things.

Many more things could be said, but I spare you.

May God bless you.

Amen and Amen

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