1 Samuel 15-17

1 Samuel 15:13 I have performed the commandment of the Lord
You have to love Saul’s perception of his own obedience! He is sure he has done what he was supposed to, declaring “Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Had he performed the commandment of the Lord? Had he done exactly as commanded? Had he obeyed perfectly? No, he had not.
Can we make the same mistake? Can we offend God yet convince ourselves that we have honored him with our obedience? It’s a sobering question.
“The story of King Saul stands as a solemn warning to all of us. If the time ever comes that we think we can better serve God by following our own wisdom than we can by following the direction of the Lord through his Holy Spirit and through his holy prophets, we have apostatized. If we thus reject the Lord, we have broken the slender thread of communication. Our prayers cannot then be effective.” (Chauncey C. Riddle, “Obstacles to Prayer,” Ensign, Jan. 1976, 28)
Marion G. Romney
Saul began to justify himself. He argued that his partial performance was a complete performance, and that he had done what the Lord had asked him to do… Saul offered the best excuse he could find when he said that they had brought back the cattle, sheep, lambs, and fatlings to offer as sacrifices unto the Lord. (Learning for the Eternities [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 139)
Robert D. Hales
Most of the time it is not total disobedience that gets us into trouble. It is, rather, that we are selectively obedient. Selective obedience is when we push the limits of what we know to be right. We may recognize what we must do to be obedient, yet we selectively do only part of what we are commanded to do. (“Return with Honor,” Ensign, June 1999, 10)
1 Samuel 15:14 What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears
Robert D. Hales
The Bible teaches a marvelous story about Samuel and Saul. Saul had been set apart by the prophet Samuel under the direction of the Lord to become king of the Israelites. Saul had been a choice young man. The scriptures say, “There was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he” (1 Sam. 9:2). But eventually he decided to practice selective obedience by obeying only part of the commandments.
Before one battle, Samuel told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all of their animals, as Samuel had been told by the Lord. Saul’s army was made up of over 200,000 footmen. After their victory, Saul and his army brought back the best of the animals for themselves. Saul reported to Samuel, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13). Samuel replied, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Sam. 15:14). Saul had practiced selective obedience because he had destroyed all the animals except those he wanted to keep. (“Return with Honor,” Ensign, June 1999, 10)
Rudger Clawson
When the Children of Israel came to the promised land from Egypt, under the guidance of the Almighty, on one occasion, when they were weary and footsore, the people of the Amalikites came out against them, and harassed them upon the right hand and upon the left and slew their women and their children and their tender ones.
Because of this piece of treachery and unfriendliness to a people who had never injured them, the Lord determined that they should be destroyed, and he told the prophet to write it down in a book of remembrance, that when the people were established in the promised land and became strong they should go against the Amalikites and carry out the commandment of the Lord with respect to that people. Saul was selected by the prophet to perform this duty. He was told to gather together the hosts of Israel and to give battle to the Amalikites. He was commanded to destroy them from the face of the earth, because they had fought against Israel in the day of their weakness and trouble. Saul gathered the hosts of Israel and went against them, and destroyed them. But it is said in the scriptures that Saul and the people spared Agag the king and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatlings and all that was good, but everything that was vile they destroyed utterly. Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said unto him:
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, and have utterly destroyed the Amalikites.
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.
And Samuel said, hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offering and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the far of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Sam. 15:20-23)
The Lord did not say to Saul that there was anything wrong in burnt offering and sacrifice, but he said that obedience was better than sacrifice.
And later on 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."
In another place it is said that the Lord repented that he made Saul king over Israel, because he had forsaken him and failed to keep his commandments.
It seems to me, brethren and sisters, that we can draw a lesson of wisdom from this story of the king of Israel. We can see that when the Lord gives a commandment to the children of men He requires the strictest obedience to that command. When the Lord speaks he means something. It is not as the conversation of one man with another, when we do not weigh our words and think not of the result thereof, but when the Lord delivers a commandment to his people it is binding upon them. We have the commandments of the Lord in the Bible, in the Book of D&C, in the Book of Mormon and in other Church works, wherein is set forth the mind and will of the Lord unto His people. Furthermore, we have the living oracles; we have the prophet of God to stand forth in the midst of Israel and deliver unto us the mind and will of God.
The Lord has said in these last days that he will not be mocked, and that we cannot disregard or treat lightly his words. We know that many troubles and evils have come upon the people from time to time because of the disregard of the word of the Lord… No doubt some of the evils under which we are struggling at the present time are due in a measure to our disobedience, for we have been instructed that Zion might have been redeemed long ago if the Saints had been faithful. (Conference Report, October 1899, First Day—Morning Session, 124)
1 Samuel 15:22 to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams
Milton R. Hunter
I would that every Latter-day Saint would place deeply that statement in his heart and keep it there forever. Furthermore, I would that every Church member from this time forward would repeat every few days: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams"; and obedience is even better than the wealth of this world or than any position or honor that mortal man can bestow upon us. Best of all our attainments, therefore is to obey the voice of God in all things and at all times.
We have been told by the holy prophets throughout the entire course of history that we will receive our blessings from the hand of God according to the obedience that we render to his holy laws. Therefore, the rewards and punishments are, one might say, based upon a scientific formula. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D. & C. 130:20-21.)
God, our Eternal Father is not as greatly concerned over which race of people we belong to nor over the color of our skins as he is over our righteousness. He is not concerned with how wealthy we are—whether we drive a Cadillac or walk; nor does he care to which family we belong; but he is deeply concerned over what kind of hearts we have. In other words, it makes a vital difference to him whether we render obedience to his commandments or not. (Conference Report, April 1952, Afternoon Meeting 124-125)
Thomas S. Monson
To a generation steeped in the tradition of animal sacrifice, Samuel boldly declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Prophets, ancient and modern, have known the strength that comes through obedience. Think of Nephi: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Ne. 3:7)…
President David O. McKay, in his opening message to the membership of the Church at a general conference in April 1957, stated very simply and yet so powerfully, “Keep the commandments of God.” His successors have urged the same compliance. (Ensign, July 1996, 2)
1 Samuel 15:23 rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft
Jeffrey R. Holland
Why is rebellion (or stubbornness or disobedience in our ordinances) like witchcraft? Because rebellion makes a statement about our loyalty and our understanding of what God is really like and what he really wants. Saul, who understood the method but not the meaning of his sacrifice, and the Latter-day Saint who faithfully goes to sacrament meeting but is no more merciful or patient or forgiving as a result, are much the same as the witch and the idolator. They go through the motions of the ordinances without loyalty to or understanding of the reasons for which these ordinances were established—obedience, gentleness, and loving kindness in the search for forgiveness of their sins.
Ordinances pursued in error and altered in meaning mark an apostate priesthood and an idolatrous nation. As the Prophet Joseph just taught us, we can rest assured that God was not interested in the death of innocent little animals—unless the meaning of those altars truly alters the nature of our lives. (Ensign, Aug. 1986, 70)
1 Samuel 15:24 because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice
Marion G. Romney
When Samuel confronted Saul with what he had done, Saul said, "Because I feared the people, I obeyed their voice." That reminds me of the statement of the Lord in the third section of the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein he told the Prophet Joseph that he should not have yielded to the persuasions of men. This revelation was given after Martin Harris had lost the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon translation. With Saul, it was the fear of the people, and with the Prophet it was the persuasions of men. The Prophet learned never to yield again.
That is where our temptations come from. The people around us do not believe what the prophets say, and we yield to their arguments. (Learning for the Eternities [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 140)
1 Samuel 15:25 I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again… that I may worship the Lord
“This was the tragic moment of truth for Saul. Plaintively, Saul begged Samuel to stay to make offerings “before the elders of my people, and before Israel.” Samuel acquiesced in this, but, before doing so, he himself killed Agag, as the Lord had commanded Saul to do. And when the sacrifices were over, Samuel left, never to see Saul again in this life.
“In fiction, tragic heroes struggle valiantly against their reversed fortune. In Saul’s case, truth shadows fiction, for he spent the rest of his life struggling against just such a reversal. Saul was no quitter. He was no coward. But he was proud and would not repent. Realizing that his blessings and kingdom had indeed been given to another, he looked about to see who this might be.” (Richard G. Ellsworth, “The Tragic Dimensions of Saul,” Ensign, June 1990, 39)
1 Samuel 16:7 Look not on his countenance… for… the Lord looketh on the heart
Marvin J. Ashton
When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.
Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup. We often use phrases about the heart to describe the total person. Thus, we describe people as being “big-hearted” or “goodhearted” or having a “heart of gold.” Or we speak of people with faint hearts, wise hearts, pure hearts, willing hearts, deceitful hearts, conniving hearts, courageous hearts, cold hearts, hearts of stone, or selfish hearts.
The measure of our hearts is the measure of our total performance. As used by the Lord, the “heart” of a person describes his effort to better self, or others, or the conditions he confronts.
A question I suggest to you is this: How do you measure up? Ultimately you and I will be judged not only for our actions, but also for the desires of our hearts. This truth was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith at a time when he was shown in vision the celestial kingdom. The revelation is recorded in section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph marveled when he saw his deceased brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom, for Alvin had died before the gospel was restored. Joseph then received this great truth:
All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; …
For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. (D&C 137:7, 9.)
If our works and the desires of our hearts are the ultimate criteria of our character, how do we measure up? What kind of heart should we seek? For what kind of heart should we pray? How should we measure the worth of other people? (“The Measure of Our Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 15)
Neal A. Maxwell
Think for a moment how different it would be if people took on that physical appearance which would reflect distinctly how well they are doing spiritually. How would some of today's so-called beautiful people really look? A highly publicized movie star, if her life were fully represented in her appearance, might be ugly, perhaps with a hunched back, a prune face, and a withered arm. In contrast, think of Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, whose beauty was not seen by the multitude. Under such telling circumstances—when the outer person reflected the inner person—whom would we applaud? And who would really deserve our pity? (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 61)
1 Samuel 16:14 the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul
Mark E. Petersen
This evil spirit did not depart from Saul during the remainder of his reign. His temper became intolerable, his jealousy unbounded. He was ready to commit murder on the slightest provocation, and at one time he hurled a javelin at his own son, Jonathan.
This was a far cry from the day when God gave Saul a new heart as he commenced his reign, when the spirit of God was his companion, and even when he was given the gift of prophecy. (Three Kings of Israel [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 36)
1 Samuel 17:40 he took his staff in his hand and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook
Thomas S. Monson
Just as David went to the brook, well might we go to our source of supply—the Lord. What polished stones will you select to defeat the Goliath that is robbing you of your happiness by smothering your opportunities? May I offer suggestions.
The stone of COURAGE will be essential to your victory. As we survey the challenges of life, that which is easy is rarely right. In fact, the course that we should properly follow appears at times impossible, impenetrable, hopeless.
Such did the way appear to Laman and Lemuel. When they looked upon their assignment to go unto the house of Laban and seek the records according to God’s command, they murmured, saying it was a hard thing that was required of them. Thus, a lack of courage took from them their opportunity, and it was given to courageous Nephi, who responded, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7.) The stone of courage is needed.
Next, I select the stone of EFFORT—mental effort and physical effort.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Ladder of St. Augustine.”)
The decision to overcome a fault or correct a weakness is an actual step in the process of doing so. “Thrust in thy sickle with thy might” was not spoken of missionary work alone.
Then there must be in our selection the stone of HUMILITY, for haven’t we been told through divine revelation that when we are humble, the Lord, our God, will lead us by the hand and give us answer to our prayers?
And who would go forth to battle his Goliath without the stone of PRAYER, remembering that the recognition of a power higher than oneself is in no way debasing; rather, it exalts.
Finally, let us choose the stone of LOVE OF DUTY. Duty is not merely to do the thing we ought to do, but to do it when we should, whether we like it or not.
Armed with this selection of five polished stones to be propelled by the mighty sling of faith, we need then but take the staff of virtue to steady us, and we are ready to meet the giant Goliath, wherever, and whenever, and however we find him.
For the stone of COURAGE will melt the Goliath of fear. The stone of EFFORT will bring down the Goliath of indecision and procrastination. And the Goliaths of pride, of envy, of lack of self-respect will not stand before the power of the stones of HUMILITY, PRAYER, and DUTY.
Above all else, may we ever remember that we do not go forth alone to battle the Goliaths of our lives. As David declared to Israel, so might we echo the knowledge, “The battle is the Lord’s, and he will give [Goliath] into our hands.” (1 Sam. 17:47.) (“Meeting Your Goliath,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 4–5)
1 Samuel 17:45 I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts
Dallin H. Oaks
David’s reply is one of the great expressions of faith and courage in all our literature. It thrilled me as a boy, and it still thrills me. (quotes 1 Sam. 17:45–47.)
You all know what happened next. David stunned the Philistine with a sling-stone and cut off his head with his own sword. Frightened by the fall of their champion, the Philistines fled. Shouting in triumph, the armies of Israel pursued them and won a great victory.
Countless young people have been inspired by this marvelous instruction in righteousness. At times all of us must stand against those who mock and revile. Some of us, sometime, will face some earthly power as mighty as Goliath. When that happens, we should emulate the courage of David, who was mighty because he had faith and he went forth in a righteous cause in the name of the Lord of Hosts. (“Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 38)
1 Samuel 17:49 David… smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead
Thomas S. Monson
The battle had been fought. The victory had been won. David emerged a national hero, his destiny before him.
Some of us remember David as a shepherd boy divinely commissioned by the Lord through the prophet Samuel. Others of us know him as a mighty warrior, for doesn’t the record show the chant of the adoring women following his many victorious battles, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands”? (1 Sam. 18:7.) Or perhaps we look upon him as the inspired poet or as one of Israel’s greatest kings. Still others recall that he violated the laws of God and took Bathsheba, she who belonged to another. He even arranged the death of her husband Uriah. I like to think of David as the righteous lad who had the courage and the faith to face insurmountable odds when all others hesitated, and to redeem the name of Israel by facing that giant in his life—Goliath of Gath.
Well might we look carefully into our own lives and judge our courage, our faith. Is there a Goliath in your life? Is there one in mine? Does he stand squarely between you and your desired happiness? Your Goliath may not carry a sword or hurl a verbal challenge of insult that all may hear and force you to decision. He may not be ten feet tall, but he likely will appear equally as formidable, and his silent challenge may shame and embarrass.
One man’s Goliath may be the stranglehold of a cigarette or perhaps an unquenchable thirst for alcohol. To another, her Goliath may be an unruly tongue or a selfish streak which causes her to spurn the poor and the downtrodden. Envy, greed, fear, laziness, doubt, vice, pride, lust, selfishness, discouragement—all spell Goliath.
The giant you face will not diminish in size nor in power or strength by your vain hoping, wishing, or waiting for him to do so. Rather, he increases in power as his hold upon you tightens…
But the battle must be fought. Victory cannot come by default… Should there be a Goliath in our lives, or a giant called by any other name, we need not “flee” or be “sore afraid” as we go up to battle against him. Rather we can find assurance and receive divine help from Him of whom David wrote in his inspired psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. … Yea, though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” (Ps. 23:1, 4.)
Victory will be ours. (“Meeting Your Goliath,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 4)
Gordon B. Hinckley
There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot-tall men, but they are men and institutions that control attractive but evil things that may challenge and weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these products would like to enslave you into their use. There are drugs of various kinds which, I am told, are relatively easy to obtain in many high schools. For those who peddle them, this is a multimillion-dollar industry, a giant web of evil. There is pornography, seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other materials designed to take your money and lead you toward activities that would destroy you.
The giants who are behind these efforts are formidable and skillful. They have gained vast experience in the war they are carrying on. They would like to ensnare you.
It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to their products. You see these materials on all sides. But you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in your hands. You have been counseled and taught and advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and integrity to use against these enemies who would like to conquer you. Insofar as you are concerned, you can hit them “between the eyes,” to use a figurative expression. You can triumph over them by disciplining yourselves to avoid them. You can say to the whole lot of them as David said to Goliath, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.”
Victory will be yours. There is not a boy within the sound of my voice who needs to succumb to any of these forces. You hold the priesthood of God. You are a son of God. You have His power within you to sustain you. You have the right to ministering angels about you to protect you. Do not let Goliath frighten you. Stand your ground and hold your place, and you will be triumphant. As the years pass, you will look back with satisfaction upon the battles you have won in your individual lives.
When temptation comes your way, name that boastful, deceitful giant “Goliath!” and do with him as David did to the Philistine of Gath. God bless each of you, I humbly pray. (“Overpowering the Goliaths in Our Lives,” Ensign, May 1983, 51)