1 Samuel 15:1–35

Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.

Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the LORD all night. (1 Samuel 15:9–11)

Even though I have known people like this, still, I cannot fathom Saul’s perspective. How can anyone be so clueless? He disobeyed the Lord’s direct command by keeping not just a few things under the ban, but keeping everything having any value. On top of having no sense, Saul had no shame. Instead of being humiliated by his own guilt, he erected a monument to himself to commemorate the day. At least Achan had the good sense to be ashamed of his sin. Not Saul! Somehow he managed to twist events and rearrange facts to portray himself as God’s champion.

Samuel’s response is priceless: “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14). Amazing how simple facts can so easily prick a deceiving heart.

I see two timeless principles at work in the story of Saul that deserve our attention.

First, how you finish is far more important than how you start. No one graduates from college thinking, Okay, now how can I fail? No bride or groom tells the wedding guests, “Enjoy the party; this thing won’t last more than a couple of years.” Only when a woman or man finishes well can we call that life a success. A good beginning does nothing to guarantee a good ending. Happy endings are the result of good choices and consistent discipline put in sequence over a lifetime and faithfully maintained.

Second, rationalization is disobedience because it refuses to accept the truth. I’ve heard it said that the most destructive lie is the one you tell yourself. Rationalizing is an insidious form of self-delusion. It starts small—usually with something innocent—and quietly twists the mind to spin the truth in convenient ways. In the end, the self-deluded mind rationalizes everything so conveniently, so automatically, that the person has no concept of how preposterous his or her thinking and behavior have become. And—never forget this—no one is immune.

Taken from Great Days with the Great Lives by Charles Swindoll. Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll. Used by permission of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. www.harpercollinschristian.com

Posted in Bible Characters, Failure and tagged .

Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.