1 Samuel 15:10-23 (Part 4) – Saul, Abortion, and Rebellion Against God

Posted: January 31, 2018 in Book of 1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 15:10-23 (Part 4 of 4)
The Lord Rejects Saul

This morning, after reading through the passage at hand, 1 Samuel 15:10-23, we see how Saul rationalized away his rebellion against God’s commands, I tried to think about something else but the controversial subject on Capitol Hill recently about the legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was the unescapable thing that pressed into my soul. I knew that there was to be a vote here this month about it from news feeds on social media. And according to the website of the New York Times, that vote occurred on Monday. I spent yesterday struggling with the similarity between Saul’s rationalization of his failure to obey God’s command concerning the Amalekites and the controversial issue of our time, abortion. The Times reported,

“The Senate rejected a bill on Monday to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a largely symbolic vote aimed at forcing vulnerable Democrats to take a stand that could hurt their prospects for re-election in states won by President Trump. By a vote of 51 to 46, the measure fell well short of the 60-vote threshold required for the Senate to break a Democratic filibuster. The outcome was not a surprise, and the vote fell mostly along party lines.”

This vote effectively kills the late term abortion issue at the federal level for another election cycle. At the state level, there are a mixed bag of reactions by the states to the issue with bans on late term about in around 20 or so states. Because of this mixed bag, many are pushing for a federal law.

Of course the issue of abortion is a hot-button issue altogether for our society. It is an unavoidable issue for Christians as well. Late term abortion, early term abortion, day after pills, they are all issues that the church often finds itself square in the middle of controversy. It is one of those issues that we must respond to when confronted with it. It is simply an issue where we may find ourselves at odds with mainstream culture.

It is the cry of many liberal activists that abortion should be legal so as to prevent women from having to carry fetuses that are the result of rape or incest. However, less than 1% of all abortions are the result of those heinous crimes. Therefore, over 99% of all abortions are because the pregnancy is simply inconvenient and the baby unwanted. Many in the culture cloak abortion in terms of what almost amounts to certain inalienable rights of human beings. They call it reproductive rights. They call it the right to choose. Many in the culture call it a woman’s right to control her own vagina. They even march on Washington with outfits that are in the form of the vulva of the female vagina and rail at the nation of men that they see as controlling their “reproductive rights.”

If 99% of abortions are simply a form of birth control, we can dress it up with fancy legal terms like reproductive rights but really it is about having sex with whomever we want, whenever we want, and have a fallback plan if our birth control does not work. If we sweep away the rhetoric and the legal jargon, the bottom line is that abortion is our culture’s failsafe backstop for our culture’s changing moral view on sex. Sex is now a given in dating relationships. Sex is a recreation sport that is part of the dating landscape. Extramarital affairs are commonplace. Our culture glorifies blatant in your face sexuality and “did you sleep with him yet or her yet are the common questions asked. Having sex by at least the second or third date is expected in our culture. Our young girls are brought with oversexualized idols such Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and others who just about show us their junk on stage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prudish type. I think women are God’s ultimate creation and they can be sexy just by wearing only showing an appropriate amount of their female figure. Miley Cyrus twirking on stage is just raw, ugly, leaving nothing to the imagination oversexualization. But that’s our culture, sex is no longer a sacred gift from God, it is a amateur athletic sport these days. Abortion, when you boil it down, and strip away the fallacy of the preponderance of rape and incest, abortion, is simply the culture’s backstop for our lowered moral values about sex. Abortion is not some high minded right of women. It is simply birth control. If you add in the abortions performed because the baby is defective or deformed in some way, that percentage only rises to 4% in any given average year. So these arguments for pro-choice come to the right to abort for convenience’s sake.

So, what does the Bible say about abortion. Does it speak to the issue? First, we must clarify a few things. Some who call themselves “evangelicals” argue that since the New Testament does not directly address the matter, we should not be dogmatic about it. They say that it is a “difficult moral issue,” where we need to allow room to differ and not impose our personal views on others. Many evangelical pastors refrain from speaking on the subject because it is controversial and potentially divisive. And many pastors dodge it because they have drifted from the Bible as the source of absolute moral truth.

Christian pollster George Barna recently reported that only half of the country’s Protestant pastors have a biblical worldview, which he defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists, that it is based upon the Bible, and having a biblical view on six core beliefs (the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize). Southern Baptist pastors ranked highest, with 71 percent holding to a biblical worldview. Among other Baptist pastors, it fell to only 57 percent. Other denominations ranked much lower. I believe that the Bible gives us God’s absolute moral standards that apply to every culture and every age. Furthermore, the Bible warns that God will judge every person based on His righteous standards (Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:11-15). We cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for disobedience or apathy (Prov. 24:11-12). When we make the Bible relativistic instead of a source of absolute moral truth that universal and timeless, we can then begin to mold the Bible into what we want it to say to fit the time and the age in which we live rather than the other way around.

 

That’s the thing I thought of this morning as I read through 1 Samuel 15:10-23 for the fourth of four blogs on this passage. That thing was the fact that Saul just couldn’t help himself it seems. He would relativize and rationalize how his behavior was within some strained boundary of God’s commands. He would come up with some academic gymnastics of sorts to demonstrate how his behavior was consistent with God’s command (like a slick lawyer defending a criminal who was caught red handed in a crime). Let’s read the passage now and then we will get back to the similarities between the pro-choice arguments and the rationalizations of Saul in just about every instance where he had clearly disobeyed God:

10 Then the Lord said to Samuel, 11 “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.

12 Early the next morning Samuel went to find Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself; then he went on to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!”

14 “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded.

15 “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! Listen to what the Lord told me last night!”

“What did he tell you?” Saul asked.

17 And Samuel told him, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and told you, ‘Go and completely destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, until they are all dead.’ 19 Why haven’t you obeyed the Lord? Why did you rush for the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. 21 Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

In this passage, we see that rebellion and stubbornness are serious sins. They involve far more than being independent and strong minded. Scripture equates them with witchcraft and idolatry, sins worthy of death (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 13:12-15, Deut. 18:10, and Micah 5:10-14). Saul became rebellious and stubborn so it is little wonder that God finally rejected him and took away his kingdom. Rebellion against God is perhaps the most serious sin of all because a person who rebels closes the door to forgiveness and restoration with God. The sad part with Saul is that he was always trying to minimize his disobedience, put a positive spin on it, and twist God’s commands to his own advantage so as to support his selfish desires. That is where I see the similarities in Saul’s behavior in this passage to the pro-choice argument when compared to God’s Word.

First, we have to establish some groundwork. Some who call themselves “evangelicals” argue that since the Bible, or at least the New Testament, does not directly address the matter of abortion, we should avoid the argument. They say that it is a “difficult moral issue,” where we need to allow room to differ and not impose our personal views on others. Many evangelical pastors refrain from speaking on the subject because it is controversial and potentially divisive. And many pastors dodge it because they have drifted from the Bible as the source of absolute moral truth.

Christian pollster George Barna recently reported that only half of the country’s Protestant pastors have a biblical worldview, which he defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists, that it is based upon the Bible, and having a biblical view on six core beliefs (the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize). Surprisingly, most denominations are drifting away from this worldview so as to be “relevant” to the culture. Only 71% of Baptists adhere completely to a biblical worldview and other denominations come up percentages below that mark.

I believe that the Bible gives us God’s absolute moral standards that apply to every culture and every age. Furthermore, the Bible warns that God will judge every person based on His righteous standards (Acts 17:31; Rev. 20:11-15). We cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for disobedience or apathy (Prov. 24:11-12). God holds us accountable to the standards of His Word, whether we want to believe that or not. Saying that there is no absolute moral truth that is timeless and ageless established by the Creator and wired into our DNA does not make it go away just because we don’t want to believe it!

Thus, what the Bible, inspired by the Creator himself, says about the sanctity of life must be true eternally and agelessly regardless of whether we have cast off the truths of the Bible or not. Being on a plane that is about to crash does not become any less of a plane that is about to crash by ignoring the fact that it is about to crash or saying to yourself that it is not about to crash. That is where the argument of pro-choice seems to be to me. Before we look at what the Bible says about abortion, let me briefly comment on what abortion is. Abortion is the extraction or expulsion of the immature human fetus from the mother’s womb with the intent to end the life of that fetus prior to natural birth. Fetus is a perfectly good medical term, as long as you remember that it refers to a developing human baby. But you will never hear abortion advocates speak of it as a baby or child. Sometimes they even call it the “product of conception,” or a piece of tissue!

First, the Bible says that human life is unique and we are created in His own image. even the most ardent evolutionist behaviorally affirms that human life is distinct from animal life. Imagine Mr. Evolutionist driving along when he encounters a squirrel in the road, still writhing from being hit by a car. He slams on his brakes, jumps out of his car, and frantically dials 911 on his cell phone. “I’d like to report an injured squirrel! If the paramedics get here quickly, they may be able to save him!” But, alas, they are too late! The man sits by the squirrel corpse, sobbing, until the mortuary arrives. He will never forget this tragic scene. Ludicrous? Yes, but change the squirrel to a human baby and that scene would be truly horrific. Why? Because we all recognize that people are distinct from animals. The reason, according to the Bible, is that people are created in God’s image; animals are not. In the pro-choice argument, we thus equate the human fetus as if it were an indiscriminate animal or worse yet, property. What it boils down to is that which is not life is property. When life is considered property then you can do with it what you please. We have the right to enjoy property as we wish. If a person is not considered a person, then what are they? Our nation once saw negroes as not better than the swing on your front porch – to do with what you pleased. As property they had no rights. No more than a lamppost has rights in the court of law. Under Roe v. Wade, a fetus has no legal standing in the court of law. A fetus is not considered a person who has the whole avail of privileges guaranteed citizens under the laws and constitution of our country. Fetuses have the same lack of constitutional rights as negroes prior to the long history of constitutional amendments and laws that won their rightful place beside other persons of our country. Under the reckoning of Roe v. Wade, it had the same impact of the Dred Scott decision of the same court, the Supreme Court of our land. The academic gymnastics of the pro-choice movement requires that you do not think of a fetus as a developing human being. It must be considered an expendible animal or property like a chair on the front porch.

Second, the Bible forbids the shedding of innocent blood. The Bible clearly commands, “You shall not murder” (Exod. 20:13). The Bible does not forbid all killing, such as in capital punishment by the government, national defense, or personal defense. But murder is forbidden. The Bible uses the phrase “innocent blood” about 20 times, and always condemns shedding innocent blood. God chastised the Jews for shedding innocent blood when they sacrificed their children to the idols of Canaan (Ps. 106:38). As John Piper argues, “Surely the blood of the unborn is as innocent as any blood that flows in the world” (Brothers, We are Not Professionals [Broadman & Holman], p;. 222).

Third, pre-natal human life is fully human and thus precious to God. God superintends life in the womb (Ps. 139:13-16). David is affirming in poetic language that God superintended his formation in the womb (also, Job 10:8-12). The Bible repeatedly affirms that God’s providence governs everything from the weather (Ps. 148:8; Job 37:6-13), to animals’ food and behavior (Ps. 104:27-29; Job 38:39-41; Jonah 1:17; 2:10), to seemingly random events, such as the rolling of dice (Prov. 16:33). Surely if God governs these relatively minor things, then He also governs the formation of people in the womb. The Lord tells Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exod. 4:11). So even birth defects, which science attributes to freak occurrences in nature, are under God’s direct superintendence for His sovereign purposes!

Fourth, the Bible affirms the distinctiveness of individuals in the womb, thus showing that they are fully human. Jacob and Esau were distinct individuals in the womb (Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:11-12). Samson’s mother was not to drink wine, because her son was to be a Nazirite, who would abstain from alcohol (Judges 13:3-5). Jeremiah and Paul both acknowledged that God formed them in the womb and knew them by name (Jer. 1:5; Gal. 1:15). Isaiah 49:1, 5 affirms the same thing about Messiah.

John the Baptist recognized Jesus while both were still in the womb (Luke 1:35-36, 39-44)! This is an amazing text! Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy when Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Mary went to visit Elizabeth before John was born. Thus Elizabeth would have been in her last trimester, while Mary was in her first trimester. Yet John recognized Jesus in those early months of Mary’s pregnancy! I think that this is the strongest passage that a baby in the womb in the first trimester is a person created in God’s image. We are not free to take the life of such a child just because it is not convenient to have a baby!

Fifth, to view babies as inconvenient to the point of killing them is to violate Jesus’ view of children. In Luke 18:15-17, people were bringing their babies to Jesus so that He could touch them. The disciples rebuked the parents. Jesus had better things to do than to bless babies! It was a great inconvenience! But Jesus rebuked the disciples and welcomed the children. The Greek word for infant in Luke 18:15 is the same word Luke uses for the infant in Elizabeth’s womb (1:41, 44). God shows His great love for us by calling us His children (1 John 3:1). Surely, we should have the same attitude as Jesus towards our children from the time of conception onwards!

Sixth, to kill babies in the womb in an attempt to avoid suffering is to make ourselves gods and to prevent God’s sovereign purposes from being played out in our lives or the lives of the unborn children. To abort because having a child would cause emotional or economic duress wrestles away God’s sovereignty and makes us the determiner of the future value of a human life. To argue that it is better to kill a deformed child in the womb than to allow him to live is an affront to the thousands of people born with severe handicaps, but who live meaningful and productive lives. It is an affront to the many families that love and care for such children. On rare occasions, there may be the difficult dilemma of performing an abortion to spare the mother’s life. But even then, the goal should be to preserve the lives of both the mother and the child, if possible. To abort even a potentially healthy human life is simply saying that there could be no purpose in the life force given by God to that unborn multiplying and forming set of cells that become a fetus that becomes a child. Who are we, as humans with our knowledge limitations as to the future of a child’s life, to abort what God gave the spark of life to in a mother’s womb. That’s simply taking God’s sovereignty unto ourselves.

In conclusion, there is just a great amount of academic gymnastics you have to play to make the Bible support the pro-choice arguments. If we are believers in Jesus Christ, we must affirm the value of human life from the time of conception as the sovereign will of God. To do anything else is to be like King Saul who twisted the truth to fit his circumstances and desires. Do we shun those who have abortions or support abortion rights as we walk our Christian walk? Of course not! Do we bomb abortion clinics? Of course not! Do we appear as angry protesting mobs or even peaceful mobs at abortion clinics? I don’t think so!

Do we love those who are considering abortion, yes! Do we counsel them privately one on one about what God says about abortion and the value of each and every human life, yes! Do we help those women who have had abortions who inevitably are emotionally tormented by that decision, yes! We love them back to life. We tell them of God’s great grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We help them every step of the way one on one. We love them. We cannot change or minimize the sins of the past but we sure can demonstrate to them that we are all sinners in need of grace. Each of us has sins that condemn us just as taking of an innocent life in the womb is a sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. We all need forgiveness. We wrap our arms around those who have had abortions and love them back to restoration in God’s love. Further, as Christ followers, we should invest ourselves in those who choose to have their children even if they were born out of wedlock. We disciple them to move toward relationships that are lasting and meaningful with godly men. We do not kick them to the curb because they decided to keep a child. We help them with their children. And those who have decided to keep their child who has a birth defect or a mental challenge, we especially need to support and celebrate their courage and we stand in the gap with them. We love them, help them, care for them and their child. That’s where grace, love, and the value of human life intersect.

Amen and Amen.

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