The road we walk is self-selected, but we are not doomed to walk the wrong path, God gave us a choice.~ Lisa Blair
This is a long post, please bare with me.
As Christians, we listen to God speak to us and then reinterpret what He said to continue down the path of self-interpretation. In short, we change how we should do what He said to soften the outcome. God’s primary command is to obey Him, yet we often choose to ignore His commands for our lives, thus the quote, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Our intentions are good but fall short of following His precept to be obedient. Obedience a requires 100% response. You cannot be 50%, or 75%, or 99.9% obedient. You are either obedient or you are not obedient, no matter the intention. God speaks to us, we either respond obediently or we disobey.
Take the case of Saul in Samuel 15.
Saul Disobeys the Lord
One day, Samuel told Saul:
The Lord told me to choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord: 2 “When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
3 “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
The Kenites left, 7 and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah[b] to Shur, which is just east of Egypt. 8 Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag. 9 Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn’t want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.[c]
The Lord Rejects Saul
10 The Lord told Samuel, 11 “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.”
Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the Lord all night. 12 Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal.”
13 Samuel finally caught up with Saul,[d] and Saul told him, “I hope the Lord will bless you! I have done what the Lord told me.”
14 “Then why,” Samuel asked, “do I hear sheep and cattle?”
15 “The army took them from the Amalekites,” Saul explained. “They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the Lord your God. But we destroyed everything else.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said. “Let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”
“All right,” Saul answered.
17 Samuel continued, “You may not think you’re very important, but the Lord chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel. 18 When the Lord sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites. 19 Why didn’t you listen to the Lord? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?”
20 “But I did listen to the Lord!” Saul answered. “He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation. 21 All the animals were going to be destroyed[e] anyway. That’s why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the Lord your God.”
22 “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can no longer be king.”
24 “I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead. 25 Please forgive me and come back with me so I can worship the Lord.”
26 “No!” Samuel replied, “You disobeyed the Lord, and I won’t go back with you. Now the Lord has said that you can’t be king of Israel any longer.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel’s robe. It tore! 28 Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. 29 Besides, the eternal[f] God of Israel isn’t a human being. He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind.”
30 Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”
31 Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord. 32 Then Samuel shouted, “Bring me King Agag of Amalek!”
33 But Samuel said, “Agag, you have snatched children from their mothers’ arms and killed them. Now your mother will be without children.” Then Samuel chopped Agag to pieces at the place of worship in Gilgal.
34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again. (1 Samuel 15, CEV.Biblegateway.com)
The Lord spoke to Samuel and instructed him to speak to Saul. Samuel told Saul to “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
When Saul reported back to Samuel, Samuel asked if he completed the mission as commanded. Saul said ‘yes’, but as my pastor said, Samuel could hear the sheep in the background. Samuel asked again and learned that Saul killed all of the Amalekites except King Agag and the best cattle and sheep. This was an act of defiance, disobedience. Best intentions?
In verse 22, Samuel said, 22” “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you…”
When we begin to manipulate what God told us to do, the outcome is not the outcome God planned for us. Think back to when you were a child. Your parents told you to clean your room and then you can go out to play when you are done. Sound familiar, what did you do? Your friends are waiting for you, so you smoothed out your bed spread and pushed clothes and toys under your bed or in the closet. You called your mother, who entered your room and looked around, but since it only took a few minutes, knew something was amiss. She opened the closet, looked down and saw something sticking out from under the bed and turned around to address you. The result was not as planned, you were grounded and could not go out and play. The story is not about being grounded; it is about partial obedience. The moral of the story is that partial obedience does not result in the outcome you expected.
This is the case when God instructs us in what to do. We try to get around the full request. Sometimes, it is because we are afraid. Sometimes it is because it may cause slight discomfort, and sometimes it just does not seem to be the answer we wanted, again like Saul who tried to justify his decision to only follow part of the instructions he had been given. All too often our intention to obey is lost in self gratification. You cannot receive the intended outcome if you fail to follow the full instructions.
Verse 24 reads, ““I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead.” We often listen to our inner voice. The inner voice is our carnal voice governed by Satan. It is the same voice Eve heard in the Garden of Eden. The intention of this Post to remind us that we must discern the voices, who are we listening to, the voice of God or the voice of the evil one, the great impersonator.
I will go out on a limb and say, when we alter God’s instructions to fit our needs, we reap the results that look nothing like the intended outcome, instead we reap the consequences of being disobedient. We, like the child, find ourselves in a predicament we created by our defiance to do what we were told.
When we disobey the Lord, we are walking down the road paved by our good intentions, but it is not the road to heaven, it is the road to hell.
But this is not the end. The Book of Samuel is part of the Old Testament and Christ had not yet visited earth or had been crucified. The New Testament informs us that Christ died for our sins, and we have been freed from eternal, no escape, sin. We are not destined to walk down the paved road that leads to hell. God gave us the freedom to choose. We can follow Him if we choose or deny Him and live our lives relying on our own decisions, good intentions. I choose to live in a relationship with the Lord. Do I sin, certainly, I do, we all do, that is, until Christ returns to redeem us.
Life lessons provide wisdom to follow our Lord and live by His Word. As we mature, we more readily repent of the sin we committed and over time, no longer adhere to our old habits. We can choose to travel down the road paved by good intentions, or we can obey the Lord and change lanes from the road that leads to hell, that is – self affirming, manipulated intentions, or to coin another phrase, we can ‘begin to walk down the straight and narrow’ the best we can.
God tells us, ‘not to look to the left or right’. Why you ask, enticement resides on the side roads to the left or right. Do not veer. Walk straight ahead with blinders if needed, God is leading you down the paved road to heaven. Proverbs 4:27 NKJV warns us, “turn not to the right or left; Remove your foot from evil.” The NLT version reads, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” And, the EST version warns, “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.”
The key terms are: turn not, sidetracked, or swerve. They all lead to good intentions and are unfruitful. They lead us down the path of disobedience, coined the path to hell.
The thing we all must remember is that good intentions or bad intentions, both driven by self gratification are not a form of obedience. Both lead to hell. There is no justification for our actions as seen in the story of Saul. His hell was the loss of being king and possibly the eventual aftermath. Repentance is the catalyst, obedience is the key in moving forward.
Resources: biblegateway.com; biblestudytools.com; biblehub.com. Images: Google Images, sites noted below the image.