Stop Making Excuses

by: John Welkner

     We saw in this past week’s sermon from 1 Samuel 15, that King Saul, when confronted on his disobedience of the LORD’s command to exact righteous judgement upon the Amalekites, responded with a great number of excuses. Read the text to see if you can pick them out for yourself:

15 Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest." 16 "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." "Tell me," Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' 19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?" 20 "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal." 22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

1 Samuel 15:15-24

     Samuel’s rebuke leads to Saul’s excuses, really four excuses are offered up here, and it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider them because Saul’s words are so often our own...

1.  I might not have done everything, but look at what I HAVE done - “I did obey the Lord”, Saul said...”I went on the mission”... Saul’s excuse - his argument is that partial obedience is enough. How easy it is for us to excuse sin by holding up a bit self righteousness so that in comparison our disobedience doesn’t look bad at all...in our own eyes. “Sure I got angry - but at least I didn’t murder anyone....sure I looked at pornography, but I didn’t physically commit adultery... Friends, partial obedience is disobedience - it is no excuse.

2.  Everyone else does it - “The soldiers took the sheep and cattle...” Why am I being singled out here. “I may have done something wrong, but there are plenty of people who are worse than me”. This excuse pretends that God’s standards are - whatever is status quo, whatever is average. Imagine if that were true! We would be doomed to the downward spiral of our own depravity!

All of mankind for all of time will not be judged based on a fair market comparison with the rest of humanity (even if we were, most of us would fall below average...at least half of us). Our lives will be held to the standard of the living Word of God which stands...forever.

3.  I did what I did for God -  “The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."  It might technically have been a sin, by my motives were good! This excuse simply cannot be true, it is built on the lie that God’s commands could be inadequate at best and dead wrong at worst.

Psalm 33 declares, “... the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”

4. I was afraid of other people - “I was afraid of the people” Saul says in verse 24, “and so I gave in to them”. Whether Saul was truly afraid of the others or not doesn’t really make a difference. Jesus said clearly in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

One commentator writes, “Fear of people is a common underlying reason for sin. We fear the rejection of other people, or we crave their acceptance. We will do whatever it takes to fit in, be accepted or be affirmed by them; even if in doing so we put ourselves in a position where all we deserve from God is exclusion, rejection and condemnation.

Hope for Expert Excuse Makers

     We are expert excuse makers, most of us have the ability to make masterpiece, Michelangelo caliber excuses. Excusing sin is like covering your eyes on a roller coaster...it does nothing to change your circumstances it just keeps you from seeing reality. For Saul, the results are disastrous, as Samuel declares in the 22nd verse,

"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king."

     Where can expert excuse makers turn for help and hope? Turn to a King greater than Saul.  Jesus is the only King who can deal with our excuse making hearts of stone by giving his people, new birth, new hearts. And having defeated death once for all, Jesus rose again new life - so that all who are alive in Him have be given a living hope and a royal inheritance, that, 1Peter 1 says, can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you. The cross is the magnificent display of the Greatness of Jesus Kingship - there we behold the depth of his sacrifice, and the extent of his love for his people. How do we respond? One hymn writer wrote,

“And when I think, that God his son not sparing - sent him to die! I scarce can take it in! That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing - he bled and died to take away my sin...Then, THEN sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How Great Thou Art...

By faith in King Jesus, the great disaster area of our lives may be washed clean, and enabled to be holy because He is holy. Drop the excuses - run to the King.

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