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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

ARE THE SHEEP BLEATING AND THE OXEN LOWING

I Samuel 15:13-14 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

Saul was the first king of Israel. He was the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul had been sent by his father to search in the mountains for asses which had strayed from his herd. It is estimated that Saul was approximately 35 years of age at this time. While on this search, Saul met Samuel. God had already told Samuel that the king he had selected was a Benjamite. On the day following this meeting, Samuel anointed Saul as king of Israel. It is estimated that Saul had reigned as king over Israel for approximately 16 years before the event noted in the lesson text. God, through Samuel, gave some specific commandments. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (I Samuel 15:2-3).

In the seventeenth chapter of Exodus, we find the incident that brought God's wrath upon the Amalekites. During their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites passed near the area inhabited by the Amalekites, near Mount Sinai. They killed many of the Israelites by attacking them from the rear, killing those that were lagging behind due to weariness and weakness. It was at this time that God determined to destroy the Amalekites, and this was God's order to Saul. He was to carry out God's retribution against the Amalekites, even though it was now some 400 plus years later than the incident which brought it about..

Immediately after getting these orders, Saul assembled an army of 210,000 men and came to the city of Amalek to attack it. Before the attack, Saul had the Kenites, which dwelt with the Amalekites, removed and taken safely away. The reason for this was because the Kenites had showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt (I Samuel 15:4-6). After the Kenites were removed, Saul attacked the Amalekites and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed (I Samuel 15:8-9).

Verse 11 says that God was sorry for making Saul king of Israel because he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments. Upon his return, Saul went to Samuel and told him, I have performed the commandment of the Lord (vs. 13). Samuel's question to Saul was, if you have performed the commandment of God, then why do I hear sheep bleating and oxen lowing (vs. 14)? Saul's answer seems to be appropriate, we spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed (vs. 15). What was God's commandment concerning the Amalekites? God said that all of the descendents of Amalek were to be destroyed, as well as all their animals. Saul partially obeyed this command. He slew all the people, except their king, Agag. He killed all the animals of the Amalekites, except the best of their herds. This Saul justified by saying the animals saved were to be used as sacrifices to God. Nevertheless, Saul disobeyed God's complete commandment.

As we study God's word to learn the way of our salvation, we should always remember, for My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). Not only are we commanded to love God, but God also gave us a new commandment. God says that we are to love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34). What does obedience to this command mean to you? If we love our family only, are we obedient? No! If we love only those of our church, nation, race, creed, are we obedient? No! If there is one person on earth that we have hate for in our heart, just as Saul, we will be convicted, symbolically, by the sheep bleating and the oxen lowing!