This month I am teaching through part of a new Sunday School series at All Saints Presbyterian Church on the life of David. In looking at David, I had to first teach on the fall of King Saul in 1 Sam 13-15. The culmination of his fall is in chapter 15 when Saul disobeys the command of God to utterly destroy (herem) the Amalekites. Saul wins the battle seemingly, but he brings back cattle and the king of Amalek, Agag.
In reading 1 Samuel 15 in and of itself the reader is comforted that Samuel the prophet kills King Agag, thus ending the threat of the Amalekites against Israel (a threat that had loomed for 300 years). However, it is only as the story continues that we get a sense that something is still amiss. By the time David is king he is dealing with the Amalekites (1 Sam 27:8; 30:1; 2 Sam 8:12) though seemingly Saul destroyed all the Amalekites save for King Agag. In an intriguing irony, Saul is actually murdered by an Amalekite (2 Sam 1:8-10). We now know that Saul did not even kill every Amalekite civilian.
But the story gets much scarier for the people of God and the mission of God. In the book of Esther a threat rises up in a man named Haman who himself intends to utterly destroy all of Israel, and in Esther 3:1 we read, “After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles.” Haman is not just an Amalekite, but he is an Agagite. He is a descendant of King Agag, and now Haman intends to do to Israel what Saul failed to do to the Amalekites and Agag’s family.
This failure to utterly destroy sin and wickedness usually comes back to haunt us like it did for Israel. In teaching on this I thought about the movie Spiderman 3 where Peter Parker is overtaken by a very tine substance of evil. This small substance eventually covers Parker and changes his whole person. It is only when Spiderman has to literally cut and rip off the evil from his body and destroy it does he find redemption.
Yet, Parker fails to utterly destroy all of the evil that almost killed him, and that tiny substance took over another individual, journalist Eddie Brock, who is transformed into the villain Venom, who almost kills Spiderman in the end.
Failing to cut off our sin in all its form and substance is only prolonging the death it will bring to us. But just as God saved Israel from annihilation through a common Jewish woman named Esther, he has also saved us from the annihilation we bring upon ourselves through the person and work of Jesus (Gal 1:17-21).
While we cannot utterly destroy the evil which rests in our hearts (Jer 17:9), Jesus can and does (Col 1:13)! He is the only one who can do what Saul failed to do, and instead of merely ripping away our sin, he also gives us his garment of righteousness (Rom 13:14; Rev. 19:7-8).
But Jesus annihilates our sin and evil by allowing himself to be annihilated by God’s wrath so that we may walk in peace and safety.
Truly, this King Jesus is greater than King Saul or any other human king!