The Lord commanded King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Years before Amalek had opposed Israel when Moses led them out of Egypt. It was time for them to receive the penalty for their transgressions. Saul was to wipe them out. Not even a sheep was to be left standing in Amalek after the Israelites were finished with it.
Saul defeated the Amalekites, but he spared their king and saved the best of their livestock and other things he thought might be useful.
There are many lessons to be learned from Saul’s disobedience, but I want to focus on the excuse he made when Samuel confronted him about his sin: “I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam. 15:24). The classic commentary-writer Adam Clarke was right in his assessment that had Saul feared God more, he need have feared the people less.
Saul’s problem is a strange but familiar phenomenon—fearing people who are supposed to be there to love and support you. Because this is so common, and because it gets so many of us into trouble, I would like to make a few observations about it.
- If you are disobeying God because you are afraid of what your friends might think, it is time for a change. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33). Our companions do wield a powerful influence over us. When they’ve gone morally-sour, they can ruin us spiritually.
- If you are afraid of your friends because of the direction they are leading you in, it’s time to get out. Proverbs 13:20 reads, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” What kind of a friend leads you over a cliff? Step back and take a look at the direction your life has taken since you started running with the crowd you’re with. If you are suffering, God says you’re running with fools.
- A true friend will make you better. Another proverb reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). A good friendship doesn’t necessarily make you comfortable, it makes you better. Good friends are concerned more about eternal rewards than instant gratification. They care more about you than themselves. Who wouldn’t want a friend like that? But there’s a catch: Chances are that the kind of people that would make good friends are also looking for associations that will make them better. So the best way to attract a true friend is to be a true friend.
Jesus made a wonderful statement when he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). There is nothing to fear by having Jesus by your side. But before you can claim him as your friend, you must do what he commands!