July 22, 2007

Only A Little Sin

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Samuel Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:1–23


Only A Little Sin

1 Samuel 13:1-23
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith

The story is told about a few young teenage siblings that wanted to view a movie. This movie came with a "PG" rating. It wasn't a bad movie, and in the eyes of their friends it was deemed as being rather innocent. But also based upon the comments they received, the Christian teens were notified of a couple inappropriate scenes. Short clips, insignificant to the story line, but still words and visuals that they knew were displeasing to the Lord. The teens rationalized these scenes away convincing themselves that others in the church were watching movies much worse than this one. After all, it's only entertainment. After all, it's only a small amount of sin.

After hearing about their conclusion and unable to convince them with his words, their father devised a way to get their attention. The evening before the movie he made their favorite dessert, brownies. The sweet aroma filled the house. The kids couldn't wait to dig in.

However, just as they were reaching for one of the treats, the dad pulled the tray away and said, "There is something I need to tell you before you eat these brownies. I used the finest ingredients available, but I also went to the backyard to obtain something new for the recipe. You see, I picked up a small portion of Scruffy's excrements and added it to the batter. You probably won't even taste it. After all, it's only a small amount ."

Immediately the siblings pulled away in shock and revulsion. "Dad, that is disgusting," said one. Another added, "There is no way in the world that I going anywhere near those brownies.

To which the father replied, "If one small unwanted ingredient was enough to make you refuse your favorite dessert, why is one sin not enough to make you refuse a form of entertainment? Why are you more disgusted at the remains from an animal than you are the very instruments that put your Savior on the cross?"

Grace Tabernacle, my question for you this morning: When we see things through the eyes of God, is there any such thing as one little sin?

The account this morning from 1 Samuel, chapter 13 is often misinterpreted. Despite Saul's sin, many have felt that God was too harsh on or too insensitive toward the newly appointed king. Yes, Saul made a mistake, but after all, they argue, it was only one small sin.

Here is what some authors have suggested: David Gunn argues that Saul's failure was a result of his human weaknesses and his environment. He sympathizes that Saul is essentially an "innocent victim of God" and in this narrative we are encountering the "dark side of God" (The Fate of King Saul: An Interpretation of a Bible Story, JSOT, 1981, p. 123, 129). Walter Brueggemann feels Saul was doomed to failure because God had His heart already set to replace him with David. He was a pawn without control of his own destiny. Since Saul was doomed to fail from the get-go, God's character, not Saul's, is the one that must be questioned (1 and 2 Samuel, p. 99-102).

We will struggle with this account because we will see so much of ourselves in Saul. Excusing him helps us to excuse ourselves. Condemning him only adds to our own guilt and the need to reexamine our own lives under the scrutiny of this Holy God.

So in our age of explaining and justifying and minimizing and rationalizing sin, there is much we can learn from this account. Like the teens earlier that thought a little sin was acceptable and blamed dad for what appeared to be a brain-freeze in his culinary skills, we too have a strong tendency to see through our sin and blame another for our misfortunes, even if that "another" is the living God Himself.

As the Lord permits, this morning I would first like to explain chapter 13. I am calling this, "The Situation with Saul." Then I would like to bring forth some practical application. I am calling that, "The Situation with Sin."

As we ended last week, we were left with a tremendous reminder about our covenant keeping God. We learned that certain cycles tend to repeat themselves in the lives of God's people when they forget the Lord. First, a crisis enters their lives. Second, they see their sin and cry out to God for help. Third, God brings sweet deliverance.

Israel had forsaken the Lord. She was in a crisis. Through the faithful teaching of Samuel (12:6-15) and a little divine fireworks in the sky (12:16-18), she recognized her sin and called upon the Lord. In response to their broken and surrendered hearts, God restored the covenant and healed His people.

Last week we received a tremendous reminder that God will never cast His people off for the sake of His name. The Apostle Paul put it this way, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim. 2:13).

The hope of our continued salvation is not based on our own personal goodness, but on the pleasure of our covenant-keeping God in keeping His children close to Himself for the glory of His great name. For our own good, in His kindness, God will do whatever it takes to keep us crying out to Him, to keep us abiding in the Vine and wrapped in His benevolent arms. Why does God do this? It is because He loves us and because He loves His glory. And it is this latter reason that provides for us the rock-solid assurance we need when we are so prone, like Israel, to "forget the Lord" (12:9). Last week we learned in 12:22; "For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself."

After this account from last week we enter chapter 13 with some positive expectations. Unfortunately we are hit with a severe letdown and a graphic lesson on the destructive nature of sin. The culprit this week is the newly appointed King. After tremendous military victories, the wheels are starting to fall off the bus at a rapid pace. His sinful decision will be the beginning of his end.


The success over the Ammonites in chapter 11 did not bring total peace for the Israelites. The Philistines were still a formidable force. As the tension mounted, verse 3 says, Jonathan, Saul's son "smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it." The king's kid stirred the bees' nest. The sleeping giant was awakened. Verse 4 tells us, "Israel had become odious to the Philistines." A crisis had just been precipitated.

Immediately, King Saul claims Jonathan's success as a personal victory (13:3-4). He attempts to use this triumph to hearten his troops. After all, a little morale booster couldn't hurt, as he needed to rally his army to defend an imminent counter-attack. Unfortunately, the Philistines were a monster, militarily speaking. They far outnumbered the Israelites in manpower. Verse 5 says they assembled 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen. Their ground troops are described as "sand which is on the seashore in abundance." Furthermore, verses 19-23 tell us that they outnumbered the Israelites in weaponry as well. While the Philistines were armed with iron swords and spears, the Israelites were forced to use slings and clubs due to the sanctions placed upon them. A slaughter was just around the corner. The Jews effortlessly came to the conclusion that fighting the Philistines would be tantamount to suicide.

Verses 6-7, "When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were hard-pressed), then the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits. Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead. But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling" (emphasis added).

And these were Saul's handpicked men (13:2)!

How would you like to be in Saul's shoes? An unstoppable and cruel army thirsting for revenge is preparing to annihilate your people. As the primary commander, they have their sights set on you. Your army is demoralized. Most of your troops have either deserted you or gone into hiding. And the few "brave" soldiers with you are shaking in their boots!

Saul was wise enough to know he stood no chance. He had witnessed God's power in the past, and he knew that God's deliverance once again would be his only hope. He needed to beseech the favor of the Lord. Sacrifices needed to be offered. The troops needed to be commissioned to enter the battle. But where in the world was the prophet Samuel when you needed him?

Verse 8, "Now (Saul) waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him."

The tension was mounting. The troops were continuing to scatter, and the enemy was approaching. Time was ticking. Saul believed he needed to take matters into his own hands.

Verse 9, "So Saul said, 'Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.' And he offered the burnt offering."

Verses 10-12, "As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. But Samuel said, 'What have you done?' And Saul said, 'Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, therefore I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.' So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.'"

From this account it appears very clear that Saul knew he needed to wait for Samuel to arrive. He knew he made a mistake, and the unexpected appearance of Samuel forced him to deal with his actions. Would he take responsibility and repent, or would he excuse his sin? Saul chose the latter. Let's examine his excuses for they have withstood the test of time.

Overlook or deny the sin

First, he tries to overlook his sin. The text says he came out to meet and greet Samuel. It was not rushing out with a repentant heart, but rather with a: "Hey, great to see you! Fine weather we're having today. What a joy to be among the Lord's anointed because there is no guilt on my heart. How have things been going with you Samuel? Spending time in the Word?" It sounds a lot like Aaron, "I threw (this gold) into the fire, and out came this calf" (Ex. 32:24). The game came to an end when Samuel said, "What have you done?"

Justify the sin

Now that Saul realizes his façade is busted, second, he seeks to justify his sin. "Oh, the sacrifice I offered. Boy, I forgot all about that. Well, you see, I had no other option. The people were scattering and the Philistines were assembling. I couldn't sit back and watch innocent people get killed and God's glory defamed by a bunch of heathens. Because I care so much for God and others, this was my only choice. You wouldn't expect a righteous man like me to go into war without seeking the Lord's face, would you?"

Blame another for the sin

Third, he tires to shift the blame to Samuel. This is the most heinous and wicked way we deal with our sin. We make someone else look bad to hide our own iniquities. "Hey Samuel, the way I see it, if you would have come on time, none of this ever would have happened! It's really your fault Samuel, and while we're at it, I need to question your integrity. It seems like I can't trust you to keep your word. And your devotion to your country and your king, well, you need to make some improvements in those areas as well."

Demonstrate a false humility toward the sin

Fourth, Saul practices a false humility. Maybe he could sense Samuel wasn't buying his story. Possibly he tried to ease his own conscience by pretending that he considered the alternatives and possibly should have waited but, nevertheless, he went ahead with reluctance. At the end of verse 12 he said, "So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering" (emphasis added).

Excuses, excuses, excuses, but not an ounce of repentance. Saul was so good at making these excuses; they were fired out of his mouth like bullets from a machine gun! All four of his excuses are contained in two sentences!

Does anything in Saul's account sound familiar? The situations may change, but the categories for excusing sin do not. If time permitted, I could provide countless modern day examples. As every parent can attest, we have an innate desire to excuse sin from the time we are born. We see it so often in others, but how rarely do we see it in our own lives! May God, with mercy, reveal to us our many blind spots.

The new carpet in the back hallway is a pleasant upgrade. Unfortunately, one salesman that visited the church this week might not perceive this change as favorable. We could say he found himself in a rather "sticky situation." You see, the old carpet was removed and the floor was being prepared for the installation of the new carpet. A think coat of clear adhesive was applied to the floor. Despite the cones, this gentleman entered the door and began to proceed up the stairs. As he made it to the top landing, he became totally immobilized with his shoes completely imbedded in the glue. By the time Marianne rescued him, he looked like a bug stuck to those tacky strips of flypaper!

When we excuse our sin, it works in just the same manner. Although the Holy Spirit is warning us not to, we enter a location that is hazardous. Each step of the way our journey only becomes more restricted. Before we know it, we are stuck, having totally condemned ourselves, eventually realizing we should have entered the other door - the way of humility and repentance.

For Saul the instructions were clear. He was commanded by God to wait seven days for the arrival of Samuel (cf. 10:8). Saul jumped the gun and when busted received this stinging indictment from the prophet who was able to see through his cheap excuses.

Verses 13-14, "Samuel said to Saul, 'You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.'"

We cannot deny Saul's sin or the increased guilt due to his excuses, but deep down in our hearts we have to feel that God's words through Samuel seem a bit excessive. After all, the guy was in a crisis, and he did wait seven days for Samuel to arrive. I mean, did Saul really deserve to have his dynasty come to an end because he jumped the gun a couple hours early and committed one little sin?

I believe what God is attempting to teach us is that the real problem in this story is not the inability to defeat the Philistines but rather the disobedient heart of King Saul (cf. 12:14-15). By not waiting until Samuel arrived, he challenged the Lord by disregarding the words from His anointed prophet. As verse 13 says, "(He did) not keep the commandment of the LORD (His) God." God's King was to function in dependence on Yahweh. But when pressed, Saul felt that certain emergencies could render God's Word unnecessary. His actions were far from only a little sin. They were the symptoms of a rebellious heart.

In maybe the saddest statement in the book, verse 15 reveals that Samuel departs and Saul is left all to himself, apart from God and His prophet, without direction and comfort, alone in his distress.


Now that we have concluded "The Situation with Saul," allow me to briefly provide four points of related application that I have entitled "The Situation with Sin." Again I ask, is there anything wrong with a small sin?

Small sins lead to bigger sins

What greater example can we find than the failure of Saul's successor, King David - a story we are all familiar with from 2 Samuel 11? After all, what is so wrong with living an undisciplined life? What is so wrong with watching a woman from your rooftop? What is so wrong with looking too long at the woman? What is so wrong with inquiring about the woman? What is so wrong with ignoring counsel from others? What is so wrong with asking to personally meet with the lady? The answer is: adultery with Bathsheba that led to the premeditated manslaughter of her husband Uriah.

Like the two on a date that cannot believe they went all the way. That is right, "One thing does lead to another." All sin usually starts small and then has a progressive nature about it. Eventually, we find ourselves in a place in which we never would have thought possible. What is so frightening is that the transitions are gradual and often undetected to the deceived heart. Jeremy Taylor described this progression: "First it startles him, then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed!" And as we learn from the account of King David, even the godliest individuals are susceptible.

The solution is simple: Break off contact with any known sin without delay regardless of however small the sin may appear. As J.C. Ryle once said, "They may look small and insignificant, but mind what I say, resist them - make no compromise, let no sin lodge quietly and undisturbed in your heart."

Small sins still have large consequences

Because of what appeared to Saul as a small sin, none in his family would ever sit upon his throne. Soon, we will see that his additional disobedience caused him to forfeit the kingdom for himself. Striking the rock barred Moses from the Promised Land and eating the forbidden fruit kept our original parents from the Garden. Throughout the Bible we have examples of devastating consequences that have resulted from what people perceived as small sins.

Small sins are still sins

Despite the grades that we may place on sin, sin is still sin in the eyes of God. Therefore the evaluation of sin should not rest upon popular opinion or cultural values but rather on the Word of God. Because God is holy, all sin is repulsive in His sight. William Bridge once said, "There is nothing small between us and God, for God is an infinite God." And according to John Wesley, "And indeed, there is no little sin, because there is no little God to sin against. In general, what to (humans) seems a small offense, to Him who knows the heart may appear a heinous crime." The small sins as we deem them still put Christ on the cross and still carry enough weight to condemn a person to hell.

Despite of sins, God uses our mistakes

We should not be hopeless about Israel's helplessness. We have seen this one before, and know that if they repent, God will use this situation for the good of His people. The same is true for us. "(The) total helplessness of God's people proves to be the backdrop for (God's) deliverance" (Davis, 1 Samuel, p. 138). Though our sin deserves death (Rom. 6:23), it cannot prohibit the grace of God. This is our covenant-keeping God in action, acting for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

Imagine all the obstacles a person might have to overcome if he were to walk from New York City to San Francisco. One man who accomplished this rare achievement mentioned a rather surprising difficulty when asked to tell of his biggest hurdle. He said that the toughest part of the trip wasn't traversing the steep slopes of the mountains or crossing hot, dry, barren stretches of desert. Instead, he said, "The thing that came the closest to defeating me was the sand in my shoes" (Taken from: Our Daily Bread).

As a few grains of sand became this man's greatest hindrance, as a small spark can ignite a raging forest fire, the so-called "small sins" in our lives can cause utter destruction. They must be recognized and repented from.

other sermons in this series

Dec 9


A Contrast Between Two Anointed Ones

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Samuel 30:1– 31:13 Series: 1 Samuel

Dec 2


The Unhappy Medium

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Samuel 27:1– 29:11 Series: 1 Samuel

Nov 25


Turkey or Godly

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Samuel 26:1–25 Series: 1 Samuel