1 Samuel 15:2-3   This is what the LORD Almighty says: I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.  Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them.  Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

You probably have as much trouble as I do in coming to terms with statements like this in God’s infallible Word.  But I need to remind myself that Man’s rebellion against his Creator, the thrice holy LORD God Almighty, was always, right from the very beginning, punishable by death (see Genesis 32:16-17, where the Hebrew construction, translated ‘surely die”, makes it very clear that there is no way this won’t happen; and, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

What Saul was instructed to do to the Amalekites was therefore only a precursor to the Day of Judgement when everyone who refuses to take hold of God’s gracious provision in Christ – “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b) – will face exactly the same fate.  Nevertheless, in the local situation in which Saul’s obedience was being tested (towards the beginning of his functioning as king over God’s people), the Amalekites were a particular target of God’s judgment.  At Rephidim, during the Exodus wanderings in the wilderness, Joshua had to ward off a vicious attack from the Amalekites, and God told Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” and added the warning, “The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:14, 16).

So, Saul’s test was not about his making his own assessment of how he should deal with God’s declared enemies; it was about being obedient to God’s requirement of a ‘Day of Judgement’ visitation upon those who persistently refused to submit to his rule in his world.  It therefore stands in his infallible Word as a solemn warning to all the Earth’s inhabitants that we all stand condemned to death if we fail to take refuge in the only place where refuge can be found: in Jesus, the One who was condemned in our place in order to protect us from it. To quote Philip Bliss again: “’Man of Sorrows’, what a name for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim!  Hallelujah! what a Saviour!  Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood; hallelujah! what a Saviour!”

– Bruce Christian