Shifting the blame is a common method to get out of the guilt we would otherwise feel. If I can put the guilt on you, then I’m off the hook at least a little bit. In this study, we will look at King Saul in 1 Samuel and his attempt to not take responsibility for his behavior by trying to shift the blame.
NAS 1 Samuel 15:1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now, therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'”
The Prophet Samuel heard from the LORD that He wanted King Saul to punish King Amalek for his part in trying to destroy the people of God. In this case, the Lord is saying that all that is of Amalek is to be destroyed. Remember we are talking not just about flesh and blood but against the spiritually dark powers behind them.
But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and we’re not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
The Lord’s battle was only with the Amalekites and Saul showed wisdom in allowing the Kenites to leave. BUT Saul looked at the plunder and wasn’t willing to destroy it as God had commanded but take it. And God is not fooled.
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.
Saul’s partial obedience is really disobedience.
And Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.“
And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
You see, Samuel, I blame the people, it was their fault and they did it for the Lord anyway, right? We utterly destroyed the rest, yes sir. Saul is shifting blame to them and taking credit for the partial victory at the same time.
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” And Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”
Samuel is not having any of Saul’s excuses, not of his blame-shifting. He reminds Saul that he had a very specific mission, didn’t obey, and coveted the rewards of the battle rather than obedience.
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep, and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”
Saul tells Samuel that he obeyed and even brought back Agag (he must have forgotten that the Lord did not tell him to do this but to kill him) and it was those people again that took the spoil, they are to blame, but they only did it because they love the Lord soooo much that they want to sacrifice them. Really?
And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
The ritual of sacrifice is not the same as a heart devoted to God and wanting to obey. God does not fall for Saul’s blame game and calls Saul’s actions rebellion and insubordination and He says that they are like the iniquity of idolatry. In summary, Saul has rejected the Lord and, so, he no longer can lead these people in the ways of the Lord.
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words because I feared the people and listened to their voice. “Now, therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”
Finally, Saul takes responsibility for his actions and quits putting blame on others. He understands that He has rebelled against God. He feared the people and their opinion of him more than he feared the Lord’s and that has cost him everything.
But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” And as Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” Then he said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.”
Can’t you hear the anguish and heartbreak in Saul? He realizes the enormity of what he has done and the consequences of it.
So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.
Saul worships the LORD but his consequences remain intact. Also, he still has not completed the work God gave him to do.
Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal. Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul.
Samuel now completes the original command of the LORD that Saul refused to do. And in completing this he leaves Saul, grieved, heartbroken.
We always lose when we play the blame game.
Adam started using blame and Eve joined right in when they were caught in sin in the garden. We have used this tactic ever since, but it has never really worked for us. Even when we think we have gotten away with disobedience, the Lord always sees our attempts to not take responsibility for our own actions and inactions when we blame others. This example of Saul and his attempt to hide his own disobedience is typical when we want our own way rather than God’s.
The best thing is to do all that we know we are to do completely and thoroughly, showing our love for the Lord as we do.
Maybe it would be a good time for all of us to ask the Lord to help us see where we play the blame game and commit to following the Lord at all costs.