And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, "Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal."And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord." And Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?" Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction." Then Samuel said to Saul, "Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night." And he said to him, "Speak." - 1Samuel 15: 12-16 (ESV)
When Confronted by his sin with Bathsheba, we saw the heart that was truly after God. We saw the painful realization when David was confronted by his own sin. We can still read the anguish as David penned Psalm 51 and begged God to not take His Holy Spirit from him. There were still consequences. There are always consequences for sin beloved. David would lose two children and his entire kingdom before God eventually restored him. His life was never the same after. Yet he did repent. God did forgive. He was restored. Such was not the case for his predecessor, King Saul. Saul started with good enough intentions and humility:
Then the people said to Samuel, "Who is it that said, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring the men, that we may put them to death." But Saul said, "Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel."Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom." So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. - 1Samuel 11: 12-15 (ESV)
The newly crowned king had the opportunity to exact vengeance upon those who questioned his coronation. Instead he took the more humble road. Saul never saw himself initially as king. Unfortunately, absolute power often corrupts absolutely.
He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him.So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings." And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.' So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering." And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. - 1Samuel 13: 8-14 (ESV)
Saul starts to get ahead of himself and ahead of God. He starts to undertake things he was not given right to undertake. He is rebuked harshly and told that God is now seeking a man after His own heart. This is the crucial turning point for Saul. He could repent like David would do decades later or he could continue down the path to destruction, spiraling madly out of control. Who knows how Saul's life would have turned out had he repented. Who knows how much heartache and torment he could have avoided. Sure there would have been temporal consequences but like David but God still would have shown mercy. David would still one day be king but that was far off. No, Saul is at a crossroads and he unfortunately continues down the wrong path as we come to our key verses. Charged with slaying the Amalekites and sparing nothing, Saul instead spares the king and all of the good plunder and keeps it for himself. When we join the key verses Saul has just built a monument in his own honor. This is the nature of sin when we continue to rebel against God. It is narcissistic and self-absorbed. You start believing your own press. You start to think it is about you instead of being about God.
Immediately, the first instinct is to lie. Saul proclaims to Samuel that he has done what the Lord required. Almost dumbfounded, Samuel points out the obvious - what is this bleating of sheep in my ears then! Next, Saul/sin try to couch what he originally said. He tries to make excuses for why he did not exactly obey the Word from God. He tries to wrap up his excuse in pseudo-piety. He tries to make his disobedience sound religious. That he disobeyed so he could sacrifice the animals to God. Samuel finally has heard enough and yells - stop!