By Ernest Tatham

"Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal."

"Samuel mourned for Saul" (1 Sam. 15:33,35).

What a remarkable contrast is seen here in the character of this prophet! In one verse Samuel sternly hews a king to pieces; in a later verse he is weeping over another king:

Here are two essential attitudes which must be found in every prophet of the Lord, ^-uncompromising sternness and genuine tenderness. These comprise the basic ingredients of a balanced ministry, and they demand the awareness and power of the Holy Spirit for timing.

But before going further let the reader stop right now and open his Bible to refresh his mind on the story. The chapter is First Samuel fifteen.

Isn't it vivid? Solemn? Searching?

Look at the stern-faced prophet as he cuts down that brutal murderer, Agag- Is Samuel a man of God after all? Is his temper not a bit out of hand? Should he not rather seek to be more moderate, and, by persuasion, seek to win this man? No! Samuel is carrying out the will of God to the letter.

You see, Agag was racially a child of Esau, and Esau is a type of "the lusts of the flesh." It was this people that ambushed Israel shortly after they emerged from Egypt and assumed their wilderness pilgrimage. The historical account is found in Exodus 17:8-16. But the divine commentary, with added illuminating details, is furnished in Deuteronomy 25:17-19. You will notice in this latter scripture that Amalek (the ancestor of Agag) attacked Israel from the rear. "Even all that were feeble.. .faint and weary; and he feared not God."

And is it not when we become a bit faint, and "drag our feet" spiritually that the flesh does its most deadly work?

And the flesh ever remains the flesh. It never improves with our age, nor is even slightly reformed by the presence of the new divine life in the Christian. "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). But how many of us, Saul-like, use the sword generously upon all that is vile and refuse, but spare the cultured and refined flesh? For example, we readily condemn and shun the grosser sins of the old life, such as drunkenness, lying, theft, etc., but how sparing we are on what answers to some "King Agag" in our lives, such as pride, ostentation or laziness! But if we are to obey our God, and thus enjoy His approval, we must devote to unsparing self-judgment "Amalek" in his entirety. "Utterly destroy all" is the word (1 Sam. 15:3). And let us learn well the lesson that it was because of Saul's failure right here that he lost his throne and became a castaway.

So when Samuel slew the cruel murderer, even though he was a king, he was doing exactly what the Lord commanded Saul to do. But notice that it says that Samuel did this "before the Lord" in Gilgal." All self-judgment must be as in the holy presence of God. Let us there learn the absolute necessity of sternly using the sword upon the Agag in our own hearts, and let there be not quarter or mercy shown.

But lest we should think that Samuel's life was of a pretty cruel and severe texture, let us just look at two verses beyond the execution of Agag. Here we read that "Samuel mourned for Saul." Yes, he who could apply the sword to an enemy of God could shed tears in secret over one who had become castaway.

What promise King Saul had shown in the early morning hours of his life! Although the prophet had faithfully predicted that this man would develop into a despotic exploiter of the people, the months following his coronation and assumption of public office had seemingly demonstrated the exact opposite. It appeared for some time that all of Samuel's forecasts had gone awry. But one never knows what is in a person until he is fully tested. And the acid test had been applied to Saul in the matter of the command to exterminate Amalek. The result is painfully apparent in the chapter under consideration. And how beautiful to notice that when Samuel was informed by God that Saul had thoroughly failed and was being rejected, instead of Samuel secretly exulting and taking an "I-told-you-so" attitude, he, on the contrary "cried unto the Lord all night."

Samuel really felt it, and many were the tears of genuine grief which he shed in secret.

Here is a lesson for us. If we would be effective servants for our Lord we must be men of the sword and also of tears. Let us use that sword of self-judgment on every Agag in our own lives, but be ready to weep over every twentieth century Saul who despises his spiritual heritage and turn away from the gracious Hand that would lead him, and in self-will plunges on into the darkness.

(The Christian Reporter)