Friday, July 1, 2022
King Saul is in trouble. After being told by the LORD to destroy all the Amalekites and their possessions, he is now trying to justify his disobedience by saying that God should honor good intentions. After all, shouldn’t God be pleased that they had selected all the best of the cattle and sheep so they could be sacrificed to the LORD? Short answer – If God had instructed them to do that, then yes, He would be pleased. But good intentions do not make up for disobedience. Besides, Saul only came up with the idea of sacrifice after he had been caught with the goods.
1 Samuel 15:20-22 “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
There is an old saying of disputable origin that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” But it is action that proves the heart, not intentions. An ounce of accomplishment is worth a ton of good intention. But being the people we are, stuck in the rut of self-affirmation, we prefer to defend our actions with the justification of our intentions. Unfortunately, we don’t treat others the same. Ian Percy, a modern day motivational speaker and leadership guru, said it this way – “We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”
This was true of Saul. He preferred to be judged by his intentions rather than his actions. But that is not God’s way. The truth is that actions are the reflection of intentions. Like Saul, we have simply learned how to generate justifiable intentions after the fact of the action, thus attempting to defend our honor and image. This simply won’t cut it with God, and Samuel let Saul know it. The end never justifies the means, especially when the end is revised from the original intent. The only thing we are ultimately responsible for is obedience to the LORD. Explicit obedience. Unquestioning obedience. Trust-in-the-One-who-knows-the-end obedience. There is to be no self-justification. No mid-course compromise. Just obedience. “In the fulfillment of your duties, let your intentions be so pure that you reject from your actions any other motive than the glory of God and the salvation of souls” (Angela Merici, early16th century).
So the next time you do something spontaneous and then try to catch up to the consequences with imaginary intentions, remember this – your actions prove what you truly believe. Your intentions may indicate what you want to believe, but your actions prove what you really believe. Make some changes. Start thinking about intentions before you act. Let the LORD be your God, and let His life be lived in and through you. It’s called sincerity, and the obedience it produces is what God delights in.