After God’s Spirit left King Saul, his halfhearted obedience had opened him up to Satan’s influence. Soon an evil spirit troubled Saul and he ended up seeking counsel from a witch (see 1 Samuel 15).
Perhaps as you read the account of Saul’s life, you wonder, “But Saul tried his best and he didn’t do that bad of a job. Why was God so severe with him?”
God is telling us through this passage that He means what He says! He is saying, “I’m showing you how I feel about your obedience to Me. I want all your heart, all your love—not just a halfhearted obedience!”
If the Lord’s message to Saul had been foggy or unclear, we would be justified in saying He should have made an allowance. But His direction to Saul was clear and there was no doubting what He commanded. Likewise today, we have no doubt about what God has spoken to us. We know what His commandments are, because He has revealed them to us by His word and by His Spirit within our hearts.
You may answer, “But what God did to Saul happened under the Old Covenant, under the Law. We live in a day of grace now. Surely the Lord won’t be as severe with us when we disobey as He was with Saul.”
Here is God’s word on the matter under the New Covenant, a covenant of grace:
“[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:6-11).
Let me spell out the difference for you between Saul in the Old Testament and all believers under the New Covenant: Whenever a person truly has a desire to obey God’s commands—when that person loves and respects God’s Word—the Holy Ghost supplies him with all power and ability to fulfill those commands. That is the blessed provision of the New Covenant.