Read the story of the Lord’s rejection of Saul as king of Israel in 1 Samuel 15. God gave a very specific set of instructions, which Saul listened to, then went ahead and did his own thing. (Sound familiar?) The prophet Samuel was sent by God to confront Saul.
Saul told Samuel, “I obeyed the Lord.” Then he backtracked a little, “Well, I didn’t exactly destroy everything because I saved the best—for God!” When that didn’t suffice, Saul had another excuse, “It really wasn’t my fault—I have to answer to my people, you know, and they would not have liked it if I had destroyed all this valuable property.”
And in the end, with remorse but without repentance, Saul lost his kingdom and his mind.
Listen to the Lord and hear his command clearly—“totally exterminate the Amalekites.” God’s command was clear. Even in the brutality of this commanded action, there is a lesson here for us. The Amelikites are like our own nature, and God calls us to utterly destroy it on the cross—and this isn’t just a one-time thing, but a daily death.
Maturation in Christ is a process, a daily crucifying of our old nature on the cross so that the new will have a chance to live. Our tendency is to think that some things in our old nature are good, that there are some things that we should hold on to in the same way that King Saul decided to not to kill King Agag and the best of the livestock. If you are naturally kind, why should your natural kindness be put to death with the rest of your old nature? Because if you don’t, your natural kindness will block the Holy Spirit when he wants you to be stern. And you will be kind when you shouldn’t be kind, and your kindness will be flesh kindness—not Holy Spirit-filled kindness.
So the same command is for us—we have our own Amelikites to kill, and when we spare a part of our old selves and don’t bring it to death, we are in trouble.