Sin makes a mess of our lives. Many times we are miserable about the consequences of our sinful choices: a broken relationship, financial cost, punishment for bad behavior, or the loss of respect. But sorrow over consequences isn’t necessarily godly sorrow.
Worldly sorrow may involve emotional distress, fear, anger, even self-abasement. But it’s goal in the removal of consequences. Just as it did with Saul in today’s reading, it can, actually, lead to disqualification instead of restoration.
Godly sorrow involves genuine repentance (brokenness over our sin against God) and leads to a changed life.
1 Samuel 14 & 15
Is It Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow?
1 Samuel 14 & 15:
Things are going downhill fast for Saul.
God had judged the Amalekites for years of sin and idolatry (1 Sam. 15.1-3). So Saul was commanded to utterly destroy them and their property.
God was, also, giving Saul another opportunity to demonstrate his obedience. Instead of taking God at His Word, Saul decided to do what seemed right to him.
7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed (1 Sam. 15.7-9).
After disobeying God’s direct command, notice how he greeted Samuel:
“Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD'” (1 Sam. 15.13).
Because he had obeyed part of what God said, he thought that was good enough! And notice, the first thing Saul did after his victory, was to set up a monument for himself.
So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal” (1 Sam. 15.12).
Proverbs tells us that every man will proclaim his own goodness:
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts (Prov. 21.2).
But the Lord weighs the hearts. God knows our motives and He knew Saul’s, too.
And when he was confronted by Samuel for his disobedience, he immediately began blameshifting! First he blamed the people (1 Sam 15.21), then he tried to say he took the forbidden spoil so he could sacrifice it to God (1 Sam 15.21). And when he realized Samuel wasn’t buying it, instead of repenting, he only wanted to save face with the people:
“Then he said, ‘I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God'” (1 Sam. 15.30).
Godly Sorrow or Worldly Sorrow?
Worldly sorrow is, merely, sorrow over the consequences of sin like a child who has been grounded for breaking curfew. He begs to be let out the consequences, swearing to never do it again. But he lacks any brokenness over sin or any change of heart.