Saul – A Case Study in False Repentance
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[September 27, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
As anyone familiar with the mentality and tactics of the abuser knows, false repentance is a common ploy of such people. They can be very convincing. They have changed. What they did was wrong, but they are finished with it forever. If their victim will only forgive them, all will be well. So it is vital that all of us — victims, Christians, pastors, counselors — become wise and discerning rather than naive and foolishly trusting.
King Saul was an abusive man. I think that is safe to say. Anyone so jealous that he would launch a spear at one of their most loyal subjects certainly qualifies for the abuser label. And Saul played the “repentance” card very well. It didn’t work, of course, because he was trying to deceive the Lord Himself by deceiving the prophet Samuel. Trying to fool God is never a really good idea! Here is the account of just one of Saul’s attempts at convincing everyone he was really, really sorry. For the full account, read the entire 15th chapter of 1 Samuel. Also, you will find another very similar event in 1 Samuel 13.
(1 Samuel 15:7-9 ESV) (7) And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. (8) And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. (9) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
(1 Samuel 15:13-15 ESV) (13) And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” (14) And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” (15) Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”
(1 Samuel 15:19-25 ESVUK) (19) “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” (20) And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. (21) But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” (22) And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. (23) For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” (24) Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. (25) Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the LORD.”
(1 Samuel 15:30 ESV) Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”
“I have sinned.” I find it very instructive that King David used the very same words when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12). In David’s case, these words flowed from a truly repentant heart. But this shows us that words alone are not enough. Saul whipped off the same phrase — “I have sinned.”
How can we discern the difference between true and false repentance? While ultimately, only God can know the human heart, He has given us some very good traits to watch for when evaluating a professed repentance. What do we see in Saul in these verses?
- Saul’s ACTIONS revealed the counterfeit nature of his “obedience”, not his words. Saul claimed he had obeyed the Lord’s command. By his actions, he showed that he had no intention of doing so. We need to look at the hard data. What does it show? By their fruits you will know them, not by their words.
- Saul’s supposed “obedience” to the Lord was entirely motivated by indulging his own selfish desires. He kept the best of the spoil for himself. He destroyed what was worthless. Self, self, self. It will always be evident in spite of the abuser’s emotional and pitiful expressions of supposed repentance.
- “Blessed be the Lord” were his words to Samuel. Pathetic! The abusive person who is using religion as his façade loves to use “Christian-ese” talk. “Praise the Lord!” “May the Lord bless you!” “Amen!” It is nauseating. Saul had no intention of blessing the Lord.
- Saul had no problem re-writing the facts of the case. No matter that the evidence was “bleating” noisily. Oh, no. Saul insisted that he had done God’s will. Abusers, especially sociopaths, do this all the time. Black and white, objective facts are no problem to them. We can be hearing and seeing plain and obvious evidence to the contrary of what the abuser is claiming, but he will still insist that we believe his interpretation and NOT believe our own senses. This is part of the crazy-making tactic. Of course, Samuel didn’t go crazy!
- Saul is a liar. He claims that the only reason they spared the best of the spoil was to sacrifice it to the Lord. Hogwash! Once more we see the abuser hiding behind religion. Without conscience, such a person can lie to the Lord Himself.
(20) And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. (21) But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”
- Once more, Saul is lying. No amount of facts are going to make him tell the truth. He is working hard to make Samuel think that Samuel is the one who is wrong here. Saul is playing the victim — “Samuel, you are falsely accusing me!” And notice now the blame-shifting. It’s the people’s fault. They did it. All of these tactics betray the truth – Saul is in NO WAY repentant. He will once again blame the people — he did this all because he was afraid of the people. Poor Saul.
And now the really obvious and common evidence of false repentance —
(1 Samuel 15:25 ESVUK) (25) Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the LORD.”
(1 Samuel 15:30 ESV) (30) Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”
See it? Coupled with his supposed confession of his sin, Saul insists that Samuel get him out of the consequences. Saul is only concerned about Saul! “….yet honor me now before the elders of my people….” Real repentance never uses this kind of language.
Notice also how Samuel deals with Saul. He is firm. He doesn’t buy any of Saul’s claims of sorrow or repentance. He looks to Saul’s actions, not to his words. He demands what the Lord demands – real obedience to God’s commandments. Where that is lacking, there is no repentance.
When an abuser claims he is sorry, you will often hear these kinds of additions to his “repentance” —
- “I’m sorry. I was wrong, but….”
- “I’m sorry. Now you must forgive me.”
- “I’m sorry. I am really changing.”
- “I’m sorry. I am really changing, and it is very cruel of you not to admit it.”
- “I’m sorry. But you are making me out to be worse than I really am.”
- “I’m sorry. But you really don’t understand why I did it.”
Real repentance shuts its mouth. Real repentance has nothing more to say in addition to “I have sinned.” Real repentance makes no demands. Real repentance accepts the consequences. Real repentance is only evident over time. Words are cheap and easy. Tears can be turned on quite readily. Gifts are not that hard to purchase as peace offerings. We must insist that abusers bring forth fruit in keeping with their claimed repentance. Until they do, we best assume that they remain a brood of vipers. John the Baptist would say “Amen” to that.
[September 27, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 27, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]