Ahhh…. Rainbow 6 Vegas. The original. Yes… the sweet joy of getting together three of your closest friends, jumping online, and setting up a good ol’fashioned terrorist hunt. Never tried it? Choose a level, choose how many baddies you want to face down and how difficult they are, gear up and fritter the night away. The best part wasn’t the action though – the real fun kicked in once you were dead. See, we would choose about 30 hostile targets for our four hostility challenged characters to face, and as we would die off we would then get to watch the game through our still living partner’s eyes, criticizing their moves, laughing at their mistakes… Pure ENTERTAINMENT. The irony that they were clearly better than us because they are still alive and we were dead was completely lost on us as we would inevitably get down to one final member of our team against the remaining crowd.
|…that last one would always be the one that did him in|
Now here is where it gets really good – three of us are watching with omniscience as one of our partner’s attempted to finish the level for all of us. The pressure if you were the one left standing? INTENSE. Every move you made was analyzed, second-guessed, ridiculed… our back seat sniping was more dangerous than the terrorists! One of my friends (name withheld to protect the innocent) had a knack for getting down to ONE last terrorist, always one, and then when he least expected it BLAM!!! Game over for all of us. Time and time again he would be the last one standing; sometimes clearing 15-20 enemies thanklessly all by himself as we hooted and hollered in his earpiece, but that last one would always be the one that did him in. It became a running joke that never wore out; although I’m sure he was exhausted of it quite quickly.
That last, sneaky terrorist – all our hard work down the drain because we failed to finish off that final, dangerous foe. In our setting, we could laugh, reload the level, and try again without having lost anything more than a little bit of time. But there are times when failure to completely kill off something that you have been directed to eliminate have far more long-term and fatal consequences. In 1 Samuel 15 we find the story of Saul, the very first man in history God allowed to be named king over the nation of Israel. His assignment – the elimination of the Amalekite race, a nation of people that had been the original cause of problems for the Israeli people after the Egyptian liberation. But before we dive into Saul’s handling of this mission, let’s diverge on a brief tangent to why this entire group of people has been marked by God for annihilation.
|They were marked by God for extinction…|
We find our answer to this seemingly difficult question in Exodus 17, and consider the setting. The Israeli people are mere days removed from their escape from Egypt, starting fresh on their journey for which the book of Exodus is named. After 430 looooong years of slavery, they have just escaped and are heading out to a country to call their own. But before they can catch their breath and rest, this man Amalek and his army attacks them. The audacity of this warmonger, preying on a weak newborn nation who had just tasted freedom for the first time in almost half a millennia, is not lost on a protective Father, who not only sends Amalek off in defeat but vows to erase him and his people from the planet.
Let’s stop for a second – you may see this as a feeling you cannot relate to, such a violent response from a loving heavenly Father. Look at the birth of this nation similar to the way you would view a new infant child. Imagine that as soon as the child has been lowered into an exhausted mother’s arms, an army of masked men burst into the room wielding knives with the intention to end the innocent baby’s life before it has even adjusted to the new world surrounding it. Think Daddy is going to take that lightly? Ummmmm… not likely. Those men would be ripped limb from limb, and justifiably so. How evil must someone be to launch such an unprovoked attack against a helpless group of people? Amalek – that’s who. And God, in his infinite wisdom and patience, waits until He has a soldier worthy of commission for the task – the first king of the nation, Saul.
So back to Saul – the orders come down from command, and the rules of engagement could not be more clearly defined: Kill them ALL. Elimination of the entire population was the only way to make this right, and insure that this never happens again. The king heads out to war, and a glorious victory is the result. The Bible tells us that Saul and his army slaughtered the Amalekite army all the way to the edge of Egypt. But did he kill them all? Or did he leave one last terrorist behind? Let’s find out – Saul returns back to Israel, celebrating completion of a successful mission. When he approaches Samuel, the spiritual leader of the Israelis, he has a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him and is ready for recognition, and maybe even a medal! But all is not well.
|The results would haunt Saul for the remainder of his life|
See, Saul did not follow his directives, and had actually brought back all that was of value as plunder. And to add a cherry to this sundae, he brought back the enemy king ALIVE as a trophy. He completely disregarded the specific objectives that would define this as a successful military action, and the results would haunt Saul for the remainder of his life. See, disobedience to God when you are in a position of leadership and responsibility carries a HIGH penalty. In Saul’s case, Samuel flatly informs Saul that God’s disappointment in his disobedience was so great that his position as king would be taken and given to another. Saul’s pleas for forgiveness fall on deaf ears, and Samuel, the old prophet, does what the young Saul did not do – he finishes the mission. Samuel calls for the captured king, and utters a statement that deserves to be quoted because it is too good to be paraphrased, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And then he literally cuts him to bits.
The end of Saul is as tragic as a Shakespearean character – 1 Samuel 30 and 31 give us the final account of Saul. In chapter 30, we find the man chosen to replace Saul as king, David, engaged in a final one-on-one confrontation with – can you guess who??? AN AMALEKITE. At this point I am starting to think this where the Hydra came from. Kill one, and two more pop up. And as David is finishing the job that the incumbent king failed to, we zip to another battle scene, where Saul is in a final, ill-fated battle with his life-long nemesis the Philistines. A bleeding and dying Saul, mortally wounded from enemy archer fire, gazes out across a battlefield that has already claimed the lives of his three sons, and is now ending his as well. Choosing to end his life on his own terms, Saul falls on his sword, and you would think that would be the final epitaph for him. But there is post-script here that you cannot afford to miss…
The story of David in 2 Samuel 1 begins with his successful completion of a battle with those pesky Amalekites. No sooner has he finished that battle than word arrives of the death of Saul. A messenger arrives from the Philistine front lines with the news, but that is not all. He is carrying the king’s crown and bracelet, and gives a fictional account of slaying the fallen Saul, assuming this would grant him favor with the new king and perhaps a reward. David is not impressed. David’s question to the messenger, “Where are you from?” is met with a response that should send shivers up your spine, as the messenger simply replies “I am an Amalekite”.
|Do we make excuses for the existence of “Amalekites” in our lives?|
Well, of course he is. In a final tragic twist in the story, the very group Saul was given the mandate to destroy is there at his final breath, taking the very crown off of his head and looting his still warm corpse for valuables. And so it is to this day, that when we are given instructions by God to remove something, to eliminate something from our lives for our own good, we have a choice to make. Do we, like Saul, make excuses for the existence of “Amalekites” in our lives, in our thoughts, in our daily routines, or in our conversations? Have we purged ourselves “almost” all the way of something that we know is bad for us, but still allow a remnant to linger within us? If so, the message is clear – what we leave alive, even in the smallest form, will be what is eventually standing over us in victory, triumphantly ripping the crown from our heads and robbing us of what we cherished the most.
In the end, it was never an over-powered gang of terrorists with superior strategy that took us down in our Rainbow Six Vegas adventures… no, unfortunately it was always a seemingly less dangerous opponent that we had marginalized and considered too small to be a threat. And that one insignificant, non-descript enemy that didn’t even have a name besides “Terrorist #24” would be standing over us at the end of the level, shotgun in hand, ending our run. Much like Saul, who was not defeated in battle by a giant like Goliath, or even assassinated by his eventual successor David in a bloody revolt, his end was to fall in battle and be stripped of his very essence as king by the one failed to vanquish when he had the chance.
|There is nothing as dangerous as sin in our lives that we permit to exist because we believe we have it under control|
Let’s not make the same mistakes as Saul – God gives us clear guidance in our lives through faithful spiritual leaders, the Bible, and the gentle whispers of His Spirit to our conscience in an effort to keep us from making mistakes that may seem inconsequential today, but will haunt us down the road in ways we would have never have anticipated. There is nothing as dangerous as sin in our lives that we permit to exist because we believe we have it under control. Carrying the king of the Amalekites in chains, surely Saul felt he had his adversary under submission. He could not be farther from the truth. We cannot peacefully co-exist with the enemy, even if we think we are in control. When dealing with sin, no matter how small, the scorched earth policy applies. No terrorist left behind, no Amalekite spared – the path to victory is in our full and complete obedience. Anything less tends to be fatal.