Last weekend our series on the Prophets brought me to 1 Samuel 15:3, where God commands Saul to wipe out the Amalekites: "Totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep."

Smart people avoid these passages—or assign them to the youth pastor. But I knew this passage was one that some college professors use to separate naïve students from their childhood faith.

So instead of avoiding it, I started on it six weeks early. I sent my extensive outline to several people:

An Old Testament prof at the local seminary.

A friend who'd written a doctoral dissertation on this passage.

A former senior pastor of the church, two staff members, and two elders.

Two other friends, both former pastors.

My request was simple: "Tell me what you think. Stop me from saying anything stupid. Let me know how it could be improved."

The professor sent me two unpublished articles on the text. The friend ...

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