Saul knew exactly what he was doing, and he thought that it was good.
Saul looked at all of the good and beautiful things, all of the amazing livestock, all of the goods "without defect," and he knew, without a doubt in his heart, that these things would be an "aroma pleasing to the Lord." He knew this was exactly the kind of sacrifice that God had told His people to bring. And Saul knew that you didn't just have a sheep this good and not bring it as an offering before the Lord.
We know what Saul knew - which is that God had not asked him for these sacrifices. Rather, God had commanded him to destroy everything. But that doesn't mean that we should just write Saul off as disobedient and faithless. It was his faith that led him to do this disobedient thing.
It is our faith that often does the same.
Who among us hasn't wrestled with this at one time or another? Or a lot? We all have our understandings of what it means to worship, of what it takes to live faithfully, of what God desires of us. And sometimes, God tells us exactly what to do, but we let our understanding of faith and worship get in the way of just obeying what God tells us.
Think, for a minute, about being presented an opportunity. Maybe it's a job or a new house or a better car. You feel this sense of peace in your soul that God is absolutely saying "yes" to this opportunity, whatever it is. You can't get out of your head the goodness of moving forward. All signs point to "go," and you know God is telling you to do it.
But then your faith kicks in, and you realize that you haven't really prayed about it. You haven't studied your Bible. You haven't thought about this decision while you have worship music playing in the background. So instead of moving forward on every single sign God has given you that you should do so, you decide to "make this decision faithfully" first. You take time to pray. You read your Bible for a few days. You turn off the TV and turn up the radio. You surround yourself with everything that you know God desires of you on any given day...
...and you miss out. The opportunity passes. Someone else gets it. It's gone.
Now, it's not that praying, reading your Bible, or listening to worship music are unfaithful in and of themselves. In fact, we know that they are not. But in this case, all your effort to live "faithfully" has led you to do the unfaithful thing - you didn't simply listen to God.
This is Saul's "sin!" This is exactly what happened in Saul's life. He got so caught up in what he knew that God desired of him, got so tangled up in the motions and functions of worship and faith, that he didn't act when God told him to act. He didn't do the very simple thing that God very clearly told him to do.
He acted on his faith, and it made him unfaithful.
The strange thing is that when we do this in our own lives, everyone around us is screaming at us the same things we scream at Saul. You dolt! God has made it very clear what you're supposed to do; why don't you just do it? And the truth is that if we could see our situation from the outside looking in, we'd be screaming the same things at ourselves. God could not possibly be more clear about this! Why do you have to muck it up?
But living it, trying to do the faithful thing, having all of this baggage about how to live the faithful life and how we're supposed to operate and what God wants "most" from us leaves us tangled up in our own faith to the point that we often don't do the very simple things that God has made most clear. Because we're very busy doing the very structured things that are not circumstance-specific.
Trying to live by faith, we become unfaithful. And all of a sudden, we look at Saul and just go, "Whoa." It's that easy.