OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE
The sovereign, infinite and eternal God has purposes that are often beyond our understanding, for His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). His commands and instructions are not without purpose, for His will is to spare us from unwanted consequences, as seen in King Saul’s willful disobedience.
God had commanded King Saul to kill Amalek, the grandson of Esau, who had sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for a pot of stew. The Amalekites, descendants of Amalek, had attacked Israel on its wilderness journeys from Egypt and then went on to inhabit the territory assigned to Israel, Judah, and the region east of the Jordan River that forms the main part of Jordan.
God had told King Saul through the prophet, Samuel, to kill and “utterly destroy” all of the Amalekites, their belongings and livestock and not spare “one” of them (vs.3). It was not Saul’s place to question God’s reasoning nor to rescind His command; he was to obey His instructions.
Saul disobeyed God and kept what appeared good and destroyed only those things he considered worthless. This greatly angered God, so He said to Samuel, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from Me and has not carried out My instruction” (I Samuel 15:11).
Samuel confronted Saul, “[God] sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (vs.16-19).
Saul refused to admit his flagrant disobedience, “But I did obey the LORD. I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back [King Agag]. The people took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal” (I Samuel 15: 20-21).
Saul tried to absolve himself of his disobedience by blaming the people. However, Samuel quickly answered: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice and to [listen] is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion (disobedience) is like the sin of [witchcraft] and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, He has rejected you as king” (I Samuel 15:22-23).
What things has God told us to destroy or to put away? Have we been offering sacrifices of time and works in place of obedience? God’s Word instructs us to destroy anything that is in opposition to His Word and will. If we justify and excuse our actions and hold on to sins, addictions, wrong habits, wrong thoughts, material things, or anything that keeps us from His presence, then those acts of rebellion and disobedience open a door for the enemy to attack and torment us. God wants obedience and not excuses.
God is quick to forgive when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent, and turn from repeating that sin. We are then able to receive God’s forgiveness. Sadly, Saul refused to acknowledge his sin. His disobedience would allow Esau’s descendants to become a great race, that to this day, seeks to destroy Israel and its people (I Samuel 15:2). Thus, God, in His righteous judgment, withdrew His Spirit and His mercy from Saul (I Samuel 16:14).
God will not always strive with those who willfully disobey Him and refuse to acknowledge their sin. If they are not submitted under God’s grace and authority, then they are under the authority of the evil one. Any attempt to deny, hide, or justify willful disobedience will one day bring that individual before the Lord, who will expose their deepest secrets and reveal their private motives (I Corinthians 4:5).
King Saul had served and loved God and had expelled mediums and spiritualists from the land. Yet he became a man who walked in rebellion and sought a soothsayer to find answers when God would not answer him. Eventually, Saul became so tormented that he took his own life. This was not God’s plan for Saul. How did he start so well and end so tragically?
Disobedience separates us from God’s plan and connects us to Satan’s evil agenda. Our decision to obey or disobey God will determine how we finish the race. Unlike Saul, we want to be able to say on that final day, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Pride, carnal desires, and rebellion will always rob us of God's best, as well as the joy that comes from doing His will. If we refuse to
surrender to the Lord, we forfeit the amazing potential that is within us. Jesus said that those who lose their life for His sake gain it, and those who hold on to their life will surely lose it (Luke 9:24).
We need to ask, “Am I resisting God’s will.” Let me assure you that true fulfillment never comes from charting a path that is separate from God’s will. We cannot allow fear of failure or the world's enticements to pull us away from God's purposes.
Do we have our hearts firmly fixed on Jesus Christ, or are we overwhelmed with trials, disappointments, and problems? Maybe we have become complacent and comfortable with life, relationships, families, jobs, and all the material things that provide pleasure and financial security? What if the things that give us pleasure, comfort, joy, and security were suddenly and unexpectedly gone, as they were with Job?
The Apostle Paul understood that his contentment, peace, and joy would never come from the world. It would arise out of those deep reserves of faith and love, solidly affixed to his abiding trust in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:12-13).
God says that He will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go; He will guide us with His eye (Psalm 32:8 NKJV). If any lacks wisdom, we can ask, and He gives generously to all without finding fault (James 1:5). Our part is to trust in the LORD with all our heat and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, we are to submit to Him, and He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). Most importantly, He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are unwavering, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Father, I confess that I have been running from Your will and living according to my own agenda. Forgive my rebellion. I ask for Your direction and counsel. I surrender my mind, will, emotions, and life to You. Lead me in paths of righteousness that I may become the person whom You created me to be, so I may fulfill Your calling and destiny for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.