Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice
1 Samuel 15 is one of those very sad chapters in the Bible.
- God had chosen Saul to be king of Israel.
- God gives him an important assignment, clearly laying out the details.
- Saul fails miserably, disobeying the clear command, grieving both God and Samuel.
- God sends Samuel to tell Saul he has been rejected by God as king and will be replaced by someone “better than you.”
- Saul tries to defend his actions, but eventually admits his sin, though his heart is still in the wrong place.
This was a test from God. Saul was going to come face-to-face with his own diseased heart. How would he respond? Sadly, rather than repenting of his sin, he stopped short by only admitting he had sinned. By performing outward actions of worship – actions that God Himself had prescribed, the offering of sacrifices – he was hoping to atone for disobedience of a clear command. His desire to be esteemed in the sight of Israel exceeded his desire to be esteemed in the eyes of God. Though he eventually admitted he had sinned, he never repented as demonstrated by his response in verse 30:
“Then Saul pleaded again, “I know I have sinned. But please, at least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship the Lord your God.”
Nothing can replace obedience to God. Obedience IS the sacrifice He accepts and He does not accept anything less than whole-hearted obedience.
It is also telling that Saul refers to God as “your” God when he asks Samuel to return with him to worship. Did Saul ever really know God himself? John the Baptist stated in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” Saul never let God increase. He never let Him fully occupy his heart. He esteemed himself above God, so God rejected him as king.
God calls each of us, the great and the small, to obedience. He is not concerned about our station in life. He is concerned about our obedience to Him within that station He has placed us. Obedience to God = greatness in His eyes. If we do not carry out His commands the way He has directed, we risk rejection and replacement. God does have a plan. He has offered us a place in that plan which gives us the opportunity to allow Him to increase His presence and character in our lives if follow it as He has directed.
We are in a time of testing. God is giving us many opportunities to increase His presence and power in our lives as we obey the voice of the Spirit to love and lead others to the Savior. If I choose to disobey, then He will find someone else and I will miss out on the increase. How quickly would our current crisis change if each of us completely obeyed what God was asking us to do every day? How much of the Kingdom of God would be ushered into our communities bringing righteousness, peace, and joy? We’d have another crisis! A crisis of goodness!
I think Saul could have had a very different ending to his life had he at that instant, when he was confronted with his disobedience, genuinely repented and given his heart fully to God. We know this to be true because David was no angel! But he was very good at demonstrating a broken and contrite spirit. And God highly esteemed him.