To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice

What does the phrase “to obey is better than sacrifice” mean? In this writing, we’ll look at the context in which it was said in the Bible. And then we’ll see how it applies to us.

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” Samuel was so deeply moved when he heard this that he cried out to the Lord all night.  1 Samuel 15:10-11

King Saul had everything going for him. God had chosen him and Samuel confirmed his calling and then anointed him. Saul’s success was followed by victories over many armies.

God spoke to Saul through Samuel telling him he wanted Saul to destroy the entire Amalekite nation.

I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.” 1 Samuel 15:2-3

Saul did exactly what God told him to do, well, kind of. He was supposed to destroy everything and kill everyone.  But, he didn’t!

Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them.

God was not happy about Saul’s disobedience, to say the least. In our verse for today, it almost sounds like God made a mistake, but He didn’t. He was speaking in human terms.

It’s like when you know without a shadow of a doubt that your child is going to do something wrong. Then when they do it, your heart is still grieved.

Samuel Confronted Saul

God sent Samuel to Saul so he could confront him about his disobedient actions.

When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!” 1 Samuel 15:13

Samuel knew the truth. In fact, our verse for today says he was deeply moved when he heard what Saul did. Then Samuel asked him about the noise he could hear.

Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded. 1 Samuel 15:14

Saul pleaded his case insisting that he had done nothing wrong.

But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 1 Samuel 15:20-21

God expects us to Obey Him Before offering Him a Sacrifice

I believe Saul decided to put on a show in front of all the Israelites. He would build up his popularity in the name of making sacrifices to God. But Samuel put him in his place.

  • Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?
  • Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
  • Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
  • So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

It was at that point Saul admitted to Samuel that he had sinned.

“Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded. 1 Samuel 15:24

There is more to this story in 1 Samuel 15 which you will find interesting.

Saul first denied doing anything wrong, then he said the troops brought the animals to sacrifice them. Finally, he was afraid of being rejected by the people.

Learning from Saul’s Disobedience

Many times when people express remorse, it’s not because they did something wrong, but because they got caught. Also blaming someone else for our actions is not repentance.

Saul did both of those. And did you notice Samuel didn’t budge on either one of them? They were just smoke screens because neither one of them was Saul’s main issue.

After his battle with the Amalekites and before Samuel found him look what verse 12 says.

Saul went to the town of Carmel to set up a monument to himself. 1 Samuel 15:12

Because he was so focused on himself and his popularity, he didn’t even recognize God as “his God.” He referred to Him as the Lord “your God.”

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.”  1 Samuel 15:30

The root of Saul’s problem which brought him to a total collapse was pride. Many times it becomes a hindrance to us as well. Here are some of the thoughts God has on it.

The Lord detests the proud; they will surely be punished. Proverbs 16:5

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Obey and Sacrifice

Obey God by Offering Yourself as a Living Sacrifice

It is a humbling thing to live your life in obedience to God. Especially in the world, we’re living in today. It’s much easier to make sacrifices by giving something up.

The only sacrifice God wants any of us to make is written in Romans 12. You must obey God by offering yourself as a living sacrifice.

Lord, the day we become proud of our humility is the day we will no longer be humble. Help us never get to that place.

How are you living? Check out these related posts.

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