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To Obey is Better than Sacrifice

August 31, 2015


Obedience is hard… I’m a headstrong type-A personality, and I really don’t like being told what to do. Just ask my mom! My kids are the same way, and she just laughs at me… The sad part is that I find myself doing the same thing with God. God tells me to do something, and I rationalize my way out of completing it His way. The Word clearly states how I am to go about my daily life, and I either pick and choose what I want to do and don’t want to do, or I read myself so far into the text that it becomes easy to justify my actions. The problem here is that God’s commands didn’t change, and neither did His character. He expects holiness, submission, and obedience from me in return for His love, mercy, provision, and gift of salvation through Christ.

I am reminded of the story in 1 Samuel where Saul is instructed by the Lord to go and destroy the Amalekites and everything that belonged to them. Saul did indeed attack them, but took their king captive and spared all the “good stuff” from being destroyed as God said. In other words, rather than obeying God completely, he chose to do his own thing and justify it later. Take a look at the conversation between Saul and Samuel:

1 Samuel 15:13-20 – 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” 14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” 16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers 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.”

Notice how Saul tried to rationalize keeping the animals? To me, that sounds just like my children trying to rationalize why they either did I told them not to, or didn’t do something I told them to do. Much in the same way, I constantly hear folks trying to rationalize all kinds of things rather than actually following God’s commands to their actual conclusion. There’s always a reason why they didn’t, and yet they wonder why God didn’t bless them… Take a look at what Samuel says to Saul after he rationalizes his actions:

1 Samuel 15:22-26 – 22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LordTo obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lordhe has rejected you as king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

Ouch… Saul’s refusal to obey cost him the throne of Israel… Now, I am not the king of any nation, nor am I royalty of any earthly type. I’m just a guy who has the honor of leading people in worship out in the beautiful small town of Tonganoxie, KS. BUT… that doesn’t make me any less susceptible to the sin (yes, SIN) of rationalization rather than complete submission and obedience to the Lord. How so you might ask? Simply put, there are times when my humanity sneaks out and ruins my reality.

So many of us fall prey to this on a regular basis. Something doesn’t go our way, so rather than loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22), we choose to gossip and backbite. One of our pastors doesn’t do something the way we think it ought to be done, or they change something that’s been a certain way for as long as we can remember. Even if it may be the best thing in the long run, it raises our ire and causes us to look to our own interests rather than to the interests of others (Philippians 2). Instead of laying ourselves on the altar as a living sacrifice (Romans 12), we choose to crawl off the altar and spread vitriol rather than Christ’s love. Why? Lack of obedience to God’s Word.

So, how do we apply this. In a word, OBEY!

Frustrated with a friend, a coworker, your boss, or your spouse? Pray for them. Encourage them. Be a positive influence in their lives as much and as often as you can. Do everything you can to point them to Jesus by representing Him with your obedience to Scripture. Don’t agree with a decision your pastor has made? Don’t like the music picked by your worship leader? Don’t understand what direction the church leaders are taking things? Give them the benefit of the doubt. Honor them as your spiritual leaders. Pray for them. Encourage them publicly.  Believe they have your best interests at heart, and talk about it with them privately so hearts can be shared and understanding can be generated.

Obedience is greater than sacrifice. Follow His lead and see if He won’t bless you more than you’ve ever been before!


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