Wednesday, June 1, 2011

obedience over sacrifice

And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams."
1 Samuel 15:22

Saul learned the bitter lessons of incomplete obedience. He chose to listen to the voice of the nation, rather than the command of God. The result was that he did not follow the explicit instructions of God to him regarding eradicating the Amalekite oppressors. Saul saw in the flocks and herds fine animals. He took Agag, their king, prisoner as a token of war. All in all, he deliberately chose to disobey God, and he knew it.

When Samuel came to confront him for his disobedience, Saul tried to put a "righteous" spin on his sinful actions. He modified his sin to make it sound holy. The flocks were taken for sacrifice to God. Agag was brought back (though Saul fails to state any kind of reason for this). In Saul's twisted version of it, he has fulfilled the mission God gave him (1 Samuel 15:20). It is only after Samuel confronts Saul that he admits his transgression (1 Samuel 15:24), ascribing it to his fear of the people who wanted to take the spoils of war.

It is in this context that Samuel reminds Saul of the greater form of devotion to God. He knew that the sacrifices were a symbol of something greater. What God wanted was obedience and devotion to Him. Saul had agreed to do this by assenting to God's call for him to destroy Amalek. By disobeying God's command, Saul showed utter disregard for the person of God. Trying to make amends by sacrifice of what God wanted destroyed would not do. It was obedience that God rejoiced in. Saul never quite got this. And the pathetic pleading that he does (1 Samuel 15:30) only makes the story harder to take. It is clear that even after "repenting", Saul was only concerned about saving face.

I take from this the overarching principle of obedience. Clear... first time... complete... those are the words that describe obedient faith. If I modify a biblical conviction or truth, or if I find myself excusing myself from a biblical command or principle, I have a heart like Saul's. Obedience is what God delights in with His children. And it is what should mark my commitment to Him.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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