Obedience Trumps Offerings
(1 Samuel 14:46 – 15:3)
(1 Chronicles 5:10, 18-22)
Saul Tearing Samuel’s Robe
King Saul, though appointed by the Lord, suffered a never-ending spiral of sin throughout his kingship. His entire reign was marked by conflict and war. Each victory was followed by additional battles with no peace in sight.
Saul’s soul seemed to face a similar plight.
This valiant warrior attacked obvious assailants head-on, but he allowed smaller threats to creep in and destroy his own life and even the kingdom he was anointed to rule.
How might we permit similar destructive elements to enter our own lives? What seemingly small sins do we attempt to justify, even if we guard against more obvious ills?
Crying Out to God
Israel’s eastern tribes (Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh), led by Saul, went out against the Hagrites, or Ishmaelites (see 1 Chronicles 5:18-22). The Bible tells us that the Lord granted His people the victory, fighting for them, because they cried out to Him in the middle of the battle.
“They were given help against them,
and the Hagrites or Ishmaelites
were delivered into their hands,
and all who were allied with them,
for they cried to God in the battle;
and He granted their entreaty,
because they relied on,
and trusted in Him.”
May God grant us the presence of mind to call upon Him when we face conflicts, dangers and threats as well. Surely, if the Lord leads us in, then the battle belongs to Him. Will we not cry out to Him and trust Him for the outcome?
The Lord again spoke to Saul through the prophet Samuel, instructing the king to wage war against the Amalekites and utterly destroy them, along with all of their livestock and assets. Saul mustered the troops and led the attack. The Lord granted His people the victory.
However, Saul and his army spared the best of the Amalekites’ flocks and herds, as well as their King Agag.
Confronted by Samuel, Saul made excuses for his disobedience. He claimed the animals had been saved for holy purposes, so that they might be used as sacrificial offerings to the Lord. Perhaps Saul had intended this purpose for the battle booty. Possibly not.
Either way, God surely disapproved of his disobedience. The Lord would not accept a sacrifice that arose from sin.
How might we, as well, attempt to justify our own sin by offering the Lord ill-gotten gain?
If we cheat another, will we try to ease our own guilt by tossing the proceeds into the collection plate? If we pad an expense report or fudge on our tax returns, will we seek to placate our own convictions by donating the difference to charity or ministry? If we lie, gossip, curse or otherwise offend the Lord and others, will we also offer our words to Him in worship?
Do we truly believe God will accept this?
Samuel rebuked King Saul sharply. In his grief and guilt, Saul grabbed Samuel's robe, tearing it. Samuel prophesied that Saul's kingdom would be torn from his hands in similar manner.
“But Samuel replied,
‘What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to His voice?
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.’”
Saul’s disobedience disqualified him from his God-given position of leadership and his life calling. Samuel mourned the downfall of Saul, as the Lord promised to replace the king with another. The Lord Himself grieved over Saul.
What a cost.
Surely the Lord never changes. His standards waver not.
“He who is the Glory of Israel
does not lie or change His mind;
for He is not a man,
that He should change His mind."
Praise the Lord, who offers His unchanging love and mercy to us every day. His law never changes, and we all fall far short of His sinlessness. If we were measured by His standard, none would stand. If He stopped upholding His standard, His justice would not hold, for God held Saul and others to it.
Thanks be to God that we live under His grace, rather than simply His law. Without His mercy, we would be without hope.
May we seek to honor our great God and offer Him genuine sacrifices that cost us dearly, for He is dear. May He grow within us a greater desire to follow Him and obey His Word, for He is good.
Here’s “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice,” by Keith Green:
Will you pray with me?
Lord over all,
How we praise You
For Your great wisdom
And Your Word.
Build Your truth
Within our hearts,
That we may seek You first
And obey Your call.
Reveal to us
Any false offerings
We may attempt to present to You.
Give us wisdom
That we may never wink at sin,
And hold us back
From making excuses
For disobeying You.
Surely, loving You
And keeping Your Word
Is the highest praise
We can offer.