God’s way or the High way

Obedience vs. Sacrifice

Preface: Don’t bother reading this if you don’t want to live your life aligned with God’s Word.

Allow me a moment to briefly recount to you the story from 1 Samuel 15. Saul (fairly new at the position of king) was told by the prophet Samuel to go destroy the Amalekites along with all their livestock. Samuel was pretty clear on the fact that every single person of the Amalekites was to be killed and not to be spared. Likewise, he was pretty clear about killing oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys. Fast forward a few verses and you see Saul and his troops killing people, but they spared Agag (the Amalekite king) and some of the best sheep, cattle, etc., because “they were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.” Samuel finds out about this because the LORD tells him that Saul hasn’t followed His instructions.

When Samuel goes to Saul, Saul greets him with, “I have carried out the LORD’s instruction.” Samual is pretty quick to catch him out and ask about all the noises from the livestock that Saul had been instructed to destroy. Saul is quick to say that these had been set aside for a sacrifice to God. When Samuel repeats what Saul was told to do, Saul defends himself, saying that he did obey and that it was the troops who took the livestock…for sacrifice, of course. Here is Samual’s response:

“Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.” 

Finally, Saul admits to transgressing the LORD’s command and he says, “Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them.” And while Saul repents, he still must bear the consequences of his sin.

What a story for us to learn from! In this day and age (as through the rest of the world’s history), it is too easy for us to decide what is right and to push aside God’s Word. His direct, clear, straight forward Word, mind you. Ask yourself honestly how many times someone said or did something because they felt it was the right thing to do, albeit not exactly lined up with Scripture? Look back at 1 Samuel 15:9: “…They were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.” Now take a look back at the instructions given to Saul (the LORD’s instructions, take note) in verse 3, “Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, infants and nursing babies, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.” We have a pretty clear case of the people’s opinion taking precedence over God’s direct command. Again, this command is very clear. There was no hemming and hawing about whether or not God meant this or meant that. They just weren’t willing to follow it because they wanted to keep the livestock that looked good to them.

Now, ask yourself about when you might have seen a similar situation in your own life, in your church, or in our society at large? I’ll delve right in. I see this very clearly when it comes to women’s roles in the church. Whenever the question comes up about women pastors, or even to women taking some sort of leadership over men in the church body, people quickly come up with all sorts of arguments and justifications as to why it should be okay for a woman to exercise authority over men. However, the crux of the matter is that the Apostle Paul is very clear in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet.” I am not going to go into any sort of exposition on this because, frankly, it’s right there in black and white. If you want to bring up the “cultural appropriateness” point and the “yes, but these days…” point, then just look at the context because Paul uses a situation from multiple hundreds of years before him as his rationale. 

However, the point I’m trying to make (and to be very clear about) is this: When we have something in Scripture that is fairly straight forward, we very easily find that we aren’t willing to follow it because (be honest here) we don’t like it. If we’re really, really honest, and look down deep at all our arguments, we are just arguing because we want Scripture to align with our opinion. We want the Bible to say what we want. In case you haven’t deduced it already, this is problematic for someone who says they follow Christ.

Let’s take a look back at the latter part 1 Samuel 15. After Samuel finally exposes the baldness of Saul’s disobedience and lies to cover the disobedience, Samuel says that obedience is better than sacrifice. In other words, following God’s Word obediently is far better than us justifying disobedience because “we thought He would like it.” There is nothing that can justify disobeying God’s Word. Nothing. Charles Spurgeon puts it this way, “Our duty is not to judge whether such and such a course will be profitable or beneficial but to consider whether such and such a course is in accordance with the word of the Lord.”

Now take note of when Saul finally repents. He says, “Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them.” May God forgive us for so easily caving into social and cultural pressures that are contrary to His Word! I will readily admit that there are times I have chosen a course of action that was not God-honoring because of the fear of people. Examine your own life. When have you done something that was contrary to what you’ve seen in God’s Word because worrying what others might think? May God forgive us for not fearing Him above all else!

And that is the wonderful thing: when we repent, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Let us strive to live lives that align with God’s Word and to throw off the fear of the culture and people. Let us encourage each other to greater faithfulness to God and His Word. May we seek to honor God in all that we do and to live our lives in obedience out of gratitude for how He has saved us.

All Biblical quotes were taken from the Christian Standard Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2017.

Written by: Jennifer Jolly/Ladies Edition


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s