Obedience over sacrifice.

June 4, 2014.

Tonight was the last night of the campaign (aka gospel meeting) that we had here in Nicaragua and it has been really good. There has been a story that has come up two nights in a row, so I thought I would talk about it tonight. It’s a good story that we can pull lessons from.

In the Old Testament, when the children of Israel basically told God they were going to have a king even though God said they shouldn’t because he was their king, God appointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Saul did well at first. He feared God and could even be described as humble. But, if you are familiar with Saul’s reign you know that didn’t last long. In the 15th chapter of II Samuel, we find a very interesting story. God has given a command to Saul about one of the enemies of the children of Israel.

And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
(1 Samuel 15:1-3)

This was Saul’s mission. It may sound harsh, but we must remember that God is the only being that could make that judgement. And that he did, telling Saul to destroy everything, man, woman and child, and take nothing as spoil. So Saul sets out to do this very thing, and he does most of it. He goes in starts to destroy everything. But then we read this:

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
(1 Samuel 15:9)

So the question at hand is, did Saul preform the command of The Lord? He thought he did, as when Samuel comes to him after the battle, Saul exclaims “I have preformed the command of The Lord!” He saw nothing wrong with what he did. God did. Listen to what God tells Samuel:

“The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night.”
(1 Samuel 15:10-11)

Samuel then confronts Saul about what he has done and Saul starts making excuses. First he says that he saved the best of the land so that he could sacrifice it to The Lord. What could be wrong with that? He’s worshiping! But this was not a valid excuse. Then he says, “well, the people made me do it.” We like to pass the blame just as much as Saul did. If we are in the wrong, its so much easier to blame someone else. But Saul had to take responsibility for his actions here. Samuel says something at the end of the story that I want to highlight.

“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. For rebellion is as the sin of divination,and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
(1 Samuel 15:22-23)

To obey is better than sacrifice. I don’t know if I can really relate the significance of this verse to an American culture. Think of sacrificing as worshiping The Lord. So often it is said that was long as we are worshiping The Lord then we can’t go wrong. I don’t think Samuel would agree with that statement. To obey is better than to sacrifice. This is a message that his heard throughout the bible. Worship is important, but obedience is more important. Knowing the word and doing what it says is more important. Listen to what He says through Hosea:

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
(Hosea 6:6)

Knowing what the bible says is important. Knowing the will of God is important. I don’t believe that he has left important things ambiguous. I believe that our theology today has obscured the clear picture that the bible paints. Hopefully we can all start to see though our theology and get back to the inspired word as our basis. The bible, the word of God, is what we should live by. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. May we all rely on His word.

Suggested Daily Reading: I Samuel 8, 15, Hosea 6, Matthew 12.

Grace and peace.

-Walter

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