Obedience Is better Than Sacrifice

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

 So 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, ……”1 Sam 15:22

Obedience is better than sacrifice.  If we had to pick one or the other, a little religious sacrifice is what many of us would try to substitute for genuine obedience to God.  Obedience is doing the will and seeking to please someone in authority over us.  Sacrifice is seeking to appease or cool off the anger of an authority we had disobeyed.  Obedience prevents the need of sacrifice.  Disobedience results in a need to sacrifice. Obedience brings blessings but disobedience results in a curse.  Under the OT Law, sacrifice was done to prevent or to remove the curse of sin.  It was a payment for having disobeyed.  These sacrifices were accepted by God but they were never what God wanted most.  Though God may accept a sincere sacrifice but He desires obedience even more. 

Obedience To The Faith In The Righteousness Of God

The mother of all obedience is the spiritual obedience of faith in the Righteousness of God that saves one’s soul from eternal death.  Obtaining the Righteousness of our Lord has nothing to do with our human sacrifice.  It is simply related to our obedience in the faith that Jesus’ righteous work that comprises His baptism, death and resurrection has removed the sins of the world. 

Our salvation depends on our obedience of faith in order to be born again and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the midst of a scathing indictment against King Saul’s presumption and arrogance, the Prophet Samuel utter these famous words, “to obey is better than sacrifice” 


Saul’s Great Heroic Idea

Saul had heard the Word of the Lord  but thought he had a better idea.  He was supposed to destroy the Amalekites completely, taking no plunder but instead he spared the best of the sheep and cattle,  “to  sacrifice  to  the  Lord.”   This might seem like a noble  gesture on Saul’s part, wanting to sacrifice to the Lord….so why does Samuel make such a big deal out of this?  Obedience is so much better than sacrifice.


Sacrifice Means Independence From God

Sacrifice in this sense is actually an attempt to gain independence from God.  If we sacrifice for God, then we have put God in our debt.  Sacrifice is the way of “buying” whatever we want to get from God,  (protection, deliverance, provision, favor)  while at the same time remaining independent from God.  We attain our goodies from God but we retain our right to do what we want.  This is the attitude of sacrifice that Saul personified.


Obedience Is Dependent Trust In God

Obedience, however, is a response of someone who is in a relationship of trust with God.  We trust God, we depend on Him, we are interactive with Him but God takes the lead.  Obedience is better than sacrifice because we are letting God be God and staying in our proper place with Him, the place of dependence and surrender to His goodness.  It is a theme repeated throughout the Scriptures.  Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:7-8. Mk 12:33; Lk 11:42


Why Is Obedience Better Than Sacrifice?

In Sam 15:20-24, Samuel’s response and Saul’s confession provides the answer.

  1. Disobedience is an act of rebellion and arrogance
  2. Disobedience is a sin of divination and idolatory
  3. Disobedience is sinful and a form of witchcraft
  4. Disobedience disrespects God’s Word
  5. Disobedience is based on looking good to other people rather than to God.

Taken together we see several reasons why obedience to God is better than sacrifice.  Still today in our human attempts to look good in serving God, there is a temptation to perform certain religious duties rather than to truly obey God.  As in Samuel 15, the problem is not the sacrifices but the disobedience of God’s command and the desire for approval of people rather than the approval of God.


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