Obedience and Sacrifice

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22

    God's instructions to King Saul were dear enough. Slay the Amalekites and destroy all their possessions. All of them. Don't take any spoil. But Saul spared King Agag and the choicest of the sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs.

    When Samuel met Saul in the morning at Gilgal, Saul confidently announced that he had done exactly what the Lord commanded. But at that very moment, a barnyard choir began its oratorio-sheep bleating and oxen lowing. Very embarrassing!

    Samuel wanted to know, of course, how the sheep were bleating if Saul had killed them all. The King then tried to cover his disobedience by blaming the people and by excusing them on religious grounds. He said, "The people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord."

    It was then he heard God's prophet thunder out the convicting words, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witch-craft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."

    Obedience is more important than rituals, sacrifices and offerings. I heard once of a family who treated their mother with cool contempt and disobedience during her lifetime. But when she died, they dressed her corpse in a Dior original. A despicable and futile attempt to atone for years of rebellion and discourtesy!

    We often hear people defending an unscriptural position or unscriptural associations on the ground that they can have a wider influence in this way. But God is not deceived by such specious rationalizations. He wants our obedience - He will take care of our sphere of influence. The truth is that when we are disobedient, our influence is negative. Only when we are walking in fellowship with the Lord can we exert a godly influence on others.

    William Gurnall said, "Sacrifice without obedience is sacrilege." And it becomes even worse when we cloke our disobedience with some pious, religious excuse. God is not hoodwinked.