But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
Samuel told King Saul that God said to attack the Amalekites and completely annihilate them including the women, children, and animals. The battle was waged and the Israelites attacked the Amalekites, just as God had commanded. Unfortunately, they also kept the King of the Amalekites and the best of the animals.
As a result, God sent Samuel to deliver the message to Saul that since he had not obeyed, God was removing him from the throne. When Samuel calls Saul on the carpet about not destroying everything, Saul claims he saved the best animals to sacrifice to God. So first he partially obeyed, which is basically saying “I will follow Your instructions, but only the part I want to.”
It is the same as the temptation of Eve. God said don’t eat this, she said, “but I want to.” God removed her from the garden just the same as He removed Saul from the throne. When Samuel pushed him, he blamed it on the soldiers, just like Eve blamed the serpent. Saul tells Samuel “the men” wanted the sheep and cattle and he was afraid of them and so he allowed them to keep what they wanted. Shouldn’t he have feared (respected) God more? The text does not say; however, there is nothing in the story previous to this event that even suggested the army would not obey his orders.
Saul’s last plea to Samuel is to “honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel…” God forbid that he should lose face with the people. He should have been more worried about losing face with God, but his image had become more important than doing what God said. That story still happens over and over with the men and women of God.
This is a scripture that repeats quite frequently in my brain, without my complete understanding, but, at the proper time, the Lord reveals what He wants you to know. I was returning from a trash run (God’s everywhere with me) and this verse came up, although I confess the context is lost to me at the moment, so I began to think of the Biblical context in the story itself and, out of the blue, it hit me!
God gave Saul one job to do, yet Saul failed to complete the mission to the degree the Lord required; he disobeyed. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
When God made His displeasure with Saul known, Saul tried to back-pedal, but that did not work, he made an offering of a sacrifice, probably using the same animals he took from the Amalekites, but, just like with Cain, the Lord was not pleased with Saul’s attempt to placate Him. Cain was rejected for disobedience, as was Saul.
If the Lord asks me to do something – witness to someone, give encouragement, or a word of knowledge – and I fail, on Sunday as I lift my hands and sing to Him in praise, He is not pleased with me. The sacrifice of praise is not better than being obedient in what He commanded me. Do I feel His displeasure? Perhaps, but I don’t connect the dots. I suspect it will manifest in a feeling of disconnection to God’s Presence. I probably will know next time, however.
He tries His best to get me to understand something He wants me to get hold of so there are usually repeated reminders until I either quench the Spirit so that I no longer hear Him, or until I finally understand the lesson.
So today I was frantically searching for something I have put away and cannot find. I was upset that I cannot remember where I put it, nor can I can visualize the location of it, which I usually can. I can remember nothing but where it was before I moved it. My pain level was already up and the more I searched, the worse it became. As a consequence, the Lord had been telling me, more than once, to stop looking. As I was busy pulling everything out of a closet, I heard Him say, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” He was telling me over and over to stop looking but once I get it in my mind, I will continue to look indefinitely and He knows this about me. But, this time when I heard Him, I acquiesced right away and sat down to write this to you, so you might benefit as well.
The Bible says that God does not change, so if He was displeased with Saul for disobedience, He must feel the same about me. I do not expect to be cut off, but the Word is clear that I must reap the fruit (on non-fruit) of my actions.
Obedience is better than sacrifice. Do what God says, and if you don’t, don’t expect Him to be pleased with an excuse or a last minute offering.