2013-04: To Obey is Better than Sacrifice
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“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice; to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam 15:22

These words gripped me during my prayer time one morning. They were spoken to King Saul by the prophet Samuel. Saul and his army had just routed a group of enemies and, contrary to instructions the Lord had given him, he decided to keep some of the plunder. His justification, when confronted, was in effect, “...but I kept them to sacrifice to God. As we read further, we find Saul had a few ‘good excuses’ to justify his disobedience. He gave spiritual excuses; he used self-justification; he attempted to shift blame - none of which convinced either the prophet, nor the Lord.

In his response, Samuel was not saying that making sacrifices wasn’t important. His point was that sacrifice is only acceptable when given with a heart of obedience and true devotion to the Lord.

This is challenging. How often do I do something that looks and sounds right, could even be biblically justified, but which is not the command or instruction God has given me in that specific area? The truth is, no one may ever really know. But the Lord knows.

When I allow fear to keep me from going all the way in a direction God leads me, than that is disobedience. When the Lord prompts my heart to give up something for a time in order to spend more time with Him, yet I justify continuing with that activity using false spiritual reasoning, then I’m only deceiving myself. When I undertake a ‘spiritual activity’ but only so as to keep up appearances and preserve my reputation, although I might deceive others, God knows where my true focus is. When He has entrusted me with the responsibility for a particular task or person and I carry it out half-heartedly, that is disobedience.

David gave his son, Solomon, some astute advice:

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chron 28:9)

As the prophet said to Saul, partial obedience is still disobedience, whether it comes from a good intention or with a great justification or not. (v15)

This is confronting. And if I left it here, it would easy for us to come under condemnation. The truth is that we all face such temptations and it is very easy for us to fall under these deceptions. However, as we keep ourselves in humble proximity to God, we find that when tempted to disobey, we are met by His grace: His grace to face us with truth; His grace leading us to repentance; His grace extending restoration; His grace enabling us to then obey.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Ps 51:17 

Praise the Lord for His eternal, loving grace!

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