“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience is greater than sacrifice.
Let that sink in for a second. How many times do I get busy spinning my wheels trying to DO for the Lord instead of do WITH the Lord? How much less stressful would my life be if I just concentrated on obeying instead of sacrificing?
Let me back up and put this verse in context for a second. King Saul had been in charge for a little bit, but didn’t FULLY obey what God commanded him to do. He was commanded to destroy everything in a battle but instead he left things behind AND - get this - took some stuff for himself.
When Samuel called him out on it, he said it was so that he could sacrifice it to God. Uh huh, yeah right. It got to a point where the Lord said "I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." 1 Samuel 15:11
Can you imagine God saying that about you? "I regret that I gave Becky that ministry opportunity." or "I regret that I gave Becky this career position."
Of course, God knew this would happen, right? He knew that Saul would turn away from Him, that He would regret making Him King but He allowed him to be anyway. So let's learn some lessons from his mistakes, shall we?
Back to Samuel's conversation with Saul : "to obey is better than sacrifice."
Think about what it would look like if our kids spent a gosh darn lot of time serving us but never obeyed? What if they rationalized and argued every time we asked them to do something? It actually does sound a lot like our life right now!
But, wouldn’t that be incredibly frustrating? Wouldn’t you - as a parent - want obedience rather than their supposed 'sacrifice'?
Obedience is a behavior that is indicative of where our hearts are at - whether it’s a child/parent relationship or us and the Lord. When we are obedient, we are essentially saying, “I trust that YOU know what is better.” It is acknowledging respect and authority. There is freedom in obedience.
When we sacrifice, often t’s about US and not about God. It can be “look at me” or “God, look what I did for you” just like Saul said. There can come feelings of "I did something to deserve love or grace" when actuality NO sacrifice will EVER be good enough for our eternal life or to deserve God's love. Because God requires perfection, right?
It is important to be willing to sacrifice for the Lord. But when that is valued over obedience, we get ourselves into trouble. Sacrifice is easier for me than obedience, because obedience requires a submission of the heart. Sacrifice requires an action that doesn't necessarily come from the heart.
Do you see the difference?
Sacrifice out of obedience is what He wants. Sacrifice for entitlement or our own glory is not what God desires for Himself nor what He desires for us.
When our hearts are hard, calloused and selfish He doesn't want our sacrifice, because He certainly doesn't need it. But when our hearts are soft and malleable, our sacrifice comes to Him out of genuine honor and love.
Let’s be honest and acknowledge that sometimes, just like in Saul's case, sacrifice is the easy way out while obedience requires more of us. But I don’t want to take the easy way out. I want to choose the best way over and over again.
What is God asking of YOU today? What small, obedient step is He asking you to take today? Could He be trying to soften your heart, turn you in a new direction or simply get you to put one foot in front of the other in your pursuit of Him?
I pray that we all make the hard choice today. That we would recognize the value in obedience over sacrifice and that we would let His Spirit flood our lives today.