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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice


The Old Testament is brimming with fantastic stories that help us glean insights into God’s character.  One such account I would like to highlight today involves King Saul.  As we know he didn’t turn out to be the best of Kings and was eventually replaced by David.  But why?  How does one go from being God’s anointed to being completely rejected?  Obviously, we are under the new covenant today but I think analyzing Saul’s past actions as king will help us draw relevant observations that can help us in our efforts to be faithful children in this modern time.

Sadly, the children of Israel wanted a king so they could be more like the other nations around them.  This went against God’s better judgment and warnings.  God selected Saul to be their first King and, as we can read, things went downhill pretty fast for Saul once he came to power.  The condensed version of Saul’s reign is that he did a lot of things of his own will rather than consulting God and staying within His authority (ignoring Samuel).  The chapter that really summarizes my impression of Saul is 1 Samuel 15 where he is completely rejected by God after he disobeys Samuel’s message from God to utterly destroy the Amalekites.  As you can read in the first few verses in chapter 15, the command is very clear and there should have been no question as to what actions were to be taken – do not spare them, but kill man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.  Unfortunately, Saul decided to only destroy what was deemed “despised and worthless” and then spared Agag and the best sheep, oxen, calves, lambs and all that was good.  This went in complete contradiction to what God had commanded.

Shortly thereafter, God informed Samuel of Saul’s disobedience and he went to confront Saul.  Immediately, Saul reported to Samuel that he had completed the commandment of the Lord (sounds like a lie to me).  Samuel asked him why he heard all of the livestock crying out.  Saul told Samuel that “they” decided to keep the best sheep and oxen to sacrifice to God and destroy the rest (appears to have blamed the children of Israel for his lack of leadership and obedience).  Samuel goes on to tell Saul that it is better to obey than to sacrifice.  This is the point I would like to focus on for the remainder of the article.

So, with the principle that “it is better to obey than to sacrifice” how should we be approaching our Christian journey (1 Samuel 15:22-23)?  I think the answer is one day at a time.  After all, obeying the gospel is not a single point in time but rather a lifelong struggle of submitting our will to Christ.  As much as we try we will never reach the point of perfection such that we don’t need Christ’s mercy and forgiveness (Romans 3:23-24).  Regardless of our role in life most of us stay very busy and are faced with daily distractions.  For example, I recently started a new job and spend a lot more time adapting, learning and working than my previous job.  It would be easy for me to only focus on my new job and helping my family adjust to the Austin area.  After all, sometimes you just have to put some activities on the back burner and many times that means our spiritual lives are going to suffer. 

Whatever the obstacle, how do we remain individually focused and committed to Christ?  I believe most of us theoretically understand that we should be living Christian lives every day and not just Sunday and Wednesday evening.  Unfortunately, our practice often indicates that our actions throughout the week are more self-centered than Christ-centered.  I don’t believe this type of lifestyle is conducive to Christianity and will ultimately be rejected by God (1 John 1:6-7).  As Saul attempted to justify his actions so do we when we are only part-time Christians.  I’ll admit at times I have approached my life in Christ in this half-hearted fashion throughout the years and my enthusiasm wanes at times.  I do draw strength and encouragement from meeting with the brethren but I’m afraid it takes so much more to not be drawn into this world of sin. In this present time of convenience with a multitude of choices it’s so easy to fall away.  Ultimately, I think we need to form close friendships with fellow Christians so we can encourage and hold each other accountable (Matthew 12:46-50, Hebrews 10:25).  Paul is an excellent contrast to Saul and ironically was “Saul” before he was Paul.  He was well established in Judaism but was completely attempting to thwart God before the road to Damascus.  We can easily see how Paul transformed from self-willed to Christ-willed in the New Testament, unlike King Saul (Acts 9).  Also, Paul formed some really close relationships while preaching throughout the region (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4).  We should really be concerned that our commitment to Christ is weak if we are completely unaware of our fellow “pew” Christians’ trials, whether they are physical or spiritual struggles.  After all, how else are we supposed to be edifying to one another if we really don’t even know each other.

In conclusion, we know we can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) so we should not continue in such activity.  We have to fully submit our will to Christ.  Living a worldly life during the week and going to “church” on Sunday is just pretending to be a Christian.  Simply going to “church” is not going to save anyone since the local church is merely the assembly of those who profess to be Christians.  Let’s continue to examine ourselves and focus on ways to bring our lives closer to each other and to Christ.

-Shawn Tucker