To Obey Is Better than Sacrifice – Meditation 2

CONTEXT: In 1 Samuel 15 the prophet Samuel gives Saul explicit commands from the LORD of hosts to bring judgment on the Amalekites as a recompense for their treatment of Israel when the nation was coming up from Egypt. Saul is told to “strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him, but put to death” everything (15:3). Stated in four different ways, the command could not be clearer, yet Saul does not carry out the command. Instead he saves some of the sheep for sacrifices and spares Agag the king of Amalek.

This is the second in a brief series of blogs on this chapter (1 Samuel 15) and on what we can learn from the negative example of Saul.

Meditation 2

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

As we further consider this passage, the second thing that we notice is that Saul had a casual attitude toward obedience. What did Saul do in this encounter with the Amalekites? He made only a token effort at obeying the clear instruction of the LORD and planned to offer a sacrifice instead. He presumed that, in the face of his overt and willful disobedience, he himself could offer an acceptable sacrifice. Notice Saul’s attitude toward obedience: it was easier for Saul to presume on the LORD’s grace than to obey the LORD’s command, but it is obedience that the LORD desires from His people.

Notice that Saul had certainly heard the command of the LORD, so he could not plead ignorance. Notice also that it was completely within Saul’s power to obey and to carry out the command as issued, so he could not plead inability.

So what could Saul do? Saul could make excuses (“I have carried out the command of the LORD” 15:13; and, “I did obey the voice of the LORD” 15:20), claiming an obedience that he did not possess, and he could blame other people (15:15, 21) for his failure. Of course, Saul did both. Saul again provides us with a negative example in his casual attitude toward his flagrant disobedience and in his pathetically feeble pretending of repentance.

By contrast, Jesus lived His life striving against sin in perfect obedience to all the Law of God. Likewise we, as disciples of Jesus, are to have the same attitude toward obedience that our Lord Jesus Christ displayed, striving with all our might against sin in radical obedience.

Yes, we loudly proclaim that there is surely an acceptable sacrifice that has been offered to cover all our sin. “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast” (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Absolutely! We celebrate God’s grace in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross to atone for our sin. Hallelujah! We know that if we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). So of course we do not presume on our own sacrifices, but we totally depend on the grace of God displayed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to deliver us from our sins.

And THEREFORE we obey the LORD. BECAUSE Christ has paid for our sins and BECAUSE we have been wrapped in His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and BECAUSE we have had His perfect righteousness imputed to us (2 Cor. 5:21), we now walk as He Himself walked (1 John 2:6). Our obedience is the mark of genuineness on our salvation.

Therefore, we search the Scriptures and pore over the word of God to know what radical obedience looks like, so that we will never be ignorant of the Lord’s commands.

We also pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power so that we will never complain of our inability to obey the Lord’s commands (1 John 5:3; Phil. 4:13).

We live lives of radical obedience, not seeking the minimum to hopefully get us by, but living holy lives which intentionally draw attention to the Holy One who has called us into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:14-16).

Saul was casual about obedience. Let us be radical in our obedience so that we can point people to our Lord Jesus Christ.   SDG   rmb   8/22/2016

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