"To Obey Is Better"

Through Samuel the prophet, God ordered King Saul and the Israelites to utterly destroy the Amalekites, thereby punishing them for their earlier attack on Israel during the exodus. God said to spare nothing.

Saul’s army fought valiantly and won a decisive victory, but Saul and the people were unwilling to destroy everything. They spared the king, Agag, and the best of the animals.

When confronted about his disobedience, Saul protested that he had done what God said. He assured Samuel that the animals which had been spared were to be sacrifices to God. Samuel responded, “Has the Lord as much delight in sacrifice as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  God was not opposed to sacrifices, but “to obey is better.” That is a truth we must all remember.

Some sacrifices were thank offerings (Jeremiah 33:11), intended to express gratitude to God. Saying “thank you” by this means was good, but “to obey is better.” Expressions of thanksgiving are hollow when they come from someone who accepts God’s blessings and then uses them as he wishes instead of as God wills.

Some sacrifices were sin offerings (Leviticus 4:1-35). Their purpose was atonement and purification. Can you imagine an Israelite seeking forgiveness yet ignor-ing God’s requirements regarding the sin offering? Some did just that! (Malachi 1:8). Jesus is our atoning sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14). Once again, some seek forgiveness through Him while ignoring His require-ments of faith, repentance, and baptism (Luke 24:47; Mark 16:16). “To obey is better.”

Some sacrifices were burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:1-17). They were called that because the entire animal was burnt; no portion was reserved for the priest or the worshiper. The idea, therefore, was dedication to God. Dedication to God is not just a claim. It requires more than occasionally reading His word or attending a church service. It begins in a totally devoted heart (Matthew 22:37), and it manifests itself in living God’s words: in every aspect of life, in every relationship, on every occasion. Once again, “to obey is better.”

Obedience is not legalism. The idea is certainly not that by it we will earn our way into heaven. But in a time when so many take a loose approach to Scripture, let’s remember that God said, “To obey is better.”

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