1 Samuel 15:22-23 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.“
When I first read this passage, my heart went out to Saul.
Why was he not given another chance? Why did it seem that God was so harsh with him and not with David? Is my sense of justice so different from God’s?
Until I looked further and saw the heart of God come through, I did not understand completely.
The simple obedience to what God had commanded was what was in question with Saul. Samuel told him:
1 Samuel 15:2-3 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
Saul and the Israelite army were to be a tool in God’s hand to execute judgment on the Amalekites. Saul was to utterly destroy every living thing. But when he came back with some of the spoil and the king in tow, Samuel came to him.
1 Samuel 15:13 “And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”
Looking back, we can all see that Saul was lying. Once again, Samuel called him out.
1 Samuel 15:14 “And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
When we are caught in a lie, we have a choice; honesty or cover-up. Saul chose the latter.
1 Samuel 15:15 “And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
Saul shifted the blame onto the people.
Every leader knows that they must adhere to the principles and purpose with which they operate. To divert from them can spell the death of their position, their company, and take the livelihood of many others with them.
God knew that if Saul passed this ‘test’ of obedience, he would be a favorable king. But he failed miserably.
Samuel exposed his disobedience and passed the judgment God gave him to execute.
1 Samuel 15:26 “And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.”
Saul’s rejection and the rebellion started when he thought he knew better than God how to do what he was asked. God likens his disobedience to the sin of witchcraft and his stubbornness to iniquity and idolatry.
We are no different.
God calls us to be holy.
He calls us to be separate.
He calls us to be salt and light.
He commands that we be a witness to the transforming power within us.
There are standards by which we are to live. How to speak, where to go, and what to wear, to name a few. Often, we shrink from the accusations, taunting, and even persecution for the very things God asks us to do and to be.
We begin to secularize our Christianity; water it down if you will, to make it more palatable for an unsaved world to understand and accept. God intended that we stick out. He wanted us to be peculiar.
Titus 2:14 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Someone may paint their body in the colors of their favorite sports team and become overly zealous in their support. We would call them a fan, or a fanatic.
I would like to think that God’s children would be more zealous for the cause of Christ than they are for than the fan for their sports team.
The world must be confronted with their sinful condition to realize their need for a Savior.
Once we are born-again, we are different. Life for us will never be as it was before.
1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”
Our Heavenly Father, who created us, knows us better than anyone – even ourselves. He knows that our attitude toward obedience will affect our heart toward Him, our direction, and everyone that follows us.
We can outwardly go through the motions of what looks like obedience, but our hearts can be far from God. Think about it:
What if Noah built the ark the way he wanted to?
What if Joseph told Pharaoh what he thought, instead of what God told him?
What if the Israelites built the ark and the tabernacle to their liking – would their sins still be forgiven?
I think you get the point.
When we inject our thoughts, feelings, and opinions into what God has already told us to do, we taint the work of God and possibly abominate what God intended that activity to accomplish.
Burger King adopted a slogan, “Have it Your Way!” and has since changed it to “Be Your Way.” Both point to the fact that they want you to tell them how they can best serve you.
Is that how we treat God? Do we say ‘this’ is how we want to serve, or ‘this’ is what we want to do instead of simple obedience to the God who knows best and has our best interest in mind?
God tells us the way He wants us to serve Him.
In the simple obedience of following God’s commands and instructions, God opens our eyes to things we may have never seen had we gone our own way, or done things the way we wanted.
Man wants to control. We want to indulge in our sin without paying the penalty. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the only ones we are hurting with our sin.
Saul tried to excuse his disobedience by shifting the blame onto the people. When Samuel called him out, he was sorry. By then, it was too late.
God allows us to come clean with Him each and every day. He is open to hear our confession and accept our repentance of the very sin that separates us from fellowship.
Today, may we be totally accepting of the open door given to us by coming humbly and honestly before our loving, Heavenly Father. God, who sees all and knows all, is not taken by surprise when we come to Him with our sin.
May we desire the clean heart and the right path. There are no shortcuts with God. We cannot just give our obedience halfway or halfheartedly. Our Father wants us to be “all in.”