Obedience and a Right Heart – My Daily Bread!
Our call to obedience is taken from 1 Samuel 15: 22, NIV, which reads:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
This passage speaks to the importance of obedience in the life of the Christian. There is much scripture that deals with the topic of obedience; however today we will focus on the story of King Saul, who was the first king of the nation of Israel. The passage above was actually spoken to him by God’s prophet Samuel after Saul had disobeyed a direct command of the Lords’ with respect to handling the spoils of war after the defeat of the Amalekites. Saints let us listen with our hearts to the story of Saul; for it is a story of a heart who’s ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ got in the way of obedience to God.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – The Amalekites were a fierce nomadic tribe that lived in the desert region of the Dead Sea. They were descendants of Esau, the twin brother of their patriarch Jacob and therefore related to the Israelites. They were known for conducting raids on other settlements and carrying off booty, killing and worshiping false Gods.
They incurred the wrath of the Lord when they attacked the Israelites as they journeyed across the desert. Although Joshua defeated them in battle, God pronounced judgment on them when “the Lord said to Moses, write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation”. (Exodus 17: 14-16, NIV)
Now generations later God had instructed Saul to carry out His judgment on the Amalekites: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”. (1 Samuel 15: 2-3, NIV) Now the law of devoting something totally to God for destruction was well known to the Israelites. Anything under God’s ban was to be completely destroyed. (Deuteronomy 20: 16-18) This was set up in order for God to (1) execute his Judgment on gross idolatry and (2) to prevent idol worship from taking hold in Israel because many of the valuables were idols.
SAUL’S PROBLEM: We are told “But Saul and the Army spared Agag (the King) and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves ad lambs – everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely.” (I Samuel 15: 9) When confronted by Samuel, Saul began to shift blame and make excuses for his disobedience. He said “But I did obey the Lord, I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their King. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal”. (1 Samuel 15: 20-21, NIV)
Interestingly enough, Saul even tried to make his disobedience acceptable to God, to make his actions appear spiritual by saying that the animals were taken to be used in sacrifice (something they were required to do by law) to the Lord. Saul did not esteem God properly in his heart and therefore considered it a small thing to disobey. Further proof that he did not cherish God is found in 1 Samuel 15: 12 , NIV, when Samuel went looking for him, he was told “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor”. Not only did he not honor God for the victory, he completely missed the fact that God desired obedience and a right heart, not empty compliance to a system of ritualistic purification.
The same is true for us today. God desires obedience and a right heart, not empty religious practices performed while our hearts are in sin and far from Him. Saints sometimes we make excuses for why we do not follow God’s commands completely in our lives. But in the end, no excuse will ever be enough. Like Saul, we too show our lack of concern for what we should consider sacred, namely obeying God’s Word. At the heart of all disobedience is a lack of trust in God. Pray that God increase your faith!
Saints God wants us to have the same spirit of obedience found in Jesus who willingly followed God’s plan and offered himself to do God’s will: “When Christ came into the world, He said: sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God”. (Hebrews 10: 5-7, NIV)
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