(1 Sam 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. (22) 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. (23)
Here’s a story that I hope will help to understand what God is trying to teach us in these two verses.
It was 4:30 in the afternoon and my son, Adam, came inside after playing on the swing set. The little guy was full of energy and ready for a snack. Since I was going to be serving dinner at 5:00, I told him he could not have a snack.
I went back to preparing dinner. As my back was turned, Adam snuck a cookie out of the cookie jar and made his escape. I guess a “case of the guilts” got the best of him because he came into the kitchen and asked me if he could help me set the table. At first, I didn’t realize what was going on. I was so proud of him that he would volunteer to help his Momma! I gave him the napkins and the cutlery he began his task. I suppose helping Mommy made him feel better about his disobedience because he promptly went to play with his brother afterwards.
When I called everyone to the table to eat, I noticed chocolate around Adam’s mouth. Now I could understand why he had asked to set the table. He was feeling guilty and he figured he could ease his conscience by doing something nice for me.
“Adam,” I asked, “Did you take a cookie from the cookie jar when I told you not to?”
“No, Mommy.” he responded.
“Adam, you are lying to Mommy and God’s Word says this is a sin. Not only did you lie to Mommy but you tried to do a chore to help you to feel better, didn’t you?”
As he bowed his head and squirmed, he responded “Yes, ma’am!”
This was the perfect time to teach my son that obeying is better than trying to do nice things to make up for a sin. So I responded to him, “The Bible says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, Adam. Do you understand what that means?”
As Adam shook his head, I began to tell him what God was teaching us in these Bible verses. I explained to him that the Jews would offer sacrifices over and over so God would forgive their sins. But God said it was better to obey Him right from the start than to offer sacrifices to Him. God is very pleased with you when you read your Bible, when you obey your parents, and when you go to church. But He is more pleased when you obey Him right away. So God would have been more pleased if you would not have taken a cookie and obeyed me than He was when you set the table.
“So, Adam, do you understand why it is better to obey?” I asked.
“Yes, Mommy! It makes God really happy when I obey right away, right?”
“Oh yes, Adam! God loves obedience more than the chores we do.”
Ah, the mind of a child! But are we not all like this? How many “Christians” out there think that if they go to church or work at the soup kitchen, it will out weigh the fact that they lied or cheated on our income taxes? These good deeds are “sacrifices” in the eyes of God. God is pleased with obedience, not with the sacrifices that we think will cover or make up for our sin.
God’s Word is to be obeyed – His will is to be obeyed. It is repeatedly stated so that we can understand. (Act 5:29) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. It is never right in God’s eyes to change His Word or replace it with what we think is better. No one has the authority to make changes to what God has recorded in the Bible. No one, not even the pope. (Rom 2:11) For there is no respect of persons with God. If it were O.K. for the pope to do so, then this verse is a lie. We know that God cannot lie and what He says goes! He won’t change His Word. (Num 23:19) God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? The catholic church places the pope on an equal basis with God – he is the Vicar of Christ – Christ’s replacement on earth. So the catholic church is teaching that God IS a respecter of persons. But His Word says differently in Rom 2:11. How confusing to the poor dear catholic soul! It is a cruel god who would want his children to be so confused. This cannot be the God of the Bible who is full of mercy!
Our God wants obedience. God is pleased with obedience. In fact, He loves obedience more than the actual sacrifices that we make on a day-to-day basis. After all, if we are obeying God and His Word, are we not placing our all on the altar for Him? Are we not fulfilling His desires? What a blessed hymn that is by Elisha Hoffman:
Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.
After we accept Christ as our Saviour, we can only grow spiritually by giving up worldly lusts and forsaking sins that lead us away from sweet fellowship with Him. It is this yielding of ourselves (sacrificing ourselves – giving ourselves over to righteousness rather than sin by being obedient to the Word) that gives us peace and sweet rest. When we have sinned, we feel guilty and we feel distanced from the Lord. However, the moment we forsake our sin and confess it, we can move forward with the desire to be obedient to Him. The sacrificing of ourselves is a direct result of obedience to the Word. They go hand-in-hand. When we obey God’s Word, we are yielded to Him and we forsake sin.
But to the unsaved, it is not so. Their sacrifices are actions due to their sin. They disobey God’s Word and sin, then they do sacrifices (good deeds, moral deeds, penance, etc.) to make up for their sin. This is what does not please God – their sin is a result of disobedience to His Word. One can only obey God if one is truly born-again. The Christians’ sacrifices are due to their obedience to the Word of God! Yes, they continue to sin but the born-again believer sins less and less as he grows in the Lord.
To the unsaved, this type of obedience is foolishness. (1 Cor 2:14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. To the unsaved person who is a moral person, it is a chore – he has to work at being good because it does not come naturally to him. He works to please God; he sins; he performs ritualistic sacrifices (like going to church or doing a good deeds or penance); he thinks he has been cleansed by this and, thus it goes on and on – a vicious circle.
The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that they had started out well. But they got caught up in the works and strayed from the truth of the Word. In fact, it was a person who led them astray! (Gal 5:7) Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? He also exhorted the Thessalonians that God would take vengeance on those that were not born again and who did not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, Paul defines exactly where this Gospel could be found in verse 14 with the words, “this epistle”! Since God desires us to obey His Word, would He not have clearly outlined in His Word the hundreds of teachings that catholicism, mormonism, etc. teach if they were truth? (2 Thess 1:7-8, 14) And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (7) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (8 ) And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. (2 Thess 3:14)
It is way too important a matter to hold people accountable for obedience to something if one does not clearly outline what they are to obey? How can you obey the laws of the highway if there are no posted speed limits? It is the same with the Bible. God would not require us to be obedient to His Word if there were additions and subtractions continuously changing what He meant. That would be cruel. It would leave His children not knowing what direction to go! It would be the same in your own homes if you kept changing the rules for your children to follow or even having different rules for different children, wouldn’t it?
God does have clear guidelines and they do exist today! (Jas 1:5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. God promises to give us wisdom as we read His Word so that we can understand it the way He intends it to be understood. It is not the wisdom of man that we are to rely on because man’s heart is wicked. God is no respecter of persons. We are to obey Him, not man. (Jas 3:17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Notice that wisdom comes from God above and that His wisdom is pure! This wisdom from the Word given to us will produce a Christian who is merciful to others, a Christian who displays the fruit of the Spirit and a Christian who is not a hypocrite.
A hypocrite says he’s a “christian” and gets drunk on the weekend yet he goes to church on Sunday acting as if he is the perfect “christian.” The hypocrite says he’s a “christian” yet he compares his spirituality to others and figures he’s better than they are. However, the born-again Christian who lays himself on that altar of sacrifice, is growing in the Word of God, he is producing the fruit of the Spirit in his life and the “world” cannot point a finger of accusation because he does not live the life of a hypocrite. The Book of Proverbs states, (Pro 16:7) When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. The unsaved can see that there is something different when they are around a born-again believer who is obeying God’s Word and is yielded to Him.
So, where are you today? Are you obeying God and His Word or are you playing the sacrifice game? God’s Word says that disobedience to God’s Word is like the sin of witchcraft! God does not delight in disobedience nor will He wink at it. He gave us His Word to guide us and you are without excuse. In fact, the price is high if you place anyone or anything above God’s Word. Verse 23 says that if you reject God’s Word, He will reject you. This same God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5) and He will not share His Throne with anyone nor will He allow His Word to be compromised. Is the price of rejection (eternity in hell) worth it? In the wise words of a dear senior saint,
Eternity is too long and hell’s fire too hot to reject being born again.