Obedience Over Sacrifice
If you’ve ever seen a toddler being told not to touch something, then you know how the story really goes. As soon as you’re not looking, they touch the very thing you said not to and wonder why they are in trouble. In everyday situations, people obey rules because they want rewards, or because they want to avoid negative consequences.
The most familiar bible story pertaining to obedience can be found in 1 Samuel 15. In this story, we find Saul choosing sacrifice over obedience. At the beginning of the chapter, Samuel relays to Saul the message that God wants him to go and destroy “the entire Amalekite nation – men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camel, and donkeys” because the nation opposed Israel when they came to Egypt.
Saul did as he was told. He established an army and attacked the Amalekites, killing all of them. However, he spared the king’s life and took him captive instead. He also spared the life of the best sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs. When Samuel confronted Saul about this, Saul’s response was that he had spared the best of the animals to offer them as a sacrifice to God.
Even though it may look like Saul did something noble to honor God, he still was disobedient. He did what he wanted to do – not what God asked him to do. Any sacrifice he could offer God would not be a sufficient substitute for obedience.
God doesn’t want a sacrifice offered out of obligation or as a way to dodge consequences. He wants us to obey out of our love for him. We obey because of what He’s already done for us. We obey because we trust Him knowing His ways are always best.
It’s easy to recognize how children make the mistake of choosing sacrifice over obedience. Yet how often do we as adults make decisions because we think we’ll make God happier, or we’ll do more? Offering something less than obedience to God under the appearance of sacrifice is more common than we think.
The bottom line is that sometimes we think we know better than God. We think we have a better solution or a way to speed up His process. Sometimes we offer what God did not call us to offer. We always find a way to make this exchange about ourselves. It is never about us.
I'm sure Saul didn't understand God's lack of appreciation for the best sacrifices he could give Him. He might have thought, "Why wouldn't God be pleased with what I've done for Him?" When we have moments like Saul and wonder what more we must do to receive God's blessing, we should remember that all God wants from us is our love. We show our love by obeying Him because obeying Him reveals our true trust in Him. It's all about the heart.