“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.” 1 Samuel 15:22, KJV
So many times I have traded obedience for counterfeit-righteousness. Instead of being obedient to the Word of God, or to the leading of the Spirit, I have often made sacrifices – not to atone for my rebellion, but actually thinking that God would see my personal sacrifice and be pleased! Have you ever done this in any situation? Have you ever said, well I won’t do that Lord but I will do this?
In the Old Testament it was law to gives sacrifices of burnt offerings as penance for sin. In the New Testament Jesus replaced those sacrifices by becoming THE Sacrifice for all of us so that all we have to do is believe and receive Him. However, sometimes God still asks us to make sacrifices – of a different kind. He may ask that we sacrifice a romantic relationship that is outside of marriage. He may ask that we sacrifice living on the beach for living in Nigeria on the mission field. He may ask that we sacrifice financially or that we sacrifice our time. Sacrifice certainly involves almost any act of unconditional love and respect. It’s a good thing and it’s important to be sacrificial in our living as disciples of THE Sacrifice.
But in my confession above I’m pointing to something that isn’t easy to confront. It can be easily disguised and even misinterpreted as spectacular Christianity. Great sacrifice is often praised, but what about doing what we’re told? What I mean is this… obedience is better than sacrifice.
Here’s an example I’ve made up to personalize it: God may be telling me to move my family to Oklahoma and give up the comfort and security I’ve enjoyed making a life in Seattle, but I don’t want to do that. So instead of being obedient, I may stay in Seattle but build a homeless shelter and invite area preachers to come and minister each week. That is a great ministry idea that would probably be used by God because He’ll never miss an opportunity to touch people, but it would be disobedient of me. And it would not please God. It would be disobedience and yet I may think, “Look Lord, see what I’ve done for you! Isn’t this what you want, to reach out to the lost and hurting and show them your Love?” Meanwhile, I’d be thinking what a great Christian I am. In response I imagine God saying something like this, “Son, I love you and I see you desire to minister, but I called you to Oklahoma and it was time. You disobeyed me and are now missing the open doors and opportunities I had planned for you in life and in ministry for you and your family.” And if I had any sense, I would repent, thank Him for grace, and move to Oklahoma – because He is a God of many chances.
Do you see what I’m talking about? Obedience is better than sacrifice, my friends. God would rather you follow His direction so you can fulfill His call on your life than making sacrifices that He didn’t ask you to make. Going above and beyond isn’t better than just doing what He says.
If God tells me to go next door and ask my neighbors if they need prayer, I should do it. It would be better than calling them and inviting them over for dinner. If God tells me to go to college to be a Lawyer, that is better than moving to Guatemala to build homes for the poor. If God tells me to apologize to someone I’ve offended, that’s better than fasting and praying for 24 hours. If God wants me to put Elisha, our son, in public school, that’s better than putting him in a private Christian school. God knows BEST, let’s trust Him.
It’s an important thing to grasp. God loves us and as His children obeying Him is a pleasure, even if it involves sacrifice. He cares for us and He has good plans for each of us. So let us not trade obedience for sacrifice and think we’re doing something holy. I’m not saying we cannot do good things apart from hearing God’s audible voice. What I am saying is when God does give direction to directly, follow it instead of thinking you have a better idea. Jesus said if we love Him, we’ll obey. Listen today, read His Word, ask what He wants from you, and just do it. I’ll do it too.
With love for you,
“But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22, NLT