Most of us are familiar with the story of King Saul being commanded by God to completely destroy the Amalekites and all their flocks and herds (1 Sam 15), but then returning with King Agag and some of the best sheep and oxen. When the prophet Samuel confronts him and asks him why he did not obey the voice of God and completely destroy the Amalekites and all their flocks and herds, Saul responds by saying that he essentially destroyed everything but only returned with the king and only the best sheep and oxen “to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal” (v.21). This proved to be a fatal mistake and the reason for which God took the kingdom away from Saul and would ultimately give it to King David. The reason was simple, according to Samuel: “Has 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 listen than the fat of rams” (v.22, emphasis added). What God wants more from his people than sacrifice is obedience. Saying that can sound like a no-brainer and we often wonder why Saul failed to see the obvious. But before we are too quick to judge, how many of us live our lives committing the same fatal mistake—like Saul—not even realizing it? So often we think our many sacrifices will make up for our disobedience to the clear commands of God. We sacrifice our time and energy being heavily involved in ministry. We sacrifice our relationships with our spouse, our children, our friends to pour ourselves into serving the church. We sacrifice our finances by giving 10, 15, 20% of our income to the church, all the while looking at internet pornography (Matt 5:27-30), being cruel and unkind to our wives (1 Pet 3:7), being un-submissive and disrespectful to our husbands (Eph 5:22-24), rejecting our biblical mandates as husbands and fathers (Eph 5:25-33; 6:4; 1 Tim 5:8), refusing to embrace our biblical role as wives and mothers (Titus 2:3-5), provoking our children to anger (Eph 6:4), not sharing the gospel with anyone (Matt 28:19-20), refusing to forgive (Matt 6:14-15), and the list goes on and on. ‘But hey God, look at all the ways I am sacrificing for you!’ “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” Scripture tells us that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4). All the historical events recorded in the Bible are there for us to learn from. When we point our finger at Saul, very often there are four pointing back at us.
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