1 Samuel 15:13-23 The Optimum Path to Blessings is Obedience
1 Samuel 15:13-23
Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “ What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!”
Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
Samuel was utterly distraught because Saul disobeyed God’s commands to completely destroy the Amalekites. When Samuel confronted Saul, Saul’s opening greeting was disgusting as much as it was deceptive. Saul had become a contender to God’s rule over Israel by disregarding God’s commands. Saul defended himself by clarifying his intentions to sacrifice to the Lord using the livestock that he has spared. However, the Lord does not desire sacrifice without a heart of obedience. This passage taught us that the lifestyle of obedience is the optimum path to blessings. God does not need us to do anything for Him other than to obey His commands.
Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord – Saul’s greeting: Blessed are you of the Lord, is an effort to manipulate Samuel as he has done to his subjects. The following sentence: I have carried out the command of the Lord, is a lie, which Saul hoped Samuel would turn a blind eye to. When Saul’s lies were exposed, Samuel reminded Saul of his commitment towards God to rule according to His commands: and the Lord anointed you king over Israel. Saul was unrepentant insisting that partial obedience should suffice and full obedience would be unreasonable: Saul said, “I did obey the voice of the Lord… and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites”. He attempted to justify his innocence by contrasting the Amalekite king that was spared with the rest of the nation destroyed.
But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal – Saul continued to justify his wrong doings by pushing the blame to the people: But the people took some of the spoil… and …to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal, insisting that God is also to benefit from the taking of the spoils.
Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice – Saul tried to compensate his disobedience with a religious ritual of sacrifice aimed at appeasing God of His anger. Saul intended to do things his own way and keep God at bay through his sacrifices. Samuel pointedly said to Saul that God delights in a heart that fears and obeys Him. Disobedience upon receiving God’s instructions is tantamount to idolatry and divination. The act of idolatry and divination is the attempt to attract divine assistance without acknowledging God as Lord and Master. Saul’s flippant attitude in which he approached the sacred lots, Urim and Thummim hints at his idolatrous inclinations.
- Our attitude when sacrificing to God should be that of gratitude and obedience. Sacrifice is like giving a gift to someone we love, which in this case is God. Our sacrifice to God as an expression of gratitude because He loves us by sacrificing His life to take away our sins. Sacrifice can be in a form of worship or praises spoken from our lips and financial gifts to the church to be used for God’s kingdom’s purposes. However, God is not looking at the value of the gift per se, but the posture of our hearts. The foundation of a sacrifice is our obedience towards God as Lord of our lives. Hence, it is the heart of sacrifice, not the sacrifice itself or the form of it that God is seeking. Saul’s sacrifice is rejected because he did not honor God as Lord by obeying His instructions. Obedience is the foundation of an acceptable sacrifice: to obey is better than sacrifice.
- A lifestyle of obedience to the truth is the direct and optimum pathway to peace and blessings. It is God’s desire to bless His people abundantly above all that we could imagine. God has given His Son as a sacrifice to establish our position as recipients of God’s blessings. God has also established the pathway of truth as the only way to enduring blessings and abundant living. Hence, we only need to put our trust in the pathway of truth knowing that it will ultimately lead to a beautiful destination even though we could understand how we could get there. Saul did not believe in the way of truth, hence he did not subject himself to the rule of God. Hence, his rule as king did not endure and he died a common soldier hit by a stray arrow.
- God is not as much pleased by our capabilities as our trust and obedience towards Him. God is not impressed or pleased by one’s capabilities, but by our love and obedience towards Him. By working and demonstrating our capabilities do not bring us closer to Him or to be used by Him. Quite the opposite, God is looking for those who are humble and obedient whom He can entrust His authority with. Saul gave his reason for sparing the best of the livestock in order that he could sacrifice to God. God perceived Saul’s sacrifice as divination and idolatry: For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry, and God rejected Saul as king over Israel. Hence, believers need not depend on our capabilities to fend for ourselves, but patient and do what He tells us. But as we humble ourselves, being obedient to God in the things entrusted to us, He will exalt and use us.
- We cannot compensate for our disobedience by our religious works and contributions. The only recompense is repentance and reconciliation with God. In other words, we need to make right what we have done wrong through repentance. Certain acts or decisions are irreversible, but God’s love and grace covers all our sins. Repentance is a change of heart and mindset from self-centered living to a God-centered lifestyle, being careful to obey His commandments.
- Ask yourself what is the purpose of your worship for God? Some are afraid to be punished if they fail to worship God. Some worship God because that is God’s commands and they express their love for God through their acts of worship.
- Are you facing an unsolvable problem today? And you have tried all methods to solve it without avail? Perhaps, you could humble yourself before God and obey Him in all matters, we will then reveal to you the wisdom and the insights.
Dear Lord, I thank you that it is always your desire to bless me. Your sacrifice on the cross displayed your perfect love for me. Hence, I offer my body as a sacrifice to you, to do your will. As I walk in your truth, bless me and use me for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.