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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

When I was growing up, my sisters and I had to take turns washing the dishes. When it was my turn, I always tried to get the dishes washed as soon as the meal was over, since dishes are easier to wash if you don’t let the food dry on the plates. The sooner I finished, the sooner I was free to do as I pleased. I had hours of freedom to enjoy whatever I wanted to do, instead of having the chore hanging over my head or suffering punishment such as loss of freedoms, because I failed to obey my parents.

Our spiritual life is not that different. According to Proverbs 21:3 (KJV),

“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”

Obedience brings peace, joy, and satisfaction because God’s commands are meant for our good. When we are quick to obey, we reap the benefits, but when we are disobedient, we have to endure the consequences of our behavior.

For example, God commanded King Saul to utterly destroy everything that belonged to the kingdom of Amalek, but Saul disobeyed, keeping the best of the flocks for himself and sparing King Agag (1 Samuel 15). Taking the enemy king and the flocks as spoils of war were common, but God had specifically ordered the destruction of everything. Saul knew what was expected of him, but he didn’t obey God. When Samuel confronted him about his disobedience, Saul claimed the animals were spared to be used as a sacrifice to God.

Samuel quickly countered Saul’s excuse with a question:

“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, emphasis mine).

God wanted obedience, not sacrifice. This wasn’t Saul’s first act of disobedience; it had become a pattern. Disobedience has consequences, and in Saul’s case it cost him his place as king. God told Samuel to anoint David as Saul’s replacement.

In King Saul we have an example of the negative consequences of disobedience, but in King David we have an example of a man after God’s own heart. David was not perfect, but when he failed, he was quick to repent and return to God. Like David, we should be quick to be obedient to God’s commands out of love and gratitude for all He has done for us. Then we can have peace because we are in a right relationship with God and others. We can have joy because we have done what God asked and we don’t have to dread the consequences of disobedience.

Obedience has rewards that we can receive on a daily basis, not the least of which is pleasing our heavenly Father. That alone is worth every effort on our part. With that in mind, let’s strive to be obedient in each moment so that we can enjoy the benefits of peace, joy, and satisfaction. Then the only sacrifice we need offer is the sacrifice of praise.

Copyright © 2020 Linda Lyle, used with permission.

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