1 Sam 15:22
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.
Been speaking about he bases of Christianity (begining with the relational vs. religious foundation, and also commencing a discussion on the premise of Christian spirituality). In discussing right service to God, I think the above is a particularly important passage as it reveals the heart of the service that pleases Him. It also reveals Saul’s fall, and the basis of his rejection as king over Israel (which I may later discuss more particularly) – thus we will find both type, and anti-type in the passage for the raw basis of right service to God (which should be interesting, because Saul is one of the Old Testament types of antichrist).
In the context of the passage, King Saul has fought the Lord’s enemies – he was commanded to kill them all, but decided to spare some of the prey to sacrifice it to the Lord. He also spared the king to bring him back as triumphal spoil.
Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
We should first be aware that burnt offerings and sacrifices were the primary active religious duty of the priests of the Old Testament (this was done to fulfill the priests purpose, which was teaching (Lev 10:11)). This was commanded, and set in place by God, Himself.
We know – in our day – Jesus the Messiah was the True sacrifice, and the only atonement for our sins. We can, therefore, understand the purpose of their service in the operation of sacrificing animals: it was an illustration of the ministry of the coming Christ. The sacrifice of the animals was not prescribed because God was hungry, and needed meat (Ps 50:12). Nor was it to actually meet the requirement of those enslaved to sins, for as the writer of Hebrews later declared plainly that it is impossible for animal’s blood to take away sins (Heb 10:4). It must be, therefore, that the exclusive purpose of the command to make sacrifices was to teach the role of the coming Messiah. (This would comply with what Moses declared to be the purpose of the priesthood in Leviticus 10:11)
The chief principle active duty of the priests was actually for the purpose of revealing the Messiah. God did not take delight in the senseless killing of animals (Is. 1:11), nor did He require it of man for the purpose of righteousness – as if doing so would make them holy (Is 66:3).
The purpose of the Old Testament sacrificial system was obedience unto prophecy – with it they prophesied the coming Christ, and taught the most crucial element of what His ministry would be.
Like many – and like the final gross transgression of the religious priesthood when the Messiah came – Saul missed the point of sacrifice. He viewed it as the end in itself: the pinnacle of service to God; he could not perceive the point or purpose of sacrifice to begin with – as if the killing of animals, and the observation of a ceremonial barbeque was what God was after from his people!
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.
- Obedience is called: ‘better than sacrifice.‘ Sacrifice was the chief religious duty of the Jews. We could synonymously say that: obedience is better than religious duty or obligation.
- To ‘hearken’ is better than, quote: ‘the fat of rams.’ That is to say: heeding the Word of the Lord is better than the gift given to God.
For both of these points, the relation of the analogy must be noted: 1) religious obligation falls short of obedience to God. 2) Giving gifts to God is of less value than honoring God’s Word by diligently giving heed to it.
These are eternal Truths; these statements set the standard for spiritual service vs religious service. Service to God is not on the ground of religious obligation or tradition but upon honoring God’s Word through diligent attention and obedience.
These two are logical synergistic responses. One CANNOT OBEY unless a clear command or directive has first been given. There is no other basis under which one can be obedient but under that of a stated directive. Therefore, without the Word, obedience cannot be rendered.
Once a directive is given, the spirit of obedience demands that the directive be fully understood in order that it may be adhered to. Giving heed to the directive, and earnestly seeking to understand it is the basis for complying with that directive (obedience)
Thus just as Samuel declared: in order for service to be rendered to God, two things are required:
- The directive given, which may be obeyed (the Word)
- Adherence to the given directive (obedience)
According to the prophet Samuel: There is NO OTHER BASIS for the rendering of appropriate service to God than hearkening to His Word, and obeying it.
Many to this day strive to serve the Lord by offering service to Him – even by offering their life to Him. Yet according to this word, the very giving of your life to God is not pleasing to God. God doesn’t want gifts from us, He wants us to pay close attention to what He says so that we can obey His Word – that is the greatest gift, and service that we can offer Him.
How would you like it if someone, wishing to please you got you a gift that you had no desire for? Something, perhaps, that revulsed you? So it is with God – many seek to honor God by giving gifts which He does not want; there are people who murder because they think it is pleasing to God. Suppose He likes that? Certainly not! Wouldn’t it be better to pay close attention to the person you want to bless with a gift, so that you could find out what they really want?
Saul’s folly was that he sought to do even better than he was told to do. He wanted to give the Lord a gift that He did not ask for. He sought to do MORE than what God had said – make it a religious sacrifice. In seeking to do more, he did less than obedience. That was an offense to God, and it cost Saul the ultimate price: the anointing. Because of this seed of failure, the anointing would lift off of Saul, he became reprobate; God would not longer speak to him because he would not honor the Word he was given by heeding it, and obeying the voice of the Lord.
What was the appropriate service he ought to have rendered? He should have done according to the Word of the Lord, no more and no less: simple, complete obedience. But because he thought to do BETTER than the Word of God, he transgressed.
Only if we honor God by giving careful attention to His Word and will all the time are we giving God the gift He wants. Further, only by the hearkening singly to His Word can we provide the service He desires. His Word is what gives us directive for obedience.
There is no ‘extra-credit’ with God, when we strive to give service above and beyond obedience we will find ourselves self-righteous transgressors. The only appropriate ‘extra-credit’ with God is to give closer attention to His Word – to listen more carefully, and heed more thoroughly what He has said. The only ‘additional’ service we can render to God is obeying ONLY what He says all of the time.
Samuel breaks down for us the appropriate service to God. It is not found in religious duty, nor in giving gifts to God. Man’s basis of spiritual duty to God are these:
- Hearken to God – Seek diligently for His Word above all things
- Obey exactly, and with all the heart.
To do less than these is obvious failure to serve God – to do more (as Saul meant to do ) is placing religious duty above obedience. Hear and obey – do no more, do no less.
How to Spot the Antichrist pt. 2 – Fear of Man
Ok – debated on adding this song because of the chorus, suppose I’ll go for it:
Very interesting post!
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Thanks! I have been on the topic of ‘bases of the faith’ (covenants, premise of spirituality) – there is lots more to explore in that passage; and much more foundational thought to lay for the direction I’m going – though it seems in blogging that short & sweet articles are easier to pull of than a series of thought.
The thing I always hear brought out about Samuel’s discourse there is: ‘Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,’ but there’s another statement he makes equally as shocking (and generally overlooked) that: ‘stubbornness is as… idolatry.’ On a very sweeping scale, Samuel’s words reveal the antitype of salvation (i.e. the process of one’s heart hardening to the Lord), which I begin to discuss in the next post which will be out shortly. Feel free to follow along, and share thoughts! 🙂
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I can’t wait to read the next post!