Today’s text comes from one of my favorite historical books in Scripture. It probably falls closely in behind the Acts of the Apostles. It contains the stories of the rise of the prophet Samuel, the sinfulness and righteousness of King David, and the successive kings of the newly formed Kingdom of Israel. To me, no other historical book displays the utter wretchedness of God’s people and the subsequent restoration to God than 1 Samuel. It puts on marvelous display how Jesus pursues our wayward hearts and how we are to be after His. It points to the marvelous and matchless Christ who would take away the sins of the earth.
So, today, we will discuss how our hearts are inclined to work for our salvation, because our sinful state finds that easier than obedience.
Turn in your copy of Scripture ( I am in the NASB) to 1 Samuel 15, we will focus on verse 22.
“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.”
Since this is a historical book ( I am straight up giddy about sharing history with you all), we must at least briefly investigate the context and background.
Not two seconds earlier, Saul (the first, albeit illegitimate, king of Israel) was indicted (charged) by Samuel as being disobedient, for good reason.
God directed Samuel to lead His people as judge (and he was the last), and that often includes delivering tough calls as God sees fit. God commanded, based on a decree back in Deuteronomy long ago in the law, that a certain king and all his people, livestock, and possessions be destroyed for Agag (the king of the Amalek people) had set a course disobedient to God and His commands and laws, so God’s mercy ran out and sought to wipe them from the earth, which, by the way, is a punishment we, too, rightly deserve.
Saul thought he would show uncharacteristic mercy and spare the king, the choice livestock, and some belongings; however, Saul did intend to sacrifice them to the Lord, if that helps. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
God showed a small portion of HIs wrath against Saul and removed His spirit from Saul and committed not to use him for His glory any longer. How terrifying it is to be subject to the whims of a jealous and holy God?
Samuel then addressed Saul and the people gathered after the battle (the occasion that Saul disobeyed was the end of a battle, a victory for Israel in numbers but not morale) and preached a message that is in line with all of precious Scripture: obedience is better than sacrifice, our hearts and motives speak louder to God than our actions.
If you’ve noticed, the theme of these first devotions has been sin, because, unless you have some advantage I don’t, we all live as a fallen people of a broken world, and we are in desperate need of Jesus.
Jesus wants our hearts, all of them. He wants our sinful flesh that longs to act so He can transform it into a heart that longs for the heart of the Father.
We desire to take the easy way out because it is, well, easy. God’s way is more times than not difficult. God ordered Saul to destroy an entire people, effectively wiping them away from the Earth. It was a command for His good purposes, which in our selfish, humanitarian, fallen state, we cannot fully reconcile with His will for us.
So to walk in obedience is to deny our sinful state of working for salvation and to instead obey with a joyful and willing heart, giving God both our actions, words, and thoughts, but also our intentions and the state of our hearts. A heart that is inclined to God will yield God-honoring thoughts, words, and actions, in turn.
God values the state of our hearts, covered in His holiness, above the sinful actions we do in His name to gain His favor.
Christian, walk in glad, abandoned obedience.