Here are the verses:
1 Samuel 15:22-23,
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
Basically, the story goes that the Prophet Samuel commanded King Saul not to offer any sacrifices to God until he came to be with him. King Saul got impatient and offered the sacrifices to God without Samuel. Thus, Samuel the Prophet gave King Saul the rebuke found in the verses above.
In short the rebuke from God declared: (1) Saul’s sacrifices were not accepted as worship, and (2) God was going to remove him as the King of Israel because Saul’s “unholy sacrifices” were committed in rebellion- which in God’s eyes is the same as witchcraft.
Moral of the Story: Just because you do something you think God will accept as a sacrifice, doesn’t mean it’s what He really wants. God simply wants you to obey what He says above doing anything else- period.
My Life Lessons About Obedience vs. Sacrifices
Here are some thoughts that God spoke to me personally about the differences between “obedience” and “unholy sacrifices.”
Definitions: “Unholy Sacrifice” means to “offer something to God in a way He did not command.” And, “Obedience” means to “obey God’s commands.”
1 // Many times I would rather “suffer and sacrifice” with hours in prayer and abstain from things in the “grey areas” than just obey the basic things God commanded me to do.
Example: I haven’t drank caffeine since I got saved in November 1995 as a sacrifice to serving God without any kind of drug-like stimulants. However, I don’t always treat others like Christ wants me to. Thus, I can find myself saying at times, “God aren’t I such a great disciple because I don’t drink caffeine?” And, I feel like God says back, “No, I would rather you just be patient and kind as I command you to be- that other stuff doesn’t matter!”
Lesson One in True Obedience: Stop acting like there is a way out of being obedient to God in the hard things. Doing a hundred good works doesn’t make up for repetitive rebellion- stop making excuses and simply obey.
2 // Other times I can find myself boasting in all the supposed “extra” things I do for God as a “sacrifice of my time.”
Example: After a long day of ministry and taking on “extra sacrificial projects” like “street witnessing, counseling, etc.” I can sometimes feel like God owes me some time off or an “extra” blessing under the “blessing tree.”
However, in those times I can sense God rebuke me and admonish me from the parable of the “Unworthy Servant” in Luke 17:7-10. Therefore, in reality I’m just doing the basics God has commanded me to do and if I wouldn’t do these things I would be acting in rebellion.
Lesson Two in True Obedience: Don’t be fooled into believing “God owes you anything” for all that you do for Him. Understand that following “all” of God’s commands is the only real path and option for the righteous- no short cuts.
The Unworthy Servant
I pray this blog encourages someone to stop being proud of their “unholy sacrifices” that blind them from simple obedience. Also, if anyone thinks they’re earning “extra brownie points” from all their “sacrifices and extra duties,” think again, God is only going to reward your obedience. As a result, you can give-up and sacrifice whatever you like in His Name, but don’t think extra-sacrifices make up for rebellion.
Please take a moment to read the “Parable of the Unworthy Servant” and pray that you will choose simple obedience over the false mindset of unholy sacrifice.
7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?
9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”
Here are some good questions to check your heart to see if you are doing things out of the “unholy mindset of sacrifice” or the “joyful heart of simple obedience.”
1. Have you ever compared your sacrifices to those others make?
2. Do you ever feel disappointed in God for unanswered prayer because you feel like He “owes it to you?”
3. Do you find yourself having difficulty in obeying God with joy and everything you do becomes a “sacrifice?”
4. Do you keep a list in your heart of all the “extra” things you do for God and the church?
5. Have you ever neglected living out the Sermon on the Mount in your character because you felt like you were making “big-time Kingdom sacrifices?”
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need to ask God to change your heart from one of “unholy sacrifice” to that of “joyful obedience!”
Find True Joy in Humble Obedience
In closing, there is nothing wrong with “good sacrifices,” like the “sacrifice of praise!” However, the mind set of the believer shouldn’t be, “Look at me God, I’ve made all these sacrifices.” The heart of the believer should be, “I love you Lord and its a joy to serve and obey you!” Therefore, replace “unholy sacrifice” with “joyful obedience” that leds to everlasting life and blessings forevermore!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.