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.
That Verse before ‘All Things’
by John UpChurch
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12
I’d rather live a Philippians 4:13 type life. But that verse before it always gets me. I’d rather jump right into the “doing all things through him who gives me strength” without slogging through the “content in any and every situation” part. The second verse makes for such great posters, but now, when I read it, all I can think is “whether living in plenty or in want.”
Talk about a buzzkill.
But God’s plans come in a larger size than my earthly satisfaction. He wants my sanctification, my being-made-more-like-Jesus-ness. He wants me to see that His riches don’t come with dour-looking presidents or expiration dates or limited warranties. They aren’t earned by the sweat of my brow. Instead, His riches come pouring down in my contentment.
Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), and he’s driving at the same thing here in Philippians. “Strength,” according to the world, boils down to laying claim to the most stuff—power, model spouses (emphasis on the plural), houses, and influence. But those who think that way can never be content no matter the situation. When their “strength” disappears, they wilt. Some do whatever it takes to get back to where they were; some end up in rehab; and some see no reason to live. Some strength, huh?
Jesus doesn’t play by our rules, though. His Beatitude bunker busters make that pretty clear (see Matthew 5). The weak, the poor, the hungry—those are the ones who receive the treasures. You see, Jesus does want us to get to Philippians 4:13, but to do that, He has to demolish our strongholds by taking us through Philippians 4:12. We’re strong through Him only when we’ve learned to clear the detritus of what we think we need in this world and see Him for the all-sufficient treasure that He really is (Colossians 2:3).
We can do all things through Him who strengthens us. But to get to that point, we have to learn satisfaction in His “all things,” the plans He has for us. That’s because it’s His strength, not ours.
Believe it or not, many people who attend church choose to ignore God’s truth because they don’t like hearing sermons that convict or demand a change. But we tend to be guilty of doing the same thing when we pick and choose what to read in the Bible.
When you open God’s Word, do you read only verses that encourage, comfort, or promise blessings? Are you reluctant to tackle the more difficult passages, which prick your conscience and call for obedience? Do you avoid sections that make you feel guilty about the way you are living?
If you find yourself reacting strongly to a passage of Scripture or a sermon, then you ought to take an honest look at yourself. God’s Word is meant to cut into the deepest recesses of our soul and spirit. But the hope is that we then run to Jesus, our High Priest, in confession and repentance in order to receive forgiveness and cleansing.
Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses and invites us to draw near to God to receive grace and help. The convicting passage of Scripture may cause momentary discomfort, but those who listen and take their burden to Jesus find sweet relief.
“The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.” – Proverbs 14:10 NASB
The heart symbolizes everything internal about our lives – our deepest thoughts and feelings. We may share some heart issues with others. Yet, for various reasons, some issues remain private. Perhaps they are buried by hurt, by concerns of how others would react, or by fears and worries.
Sometimes we develop these same attitudes toward God Himself by burying our deepest feelings in our interaction with Him, by being reluctant to be honest, or by being afraid and wondering what He would do if we told Him the complete truth of all we feel and have done.
But the Bible reminds us that He already knows everything about us – every action and every thought. Aware that He is both omnipresent and omniscient, we can be afraid to share with Him, or even acknowledge the facts about our heart and lives.
Remember, He loves us. He desires honesty – not to punish us, but to help us learn and grow. He wants us to mature in our relationship with Him. We need to recognize when we have sinned, so we might be forgiven and free. We can be confident that He wants the best for us, and we really can trust Him.
Others may reject or mock us, spread rumors about us, violate our confidences, take advantage of us, or prove themselves not trustworthy.
But we can trust in God. Share your intimate thoughts, concerns, worries, and questions. Trust in Him.