Friday, June 22, 2018

Obedience, or Sacrifice?

"But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams."
I Samuel 15:22

To put this verse in its proper perspective, I will share the whole story.
The prophet Samuel came to King Saul and relayed these words from the Lord to him,
"Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys."  I Samuel 15:3  (NLT)

God's instructions were specific and precise.
Nothing and no one was to be spared.
All were to be utterly destroyed.

King Saul went to Amalek, and he followed God's instructions—but only to a certain point.
He destroyed every man, woman, child, and baby—except King Agag.
Instead of killing him, as God had clearly instructed, he made him a prisoner of war.
He destroyed all cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys—except the best ones.
Instead of killing all of them, as God had specifically told him to do, he killed only what was "vile and refuse".
The best ones he held back with the best of intentions.
He and his soldiers planned to hold them back to sacrifice them to God.
What motivation could be more noble, right?

God revealed King Saul's disobedience to Samuel, and hearing of what King Saul had done deeply grieved Samuel and compelled him to cry out to the Lord all night long.
God told Samuel of King Saul's exact location, and early the next morning, Samuel went to talk to King Saul.

"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.  And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?  And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.  Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night.  And he said unto him, Say on.  And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?  And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.  Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?  And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
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.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king."

I have always read this story with deep sadness, as to me, the ending of King Saul's reign and especially the end of his life is one of the most heart-wrenching accounts in the Old Testament.  To think of his potential and how God's anointing was upon him and how, because he thought he knew better than God, he fell and lost everything.

There are so many takeaways from his life's story.
At first glance, we may think the repercussions of his disobedience were too severe.
We may come to the conclusion that he should have been given another chance—that it really made a lot of sense to spare the best animals and to intend and insist upon using them as sacrifices to God.

I'd like to share seven things about this story that God is teaching me.

1.  God values obedience more than He values sacrifice.
So often, as Christians, we feel like if we adopt a martyr mentality, we are pleasing God.
We pour ourselves into "good things" like preaching, teaching, outreach, and all sorts of ministerial endeavors that He has not even asked or called us to do, disobediently "offering up" our time with the ones who matter most on the altar of "sacrifice."
Obviously, there are spiritual gifts and callings God places upon individual lives, and there is a Divine will for all of our moments and days.
 But, if doing what we do conflicts with our personal calling and/or God's Word, we are walking in disobedience, regardless of how much our human reasoning tells us our way makes more sense.

2.  There are only two types of sacrifice.
Obedient sacrifice and disobedient sacrifice.
Obedience to God sometimes requires sacrifice, yes, but not always.
Just because you are sacrificing yourself, your time, your energy, your talents, and your health in the name of God's work and cause, does not mean you are walking in obedience to God's will.
Sometimes obedience to Him means being still from service.
Sometimes it means getting quiet before Him and listening to His voice.
Sometimes it means resting by still waters, laughing, and enjoying time with your family, instead of rushing headlong "doing" something, in His name.
Sometimes it means utterly destroying sin and disobedience regardless of how we justify its value and right to exist in our lives.

3.  Pride causes us to choose sacrifice over obedience.
Samuel told Saul, "When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed you king over Israel?"
At one point in time, Saul was humble and had a lowly opinion of himself.
It was during this time of humility that God made Saul the head of the tribes of Israel and anointed him, king.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Isaiah 57:15  (KJV)
Many times, with promotion and position, comes the snare of self-exaltation and pride.
We can think we know better than God.
We can convince ourselves that we are above God's law.
Pride is deceptive and sneaky.
When our actions are motivated by pride we often do not even realize it is happening until it is too late.
Here are two prayers we should pray on a regular basis.

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.  Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.  Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."  Psalm 19:12-14  (KJV)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  Psalm 139:23,24  (KJV)

4.  Blaming someone else does not excuse us from the consequences of our own disobedience.
Saul was in charge.
He was wholly responsible for his own actions.
Yet, when Samuel approached him and pointed out his sin, he immediately shifted blame to "the people" who were under him.
"And Saul said, they have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.  Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal."
I Samuel 15:15,20,21
Even though he tried to pass the buck, he still reaped the repercussions.

5.  When God says "utterly," He means "utterly."
He doesn't mean partly, somewhat, half-way, or 99%.
Anything less than utterly is disobedience.  Period.
Utterly ~ entirely, completely, absolutely

6.  You can't deceive God.
"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.  And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"  I Samuel 15:13,14  (KJV)

"But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out."  Numbers 32:23  (KJV)

"There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him, actions are weighed. "  I Samuel 2:2-3  (KJV)

"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
Hebrews 4:13  (KJV)

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Galatians 6:17  (KJV)

7.  Obeying man instead of obeying God is idolatry.
King Saul succumbed to the pressure of the people around him, even though their guidance was at odds with God's command.
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."  
I Samuel 15:23  (KJV)
Ministers, spiritual leaders, and other people can become idols to us.
We can choose to take their advice and wisdom over and in place of God's Word.
We should always respect those who God has Divinely called and placed in church positions,
but when their counsel conflicts with the Word of God, or we find that we prefer and seek out their opinions more than we search for God's heart on a matter, or we are afraid to make a move without their consent or approval, it is possible that we are serving them instead of God.
While spiritual leaders should be regarded with respect, they are not God.
They are human, fallible vessels, not "lords," and their instruction should always be measured by and compared with the Word of God.
The Apostle Peter said, "And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in His glory when He is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly--not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example." 
I Peter 5:1-3  (NLT)
God is a jealous God.
"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." Exodus 34:14  (KJV)
"For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."
Deuteronomy 4:24  (KJV)
"I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other."
Isaiah 42:8  (KJV)
God wants to be our all in all.
He and He alone deserves our wholehearted worship.
"You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings."
I Corinthians 7:23  (NIV)
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1  (KJV)
"But Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than any human authority."
Acts 5:29  (NLT)

"Obedience to anyone other than God is sacrifice."
Zachary Smith

Here are a few good questions to ask before making decisions.
Am I doing this to obey God, or am I sacrificing to please another person?
Am I being manipulated by psychological intimidation?
Is anyone making me feel that if I don't do this I will be out of God's will, even though God is leading in an opposite direction?
What does God's Word say about this?
Does the advice and counsel of others align perfectly with what God is telling me to do?

Obedience, or sacrifice?
Why do we do the things we do?

Obedience, both when it requires sacrifice and when it does not require sacrifice, will keep us in a place of God's perpetual blessings.
In fact, obedience unlocks His blessings!

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land."
Isaiah 1:19  (KJV)

"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you obey the voice of the LORD your God."  Deuteronomy 28:1-2  (ESV)

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today,  and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known."
Deuteronomy 11:26-28  (ESV)

"Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 12:28  (ESV)

"But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you."
Jeremiah 7:23  (KJV)

"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man loves Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
John 14:23  (KJV)

Obedience, or sacrifice?
Why do you do the things you do?
It is worth considering.


  1. Powerful post!!!!!
    Having read those verses multiple times over my lifetime, this time the idolatry, which you pointed out, is right on par with disobedience.

    It's easy to give or sacrifice the easy things, but not so much the things we hold dear to our fallen flesh.

    As I read and contemplated idolatry, I remember that fear or reverence to anything or anyone above God is also liken to idolatry. So powerful to contemplate.

    I too always am grieved at the actions of a man so blessed by God that fell so hard into his flesh.

    As I read I also recalled the verse, thinking of Saul and all of us who have been so mightily blessed by God, "To whom much is given much is required". His appointment came with responsibility...

    That's a lesson for anyone to learn and all to be reminded of.

    Thanks for this!

    1. I am SO grateful for your words of encouragement, brother. I never, ever saw this as idolatry before, but God has been opening that up to us lately in a brand-new way. He is so faithful. Sometimes we don't understand what He is doing or the reason for things until way later on, but He is so merciful to get us through things and help us see why after it is over. Oh, how true! Saul's appointment came with responsibility! That is SUCH a great point. Imagine how much you and I are responsible for? To think of the light and understanding God has given both of us and how accountable we are is very humbling and overwhelming. God help us to always be faithful. I am praying for you and so very thankful for your support. God bless you abundantly.

  2. Hi Cheryl,
    First, I hopped over to read your piece on No Sidebar and I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on regret and the peace it steals from our lives! Your thoughts here about not listening completely to what God is asking of us are supported by scripture and remind us of our motives are so important. It reminds me too, that God looks at our hearts and knows our motives, even when obedience isn't easy, it's the best course of action! xoxo

    1. Thank you so very much, sweet friend. I so appreciate your visit and support and I was amazed at how your words here are going right along with a post I am working on for Biblical Minimalism. You are such an encouragement to me! may the dear Lord bless you always. Sending love and hugs your way!

  3. Oh Cheryl! I just LOVE your newly redesigned blog! It looks amazing! And I love how your Inner View section is arranged now, it really looks wonderful!

    Beautiful post that you have shared. What a great lesson on obedience and sacrifice! It is funny that just tonight I shared with a group of ladies about the difference between Saul and David, between their sin, their acts of repentance, and the consequences. One of the biggest differences is that David took responsibility for his sins, while Saul made excuses. It seems Saul was more concerned about his image to the people than for the sin he committed, while David acknowledged his sin, and never excused it, but accepted whatever punishment the Lord had for him. It truly is an amazing lesson to digest, and I will be thinking on what you have written some more. Thanks for sharing your heart so eloquently, as you always do! I love and appreciate you so much sweet friend :)

    1. Oh, thank you for your kind words about the blog! Big Blue Creative designed it.
      Their website is:, in case you are ever interested!
      He did a great job, didn't he? I am so pleased and grateful. I LOVE the thoughts you shared about Saul and David. Thank you so much for adding that wonderful input. I hope you are safe in your travels, sweet friend. I am praying for you, and I love and appreciate you dearly, too!

  4. Hello Cheryl, this was another very thought provoking post. I would like to say I’m obedient and I do try to be, but I’m human and have many, many failings. Thank you for a timely reminder.

    1. Thank you, Betsy! You are a wonderful example of what a true Christian is, my friend. You are such a blessing to me and to so many others. I am praying for you and your family in the loss of Mike. Sending love and hugs to you.

  5. What beautiful and true thoughts you shared! We all need to remember those important lessons, Cheryl.
    Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please pray for me as I fly to Ohio tomorrow to be with my mom, who is not doing well. She will be celebrating her 89th birthday on the 30th.
    You blog design looks beautiful!! Prayers for you, dear friend.

    1. Thank you, Kitty! I am praying for you and trusting you have safely arrived in OH. I am SO sorry to hear that your dear Mom is not doing well. I will continue to pray. Please email me if you can and let me know how she is doing and how you are holding up. Keep encouraged. God is with you, my dear friend. Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog! Sending love and hugs your way!

  6. Thank you for sharing these truths and the great scriptures. I fall short so much of the time and it seems I am always asking the Lord for His forgiveness for something. How blessed we are hat He knows our hearts and gives us His amazing grace. I like the new look of your blog! Hugs to you!

    1. Oh, my friend! I surely feel the same way! YES, praise our dear Lord for His understanding and grace. You are a precious blessing, and I feel sure that He is very pleased with you. Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. I am so grateful to the Lord and Josh at for doing such an amazing job. Sending love and hugs to you, too!

  7. Cheryl, you've drawn so many important applications from this passage.
    And I always think of a story when I read this passage: One of my boys was wondering what gift I might like for some occasion, maybe my birthday. I told him the best gift he could give me would be to obey his mum and do his school work without complaint. His reply? "No, it would be easier if I could just buy you something."
    That honest little soul is not raising a little boy who is just like him!

    1. Oh, that is a wonderful illustration, Michele! So much truth there. Thank you ever so much for your visit and kind encouragement!

  8. Oh, dear Cheryl, what inspiring lessons are in this post of yours. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts with us.

    1. Thank you so much, Cheryl! Your support and encouragement are invaluable gifts, my friend. :)

  9. Good Morning Cheryl,
    Important teachings you have shared with us today. You have brought a clarity to the meaning of sacrifice and obedience that can at times be confusing. There have many times in my life when I have been heavily involved in teaching Sunday School classes, directing VBS or organizing Ladies retreats that I felt as though I was being obedient and perhaps as I was. However there have many moments that just sitting by a stream or working in my garden that I have felt the very closest to my Dear Lord.

    Hugs and Blessings to you,

    1. I surely understand what you mean, my friend. I love those quiet times with Jesus—the times when I am so still before Him, and His presence can be so keenly felt. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Jemma! Sending hugs and blessings back to you!

  10. Thank you for the reminder. I am pondering this. My quick thoughts are obedience is about doing what God wants. Sacrifice without obedience is doing what we want and what makes us look good to others. Thanks for the thoughts to ponder.

    1. That is a wonderful way of wording it, Beth! Thank you so much for your sweet visit and for sharing your thoughts and encouragement! God bless you.

  11. Wow, I am feeling a little convicted. I have to admit I get the sacrifice and obedience mixed up on many occasions. I love serving and helping others but God has asked me to do something else. The sacrifice is easier. Thank you for your wise words.

    1. I am so convicted, too, my friend. I look back and see so many wrong motivations and how I have mistaken my desire to please others for what God wanted and required. Thank you ever so much for your visit and for sharing this encouragement and your thoughts. God bless you!

  12. Hi Cheryl, Thank you so much for this very convicting and encouraging post. Every insight you shared brought with it a pause for reflection in my own life. When I think of the word sacrifice, I tend to think of it mostly in the context of the Old Testament and of course, Jesus great sacrifice, but I don't too often think about it in my own Christian walk and the right or wrong way that I am approaching sacrifice.

    I was especially taken by your statement, "Sometimes it means getting quiet before Him and listening to His voice." Oh how I fail in this area. I keep myself busy, busy with good things and not so good things because I am running - inevitably running from the voice of God.

    Thank you so much for all the Truths you shared here sweet friend. I can't say enough what a precious treasure you are to myself and the blogging community.

    May the Lord bless you abundantly.

    1. Dear Karen! Your words are so encouraging to me, and I can't thank you enough for your constant support and friendship. You are such a blessing! Sending much love and many blessings your way today, sweet friend.