To Obey is Better than Sacrifice | 1 Samuel 15:22

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice | 1 Samuel 15:22

In this manner, we are very often like Saul, caring more about the fickle favor of those around us (or worse, of the online masses) than the favor of the true and living God. Yet we also tend to follow Saul’s pattern in handling our sin. Like Saul, it is all too easy to attempt covering up our disobedience with sacrifice. We disobey in some manner and then resolve to do something else for God. We then feel better because we have done something tangible to make up for our sin. Unfortunately, that impulse runs contrary to the gospel. In fact, it is anti-gospel.

And Samuel said,
“Has 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 listen than the fat of rams.”

1 Samuel 15:22 ESV

Even before 1 Samuel 15, God had already promised another king in Saul’s place as a result of his presumptuous sacrifice before a battle. Yet this chapter marks the full-blown decline of Saul’s reign and is followed up in the next chapter with the anointing of David as the next king. Here’s what happened.

Through Samuel, God told Saul to destroy the Amalekites, and by destroy, God meant, “kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (v. 3). In other words, the LORD was using Saul and the Israelites as His instrument of judgment upon the Amalekites, and their judgment would be the same as that of Sodom and Gomorrah: utter destruction. Wickedness of the Amalekites was evidently complete, and God would not spare any of them.

Those were Saul’s commands, and after assembling an army of two hundred thousand soldiers from Israel and ten thousand from Judah, Saul purged the land of the Amalekites. Unfortunately, Saul cut some corners of God’s commands. For one, he kept Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, likely as a trophy of his victory. For another, the Israelites did not destroy the animals that were pleasing to them. Interestingly, Samuel hears the animals and rebukes Saul.

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