Because the people of Amalek were so wicked, God decided to use the Israelite army to destroy them. He gave King Saul some very specific instructions, found in
I Samuel 15:3: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” These instructions were not difficult to understand. However, King Saul and the Israelites did not obey them.
We read in 1 Samuel 15:9, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”
When Samuel, God’s prophet, asked Saul why he had disobeyed the Lord, Saul tried to claim that he had obeyed God. He said, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me.” He admitted that the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been destroyed, but he said that they were going to sacrifice them to the Lord.
Samuel’s reply, found in I Samuel 15:22-23, is just as pertinent today as it was then: “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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as
iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he also has rejected you from being king.” It is important for us today to understand that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Three points will help us understand that.
First, obedience is the result of faith. True, living faith, leads to obedience; and obedience results from faith. The great heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 provide ample evidence that faith leads to obedience. Notice just a few as examples. By faith Noah prepared an ark. He obeyed all of God’s specific instructions in building that ark. By faith Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood. If God’s specific instructions had not been obeyed, the firstborn of the Israelites would have died that night. By faith the walls of Jericho fell. The Israelites would never have won the battle at Jericho if they had not obeyed all of God’s instructions in marching around the walls. In all of the examples listed in Hebrews 11, faith led to obedience, and true faith still does. It is obvious from these examples that “by faith” does not mean faith only.
Second, obedience is a proof of our love. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
I John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” God says that a person who claims to even know God, but who does not keep His commandments is a liar (I John 2:4). We should never claim to love God if we are unwilling to obey Him.
Third, obedience is necessary in order to be saved. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” In the next two verses, we find that many will claim to have prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and done many wonders in His name. But the Lord will tell them to depart because He never knew them.
It is extremely important to learn that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and his ways are higher than ours. To know what God wants, we must consult His word, which is revealed in the Bible.
If we believe it, we will obey it.