When We "Sort of" Obey
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.”
1 Samuel 15:22
Recently I witnessed a dangerous near collision while driving in traffic.
I was headed toward an intersection where my light was green. A few cars were ahead of me, but none of us was speeding. From the opposite direction, a car was sitting in the turn lane and waiting to go left when there was a break in oncoming traffic from my direction. As I drove nearer, I saw the turn-lane driver becoming antsy. He edged out into the middle of traffic and looked like he was going to make a dangerous turn that was way too close to the cars in front of me.
And sure enough he did—narrowly, and I mean narrowly, missing the oncoming traffic. Had there been a collision, I would have surely run right into the crash or would have caused my own accident by swerving to miss the one right in front of me. So why did the driver do that? And why didn’t he wait until it was safe—as we’re all instructed to do in drivers’ education and required by the law—to make his turn?
Well, after witnessing the almost-accident, I started thinking about my life and how I don’t always want to wait on God or follow his ways either. I also get antsy and take matters into my own hands. Why is that? Pure and simple, I am disobedient and don’t always trust in the Lord and his plans for my life.
Saul was like that as well. In 1 Samuel 15:1-29, we see how he followed his own instructions and completely missed the blessing that the Lord had in store for him.
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them.’”
Simple enough, right? But what did Saul do? Well, he “sort of” obeyed, you might say. Which is really code for “disobedience.” Sure, he attacked the Amalekites, but he spared the king (Agag) and kept sheep, cattle and “everything that was good.” Now why would he do that? Well, why do any of us take “creative license” with what God is telling us to do in our lives and then do what we want?
When Saul was confronted by Samuel about his actions, he told him that he had “carried out the Lord’s instructions.” (Hey, not so fast, Saul.) To which Samuel replied:
“What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
Excuses, excuses, excuses! Sort of like, “The devil made me do it,” or “God wouldn’t have put _____ into my life if he didn’t want me to ______.” How lame is that? And how often do we twist what God is saying to us in order to get our own ways? We don’t want to wait on him and follow his instructions, which means we don’t want to obey, which means we miss out on the perfect plans that God has for us and we can make serious messes of our lives.
Then Samuel replied to Saul:
“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 … Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
That’s a hard lesson to learn, my friend. But it’s been written and preserved for our instruction and application in our lives today. Let’s both learn from Saul’s example as we strive to obey the Lord, no matter what he asks and without any excuses.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Are you guilty of “sort of” obeying traffic rules when you’re driving? Think about the driver described in the earlier scenario, and then see if that example applies to any area of your life. Are you living recklessly? Are you proceeding how you want to in your life? Who’s instructions for living are you following?
**Listen to the audio/podcast version of this Crosswalk devotional here.