Saul had been commanded to completely wipe out all the Amalekites and their cattle. Instead of doing so, he preserved the king and allowed his people to take the best of the oxen and of the sheep. When called to account for this, he declared that he did it with a view to offering sacrifice to God; but Samuel met him at once with the assurance that sacrifices were no excuse for an act of direct rebellion.
The sentence before us is worthy to be printed in letters of gold and to be displayed before the eyes of the present idolatrous generation, who are very fond of making a show of obedience but who utterly neglect the laws of God. Never forget that to keep strictly to the path of your Savior's command is better than any outward form of religion; and to pay attention to His precept is better than to bring animals or other precious things to lay upon His altar.
If you are failing to keep the least of Christ's commands to His disciples, I urge you to be disobedient no longer. All the pretensions you make of attachment to your Master and all the devout actions that you may perform are no substitute for disobedience. "To obey," even in the slightest and smallest thing, "is better than sacrifice," however pompous. Forget the Gregorian chants, sumptuous robes, incense, and banners; the first thing that God requires of His child is obedience; and even if you gave your body to be burned and all your goods to feed the poor, if you did not listen to the Lord's commands, all your formalities would profit you nothing.
It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing, when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter. How many adorn their temples and decorate their priests, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord! My soul, do not share in their deceit.
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From Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.