"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22
God's instructions to King Saul were dear enough.
Slay the Amalekites and destroy all their possessions. All of them.
Don't take any spoil. But Saul spared King Agag and the choicest of the
sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs.
When Samuel met Saul in the morning at Gilgal,
Saul confidently announced that he had done exactly what the Lord
commanded. But at that very moment, a barnyard choir began its
oratorio-sheep bleating and oxen lowing. Very embarrassing!
Samuel wanted to know, of course, how the sheep
were bleating if Saul had killed them all. The King then tried to cover
his disobedience by blaming the people and by excusing them on
religious grounds. He said, "The people spared the best of the sheep
and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord."
It was then he heard God's prophet thunder out
the convicting words, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to
hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of
witch-craft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."
Obedience is more important than rituals,
sacrifices and offerings. I heard once of a family who treated their
mother with cool contempt and disobedience during her lifetime. But
when she died, they dressed her corpse in a Dior original. A despicable
and futile attempt to atone for years of rebellion and discourtesy!
We often hear people defending an unscriptural
position or unscriptural associations on the ground that they can have
a wider influence in this way. But God is not deceived by such specious
rationalizations. He wants our obedience - He will take care of our
sphere of influence. The truth is that when we are disobedient, our
influence is negative. Only when we are walking in fellowship with the
Lord can we exert a godly influence on others.
William Gurnall said, "Sacrifice without
obedience is sacrilege." And it becomes even worse when we cloke our
disobedience with some pious, religious excuse. God is not hoodwinked.