“…Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams…” 1 Samuel 15:22
There are times when we find ourselves working hard, sacrificing our time, talent and treasure only to find out that we are disobeying the Lord. We can be so tenacious that we have convinced ourselves that we will endure working hard because we want to please God. However, working hard does not guarantee that we are pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” which means that our hard work and sacrifice alone does not please God. Our journey must follow obedient faith.
In a sense, it is harder to be obedient than it is to make sacrifices. Obedience is submissive compliance and conformity to something that we may not agree with. Obedience is subjection to authority requiring us to conform in order to follow — whether or not we get something from it. Obedience is unconditional.
Sacrifice is what we do in exchange for something else. There is some benefit, usually for the person who sacrifices. Sacrifice is conditional.
Obedience must come before sacrifice. We learn from King Saul that sacrifice after failure to obey (though he worked hard) will reap no benefit and is displeasing to God. He thought that obeying halfway was good enough to justify his own decision. But he displeased God with his disobedience, so God wasn’t interested in his sacrifice. He set himself in competition against God through his sacrifice. Disobedience is rebellion against God, a rebellion that started in the Garden of Eden.
We may find ourselves becoming so determined and preoccupied in doing tasks for God that we may neglect the more important thing — obedience. We may even find ourselves sacrificing many things in order for us to see the results we want, but without obedience, the work is fruitless in God’s eyes.
As we work hard, we must pause regularly to listen to what God is saying. Obedience is listening to God’s voice and doing what He wills even against our own will. In accomplishing any task or assignment, obedience (to God’s voice) is better than sacrifice. In the end, we will accomplish our goals and we will please God, because we obey Him.