Obedience is Better Than Sacrifice

“…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.

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2 Replies to “Obedience is Better Than Sacrifice”

  1. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
    Acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.
    Hosea 6:6; says nothing about obedience.
    I’d think that mercy ranks higher than obedience because the Pharisees were obedient, but not always merciful.

    1. The word that links the 2 scriptures together is sacrifice. Obedience rather than sacrifice and Mercy rather than sacrifice. And the context of each scripture is the key to understanding what kind of sacrifices the people were making instead of obeying or showing mercy. The whole scripture reads: “…5Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.…” (Hosea 6:5-7) And so it doesn’t contradict what Jesus says later when he says: “If only you had known the meaning of ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” ( Matthew 12:7) He explains who the “innocent” are to be shown mercy when he says: “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:10 ) So its a matter of Jesus asking us to obey him over making sacrifices and because of our being willing to do that out of love for him that we are shown mercy. It’s one leading to the other rather than one or the other. Such powerful, transforming truth!

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