What’s Better Than Sacrifice?

Leah DiPascal

Day: 15 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 15

1 Samuel 15:22-23 (NIV) But Samuel replied: ‘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. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.’”

Have you ever been rejected by someone? It hurts, doesn’t it? And the thought of being rejected by God? Unimaginably excruciating. Even the tiniest thought of that idea makes my eyes sting and causes a tight lump to settle deep inside my throat.

In 1 Samuel 15 we find out that God rejects Saul as king. How is it possible that a good God would reject the very person He appointed as the first king over Israel? What went wrong for this to happen?

If we’re in a hurry, we may skim over this chapter and walk away feeling like maybe God is the one being a little harsh in this situation. After all, Saul seemed to have followed God’s instructions … at least most of them.

But if we’ll take time to slow down and study the text, we’ll discover the true motives behind Saul’s actions giving clear reason to why God took this sovereign course of action.

You see, God told Saul to attack the Amalekites because of what they did to the Israelites in the wilderness. (1 Samuel 15:2-3; Exodus 17:8) He gave Saul clear instructions (through Samuel), because this holy war would be God’s fulfillment of an oath He made to the children of Israel. (Exodus 17:14-15)

Saul started out strong doing what God instructed. But somewhere along the way his pride took a detour towards self-serving decisions, instead of God-pleasing obedience. He destroyed the Amalekite people, but decided to bring back King Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle as trophies to display in Carmel, where he’d set up a monument in his own honor. (1 Samuel 15:12) Did you catch that? A monument in his own honor.

Saul’s partial obedience — made to look acceptable — was in fact disobedience. And the monument he built for himself was a clear indication of his underlying arrogance and heart rebellion against God. Saul wanted the fame. He was longing for a thousand that-a-boy pats on the back. He hungered to be highlighted as the person who brought this great victory to the Israelites. Saul wanted all the credit, instead of wanting to give all glory to God.

How did God respond to Saul’s actions? “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions” (1 Samuel 15:11a).

When Samuel confronted Saul about what happened, Saul’s response gives us clues to his internal motives:

1. He pointed the blame at his soldiers. (1 Samuel 15:15, 21)

2. He justified his actions with his own version of God’s instructions. (1 Samuel 15:20-21)

3. He minimizes the seriousness in his sins of omission with an I’m sorry, but … confession. (1 Samuel 15:24-25; James 4:17)

4. He was more concerned about what others would think about him than following God wholeheartedly. (1 Samuel 15:24b)

Saul lost his position in leadership because he turned his back on God, rejecting the One who gave him authority in the first place to rule as king. Saul swapped God’s instructions for his own desires to experience fame and prestige. He listened to the subjective voices of others, instead of fully obeying directions from God.

Saul thought his performance would make up for his lack of loyalty. But God wasn’t interested in more offerings and sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22-23) God wanted a king who had a sincere heart to follow Him. He wanted a person who would lead well, because they genuinely loved God, and pursued a personal relationship with Him every step of the way.

Can I be transparent with you for a minute? I look at Saul’s poor choices and reflect back on my life only to realize there have been times in my past when I, too, have chosen poorly. I’ve blamed others, justified my actions, rationalized the seriousness of my sins. And I’ve spent way too much time worrying about what other people think.

I’ve had to learn some hard lessons but through grace it’s all brought me closer to the heart of God. I now wake up every morning longing to pursue Him with a sincere heart. And I fall asleep at the end of the day — regardless of how it went — thanking God for the loving relationship I get to experience with Him.

More than anything in this world we must seek God first and make our relationship with Him the number one priority. When we do this, our desires will line up with His desires. Our thoughts will line up with His thoughts. Our decisions and actions will begin to flow from a heart that is genuinely devoted to Him so that we can be trusted with what He’s entrusted to us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, my heart beats only for You and my soul longs to know You more. Thank You for the saving grace that covers my sins. Thank You for loving me first, before I was even interested in loving You. Help me to live in a humble posture of full obedience that reflects an inward and outward expression of my love and devotion to You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

More Moments:

Saul desperately begged Samuel to forgive him and go back with him to Carmel, because he wanted... Read More

Download the First 5 app to get the full experience

Join the Community