Ears To Hear.
1 Samuel 15-16, Romans 10
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. – 1 Samuel 15:22 ESV
God gave Saul one last test. This king of the people had proven himself to be disobedient, impetuous and impulsive. He went through the religious motions and gave all the outward indications of being a man of God, but in the end, always seemed to do things his way. When God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites, he obeyed, but not fully. Instead of doing just as God said, Saul “spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction” (1 Samuel 15:9 ESV). Saul disobeyed God. Not only that, he caused the people to follow his example. When confronted by Samuel, Saul protested and declared himself innocent, claiming to have fully complied with God’s commands. When Samuel accuses him of disobedience, Saul blames the people. He says that they were the ones who wanted to spare the best of the spoil. Then he justifies their actions by declaring that they intended to use the animals as sacrifices to God. He had clearly heard God’s command, but had chosen to disobey it. And now, when confronted with the reality of his sin, he attempted to justify, deny, shift blame, and rationalize his way out of trouble.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Samuel made it painfully clear. God didn’t need or want Saul’s sacrifices. What he wanted was obedience. “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 ESV). While Saul continued to claim that he had been obedient, Samuel exposed the fact that he had “rejected the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:26 ESV). Rather than do what God had told him to do, Saul had chosen to do what he wanted to do. He had practiced partial obedience. But God was not interested in partial obedience. Saul’s failure to do what God had told him to do revealed a disregard and disrespect for the word of God. He didn’t take God’s word seriously. He didn’t fear God. He believed he could do things his way rather than God’s way and get away with it. And when he got caught, he thought a few well-timed sacrifices would get him out of trouble with God. But God knew Saul’s heart. He knew that this latest episode of disobedience was just one more illustration of Saul’s faulty character. He was never going to obey God fully. Saul had a heart problem. So when God sent Samuel to look for Saul’s replacement as king, He told the prophet, “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
Saul was hard-hearted. He had heard the word of God, but had refused to obey it fully. His partial obedience was not enough. At the core of his disobedience was a distrust of God. He didn’t fully believe that what God said was important. His disobedience reflected a disregard for God’s Word. Even today, men choose to disobey God. They hear His Word and yet refuse to obey it. And they refuse to obey it, because they refuse to believe it. Paul wrote that his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [the Israelites] is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1 ESV). He longed to see his fellow Jews come to faith in Christ. He knew they had a zeal for the things of God. They kept the sacrificial system. They attempted to keep God’s commands. But they were “ignorant of the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3 ESV). They were still trying to depend on their own self-righteousness, believing that they could somehow earn their way into God’s good favor through good works and obedience to His law. They still believed that keeping the commandments could bring them eternal life. And even when Paul preached the good news of Jesus Christ and the reality of righteousness based on faith, they refused to listen. He described them as a “disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21 ESV). It wasn’t that they had not heard the truth. Paul himself had faithfully proclaimed the gospel among the Jews in every city and town he had visited. But the majority of the Jews were unwilling to listen to God’s Word, choosing instead to create their own version of the truth. Paul had made the way of salvation crystal clear. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV). Jesus, the Messiah, had been predicted in the Old Testament. He had proven His Messiahship through signs, miracles and wonders. He had died and been miraculously raised back to life. But they refused to believe. They didn’t want to listen to what Paul and others had to say. They would continue to offer their sacrifices and practice their version of what they believed to be the truth. But the sad outcome of their refusal to listen and obey would be, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you” (1 Samuel 15:23 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God doesn’t take delight in my sacrifice and my attempts at practicing my religion. He wants my heart. He desires my willful obedience to His Word. Saul partially obeyed. He got ninety-percent accuracy. But his heart was not in it. At the end of the day, he doubted God and his doubt led to disobedience. The refusal of the Jews to hear the message of the gospel and believe was because they doubted God. They refused to accept His terms for salvation. They preferred to do things their way and according to their own agenda. They were disobedient and contrary. And while I have confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I can still live in disobedience to the will of God for my life. I can hear Him speaking through His Word, convicting me of sin and clearly revealing to me what He wants me to do, and simply disregard what I hear. I can refuse to obey, choosing instead to do things my way. And when I do, I am revealing that, in my heart, I don’t truly trust God. I don’t have a high regard for His Word. When I refuse to believe, I illustrate my lack of fear of Him. I don’t take Him seriously and prove to be just as disobedient and contrary as Saul or the people of Israel in Paul’s day. At the end of the day, it is a heart problem. God wants me to be a man after His own heart. He wants me to love Him first and foremost. My obedience is to stem from my love for Him. My desire to please Him should come out of a deep-seated understanding of just how much He loves me.
Father, I want to be a man after Your own heart. I want to obey You out of love for You. I want my life to be an expression of gratitude for all You have done for me. Forgive me for my blatant disregard for Your Word. It happens far too often and far too easily. May I be quick to hear what You have to say. May I be slow to speak out in my own self-defense when You rightfully expose my disobedience. And may I never become angry at Your discipline for my willful refusal to obey Your Word. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men