To Obey Is Better
Does God hear bleating and lowing? Some of you instantly know where this is headed don't you?
In the book of 1 Samuel, Ch-14, God through the prophet Samuel, tells King Saul, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."
Saul and his army had a tremendous victory over the Amalekites, but, they "spared (Amelikite King) Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed."
So although Saul went up against Agag and apparently killed all the people except Agag himself, and apparently killed most of the animals, except the good ones, God said, "I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Let that be lesson #1 to us.
Samuel went to confront Saul, but Saul had gone to Carmel " to set up a monument in his own honor" Notice the "his own" with relation to their victory. Saul arrogantly failed to give the victory to God. Let that be lesson #2 to us.
When Samuel and Saul finally linked up, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” I'm convinced even though scripture doesn't say, that Samuel had a funny look on his face, one of question. Samuel replies to Saul, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
In true modern-day fashion, Saul instead of saying "I did it...." he shifted blame, and said, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” Now I have no idea what was in Saul's heart, but it sounds a whole lot like a child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar after being told no, and looks at the parent and says, "...but I was getting it for you!" Go ahead, raise your hand, we have all done something similar!
Samuel, in vs 17-19 confronts Saul's sin, reminding him that God made him king over Israel and that God gave him clear instructions that he failed to follow. Yet Saul replies, "But I did obey the Lord"... “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God..." Let this be lesson #3 for us. Doing everything God asks except for the part we fail to do is not doing everything God asks!
Now here's the main lesson for us. Samuel explains to Saul that God desires obedience more than sacrifice. Samuel explained that Saul's arrogance was idolatry. He then explained that Saul would not go unpunished, as God had rejected him as King because of his disobedience. Likely many in our society today would side with Saul because Saul did most of what God said and had good intentions for the part that he failed to do. But the lesson for us is that clearly, this is not acceptable to God.
So many lessons can come from this historical account of King Saul, but for sure one of them is that God means what He says, and says what He means. When He directs us to do something, He wants total obedience, not partial obedience with a dose of what we think added in. We need to understand that this trait of God applies in our formal worship, our daily worship, or doctrine, and every aspect of our lives. God is interested in obedience to His Word, all of it, not just certain portions. How often do we drop the ball?
Saul does finally realize he indeed failed God, and he says, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command..." but it didn't come without consequences.
When God comes calling, and we say we have obeyed, will God be able to say, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” Will God find that we obeyed Him in part, or completely? Let the words of Jesus sink deep into our hearts, "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:22-23)