The king was at a crossroads. He had been given a direct command to wipe out the Amalekites. Nothing was to be left standing. But his men were clamoring to keep some of the choice cattle and livestock. Which would he choose?
King Saul was one of the most promising men in Israel. At the time he was anointed the nation’s first king, Saul was head and shoulders above the rest — literally. He was tall, strong, intelligent, handsome and God-fearing. He came from a prominent family and a noble tribe. From all outward appearances, Saul was the obvious choice for king.
Early on God was with Saul, defeating the enemies of Israel. Saul was a surging leader with tremendous promise, but the choice he was about to make would determine his destiny. As the prophet Samuel approached King Saul, he knew what choice had been made. The sound of bleating sheep and animals was evidence of Saul’s choice.
In (1 Samuel 15.19 NIV), Samuel asked, “Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” Saul admitted that he was afraid and had given in to the demands of his men, but the cattle were only spared to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord. Then Samuel made this powerful statement… “Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams,” (1 Samuel 15.22 NLT).
Obedience is better. Obedience is better than being religious. Obedience is better than being a good person. Obedience is better than trying your best. Obedience is better, and obedience is what God is looking for in you.
King Saul is a good example of how some people live the Christian life. They feel that once they acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and turn to Him for salvation, that’s the end of the story. They have their sins forgiven and they are going to heaven, so now they can just live their lives as they please. Occasionally they will offer God something — maybe going to worship, reading their Bible, offering to volunteer — but all the while the sound of disobedience is ringing out from their lives.
This is why so many Christians live defeated lives. They want salvation, but not change. They want to know God, but they don’t want to obey God. They want God’s love, but they don’t want Him to be Lord. Is that you? Are there areas of disobedience in your life right now that you are tolerating, even excusing?
Part of the problem is we may not understand the whole gospel. (Ephesians 2.1-10 ESV) is a beautiful picture of the gospel. In the first two verses we read that we are dead in our sin, far from God, carrying out our own wayward and sinful desires and headed for divine judgment. But God, being rich in mercy, intervened and though we were dead in sin, He made us alive in Christ, putting His incredible grace on display in our lives. Then we read these words, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it,” (Ephesians 2.8-9 NLT).
Salvation comes to us when we repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus Christ alone. We are not saved by our good works; we are saved by His good work done once and for all on the cross. That is where we usually stop reading. We feel that the call of Jesus is simply to believe. But the call of Jesus is to follow Him. In repentance and faith we turn to Jesus, and in obedience we live for Jesus.
Keep reading. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago,” (Ephesians 2.10 NLT). You were created anew to follow Jesus and do good things that He marked off for you to do!
Instead of trusting Jesus and then living your own life, God wants you to trust Jesus and follow Him completely. In (2 Corinthians 5.15 NLT) Paul said that “Jesus died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
The normal Christian life is living sold-out for Jesus Christ and obeying Him completely. King Saul forfeited his right to be king that day when he chose to cover his sin instead of obey God. He would never know what kind of king he could have been if he had just obeyed. The same could be said about you. You will never know what great things God could do through your life if you squander it on disobedience. But if you choose to obey Jesus and follow Him, He has great things already planned out for you to do.
Photo Credit: William Krause