1 Samuel 15:22-23
And Samuel said,
“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.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul has just been anointed the first king of Israel. One of the first things he was instructed to do was pay back the city of Amalek for opposing the Israelites as they made their exodus from Egypt to the promised land. His instructions were to totally destroy everything in the city, men, women, children and livestock.
Saul totally annihilates the residents but keeps the best of the livestock, figuring they would make good sacrifices to God.
What Saul and the Israelites decided to do was rationalize and bend the rules to make it fit their agenda. They thought why not take these nice fat sheep and cattle the we plundered from Amalek and use them for our sacrifice. That way we don’t have to give up our best livestock and God still gets his quality sacrifices. We get to sacrifice but yet don’t have to sacrifice anything, what a deal.
When Samuel the last judge of Israel calls out Saul on not obeying the Lord’s instructions, Saul attempts to rationalize it with Samuel.
1 Samuel 15:20-21
And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
Samuel hears Saul’s excuse and then sets him straight.
What Samuel is saying to Saul in verses 22 and 23 (cited at the beginning of this post) is what is important is not all these sacrifices, for show, but putting your money where your mouth is and obeying the word of God through your actions. And obeying the word thoroughly, not some of the word some of the time, not just when it benefits you or your current agenda.
I’ve have written about how I feel about these early sacrifices required by the Lord. They were to teach that in order to be righteous we have to sacrifice the best of us. We have to totally devote ourselves to righteousness, not just when it is convenient.
Saul and the Israelites thought they had found a way around having to give the best of themselves to be righteous.
God and Samuel were especially upset with Saul as he was the leader of the Israelites, he was who the people took their cue from and he lead the way with this dodge of righteousness.
1 Samuel 15:17
And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.”
In verse 22 Samuel chastises Saul for not obeying the word of God.
“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.
And in verse 23 Samuel lets Saul know not only did he disobey the word of God, he then tried to rationalize it to himself, Samuel and God.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
“…presumption is an iniquity and idolatry.” Saul assumes that since what they were doing was keeping the best which was against the word of God, that is would be OK since they were going to sacrifice their booty to God. So to Saul and the Israelites it all works out.
When Saul then tries to justify his presumption to Samuel and God, he was putting his agenda above the word of God.
It is much like today, when we say, it’s OK we covet and take from those who have more because we are going to give it to those who have less, after we take our cut. We have expenses you know. I’m not giving up my stuff but go ahead and take the other guy’s stuff because it’s for a good cause.
Saul lost his kingdom as punishment, as he showed he was not truly a righteous leader. Saul spent the rest of his life being tormented by himself and others.
When you sacrifice it must be the best you have to give. To sacrifice for show or self-congratulatory purposes is as iniquity and idolatry. Like Saul it will lead to torment from within.
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