“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.” 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)
Consider the words of Oswald Chambers on the topic of obedience:
“My personal life may be crowded with small, petty happenings, altogether insignificant, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. Then, when I stand face to face with God, I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When God’s redemption brings a human soul to the point of obedience, it always produces. If I obey Jesus Christ, the redemption of God will flow through me to the lives of others, because behind the deed of obedience is the reality of Almighty God.”
In the Samuel passage Saul pleads his case and defends his actions. He was God’s chosen King and God instructed him to destroy Amalekites, even the livestock. But Saul kept some of the spoils from the battle and then lied to Samuel about it. Perhaps Saul thought he could talk his way out of it. After all, in the ancient Near East it was assumed that obedience in the temple courts meant sacrifice of some kind was involved. Maybe Saul felt he could cover his actions with a, “Well, I was just keeping some things to make a good sacrifice to God,” type of excuse.
Saul should have known. God wanted him to listen and do. But he did not listen. He did what he wanted to do, what was right in his own eyes, and he lost his throne because of it.
Oswald Chambers points to the fruit of obedience; when we listen to God, good things come of it. When we do not listen, only bad ensues and that is the beauty of obedience—the fruit of the redeemed looks like heavenly blessing.
Today’s Prayer: Lord Jesus, I hear you telling me to do ____________. To be honest with you, it sounds a little crazy. I cannot see the good that will come of it. I cannot even see past the instructions and yet you call me forth. What is keeping me locked in this place of indecision and even rebellion? Shake me from my complacency, O God! I want to do this thing, but I do not understand. Help my understanding, and help me to listen and do.
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub., 2007), November 2nd.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.