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 said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord , and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.
1 Samuel 15:22-28 ESV
This passage describes how the Lord dealt with Saul’s habit of disobedience to God’s commands. Chapter 15 starts with God commanding Saul, thru Samuel, to annihilate the Amalekites.
And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord . Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'”
1 Samuel 15:1-3 ESV
One might first question why would God issue a command like this but I won’t be tackling it here. Instead, a helpful article that provides a background can be found here: Who were the Amalekites?
Going back to Saul, it was clear from the previous passage that God explicitly said what He wanted them to do. Saul and his people did not follow the Lord’s command. They decided themselves to keep all that was useful to them and put the useless to destruction.
But Saul and the people 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
As we draw from the story, selective obedience is not obedience at all. In our time, we hear from the Lord and His commands through reading the Bible. We cannot just pick what we want to follow or what to believe in His Word. If we do, we are being like Saul. As believers, I know that at first there may be struggles obeying God but we have to be conscious and hopeful that Jesus is working on our hearts. He is settling our issues from grace to grace and next time we know, we have come to despise those areas in our lives that are not glorifying to God. This process is called sanctification.
Obedience is better than sacrifice. It is a great motto to remember when we are at the face of sinning. God is not pleased when we sin and think that we will just repent later. If we are just comfortable doing just like that then we have to assess if we are truly of God’s people. God rejects those that are not His.
Finally, Saul cared more about his reputation than going after God’s heart. His repentance was not genuine because he did it for the wrong reasons. He wanted the prestige of being a king among Israel but failed to obey the source of his authority. While Jesus, the Son of God, the perfect example of obedience to the Father when He demonstrated it by dying on the cross for our sins, was exalted high when He humbled Himself. He is still up to now reigning into the heavens and into the earth, fulfilling God’s plan.
Sole Deo Gloria!