To Obey Is...

Richard Thetford

Through the prophet Samuel, Saul was told by the Lord to “go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" (1 Samuel 15:3). So Saul, upon hearing what was told of him to do, went and gathered the people to fight the battle against the Amalekites.

Better Than Sacrifice

In 1 Samuel 15: 8 we read where Saul took the king of the Amalekites (Agag) alive, and did utterly destroy all the people. But in verse 9 it says that he “spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” Immediately upon reading what Saul did in relationship with what the word of the Lord said we can see a discrepancy. Saul DID NOT utterly destroy all the people as the Lord had instructed for him to do (spared the king, isn’t he “a people”?). He DID NOT destroy “all they have” and “ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (kept all that was good, unwilling to destroy them). As a result of this, the Lord regretted that He had set up Saul as King. Samuel later finds Saul at Carmel where he had set up a monument for himself and was sacrificing the spoil that he brought back from the battle with the Amalekites. When Saul sees Samuel he says: “I have performed the commandment of the LORD” (V13).

Isn’t it amazing how plain and simple the Lord’s commandment to Saul was, yet he, thinking he obeyed, did not! Notice the exchange between Samuel and Saul in verses 19 and 20. Samuel begins by saying: “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.” We can clearly see that Saul disobeyed the Lord but tries to cover it up by telling Samuel that THE PEOPLE took the best of the spoil, that should have been destroyed and brought it back to sacrifice to God. Samuel responds by saying: “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 heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Saul knew what the Lord had directed him to do through Samuel and as the King, it was his responsibility to ensure that the people did exactly as the Lord commanded him to do. No matter what we may offer to God, it is meaningless unless we offer it in obedience to His divinely inspired Word!

Better Than Everlasting Destruction

Today we need to understand that if we do not obey God’s Will for us that we will suffer everlasting destruction. The Hebrew writer states: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). If Jesus only offers salvation to those who obey Him, what then will happen if we do not obey Him? Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: “and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power”. Any student of God’s Word can clearly see that ONLY those who obey His word will be saved. Yet there are many, many souls who will suffer that everlasting destruction because they will not harken to the voice of God, and will offer to God their own sweet smelling fragrances that are an abomination to God! Obedience is what God expects and demands from His children. We can ONLY enter the land of eternal rest when we OBEY and DO His will (Matthew 7:21). Obedience and a home in heaven is certainly better than everlasting destruction!