“Obedience is better than sacrifice” comes from 1 Samuel 15. King Saul is on a downward slide of disobedience and the prophet Samuel is frustrated with this man he anointed as king.
If you are frustrated with your own relationship with God or perhaps struggling with an empty, unfulfilled feeling, it might be worth your while to examine the “obedience is better than sacrifice” Bible verse and its implication for Christians today. We are sometimes lost with the idea of sacrifice because animal sacrifice has never been a part of our lives.
Let’s explore a much more personal form of sacrifice and draw closer to God in the process.
As I mentioned already, this verse is found in the story of King Saul and we can learn a lot from his mistakes.
Obedience is Better than Sacrifice
King Saul was instructed to destroy the Amalekites. He was given strict instructions to destroy all of the people as well as their animals.
Saul heads out with his army to do as He is commanded. Unfortunately, he could not resist the temptation to keep the animals for himself (at this time, wealth was often measured by the number of sheep, goats, oxen, etc. that you possessed).
Samuel confronts Saul who quickly spins a tale. He says that his men demanded to keep the animals to sacrifice to the Lord.
It sounds good, doesn’t it? He smooths over his disobedience by claiming it stemmed from a desire to honor the Lord.
Have you ever done this?
I will be the first to raise my hand. Yes, yes I have.
Here is the whole verse from which “obedience is better than sacrifice” comes so you get the complete picture of how God felt about it.
“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.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22-23)
What does Obedience is Better than Sacrifice Mean for Us Today?
We don’t sacrifice animals these days. We know our ultimate sacrifice gave his life on the cross. So what does obedience is better than sacrifice mean for us today?
I think it is hard for us to recognize, but some of the signs are discontentment, restlessness, feeling unfulfilled, and feeling as if we are missing something.
Have you ever gone through the Christian motions without your heart being in it? Go to church, love your neighbor, sing songs about grace. We’ve been so well trained, we can check them off like a to-do list.
To me, this is sacrifice. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were outward service. They were specific and always accomplished in the same order and manner, but they did nothing to change the wicked hearts of man.
As created beings, we are looking for an intimate connection with our creator. We are in need of a personal relationship with our Abba Father. (I recently learned something neat about the word Abba, check it out in Bible Verses about Father’s Love on Earth and in Heaven)
What if we stopped focusing on the “good” and simply listened to the conviction in our hearts? What would that look like?
Obedience, it looks like obedience.
A true relationship with Christ comes through obedience. We come because we are called, we go through the motions of repentance and baptism because it is our desire to become one with him. To follow in so close association that our words are his and his will in ours.
Jesus talks at length about this in John 15. He uses the example of a grape vine. He is the vine and we are the branches. All of our strength and nourishment come from him. He is the one rooted in the ground (rooted in the Heavenly Father) and through him we bear fruit. Through him we are reconciled to God. Through Christ we find a complete relationship with our creator.
What Does God Say about Obedience?
What if we took a break for a minute or two from all of our good deeds and openly listen to the conviction in our hearts? The Bible verse that pricked a little when we read it. The one we quickly covered up by running a hot meal to our neighbor.
The sermon we heard on Sunday. Have we acted upon it or have we been too busy putting Bible verses up on our walls?
Real quick, I want to be sure you understand that these things are NOT wrong. It is right there in scripture to help one another and write God’s words on your doorpost.
It only becomes wrong when our acts of service replace our relationship with God.
What does the Bible say about obedience?
What does the Bible say about obedience? It is full of commandments, but I want to remind you that we are not to focus on the outward sacrifice, rather focus on our relationship with Him and allow Him to guide us into this obedience.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)
Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)
Notice how both of these verse talks about love first? We will get into this more in a minute, but true obedience stems from our love for God.
Just as true acceptance of the grace bestowed upon us by a merciful and loving God leads us into the removal of sin from our lives. We know that we can not be saved because of our good works or our obedience for that matter.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
It all begins with our love for God
How then do you know if you are simply sacrificing or in true obedience? I think it begins with your motive. Our sacrifices need to stem from a true love for Christ in order to be obedience.
Sacrifice will leave us feeling empty. Only a true relationship with God and allowing ourselves to embrace His love will give us the feeling of security that we are all searching for.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13
David speaks of his greatest desire being to dwell in the house of the Lord. When our greatest desire is to love and serve God then the sacrifices all fall into place. We no longer focus on them because we are focused solely on our love for God and drawing close to Him.
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord Psalm 27:4
I love those who love me,
And those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-39)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)
So, dear friends, I encourage you to grow in your love for the Lord. Focus on Him and His truth and all those good deeds will fall into place.
Last December, I began feeling a strong burden and God showed me the error of my ways. I share the lessons I learned in my series on “conforming to this world” and the traps we Christians fall into. It is a great accompaniment to the obedience is better than sacrifice Bible verse.
Obedience is Better than Sacrifice Sermon
If you are looking for a sermon on Obedience in better than sacrifice, may I suggest Charles Spurgeon? He has a long-winded and detailed sermon and I encourage you to check it out. This is my favorite part and what I think fits the best with my own thoughts on obedience is better than sacrifice Bible verse.
“Most of men, instead of obeying God, want to bring him sacrifice. They suppose that their own way of salvation is much better than any that the Almighty can have devised, and therefore they offer their fat of rams. This takes different forms, but it is always the same principle. One man says, “Well now, I will give up my pleasures; you shall not see me at the ball-room, you shall not catch me at the theatre, I will forsake the music-hall, you shall not discover me in low company; I will give up all the things that my heart calls good, and will not that save me?”
No, it will not. When you have made all this sacrifice, all I shall or can say of it is, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
“Well, but suppose 1′ begin to attend a place of worship? Suppose I go very regularly, and as often as the doors are opened? Suppose I go to early matins, and to the even-song? Suppose I attend every day in the week where the bell is always going? Suppose I come to the sacrament, and am baptized? Supposing I go through with the thing, and give myself thoroughly up to all outward observances; will not all this save me?”
No, nor will it even help you to being saved. These things will no more save you than husks will till your hungry belly. It is not the husks you want, you want the kernels; and so, poor soul, you do not want external ceremonies, you want the inward substance, and you will never get that except by trusting Jesus Christ.” -Charles Spurgeon
Has the meaning of obedience is better than sacrifice become more clear now? Which of these Bible verses about obedience resonated with you the most? Let me know if you checked out Charles Spurgeon’s obedience is better than sacrifice sermon. He always makes me think a little lol
I want to remind you that we are all growing in our faith as we learn to trust God completely. My own heart is pricked by these verses and I know God is pulling me into a deeper relationship with Him. Are you ready to walk with me?