This morning, I woke up and heard, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”
As I began to seek the Lord, I began to pray for the Body of Christ to obey the heart of the Lord.
The Word in 1 Samuel is where the Lord began to minister to me.
“But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT
It is here the Lord establishes this vital truth.
He desires our heart more than our outward religious activity.
To put it another way…
To be righteous is not centered on doing what looks right.
It doesn’t rely on how much we’re at church.
Or how much church language we know.
It’s not centered on having all the answers and telling people they’re wrong.
Righteousness puts love over religion. Reconciliation over condemnation.
Righteousness is having God’s heart.
And God’s heart is devoted to bringing people to Himself.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 NKJV
Saul’s heart was corrupt.
The heart of the Body of Christ is corrupt.
We have been defiled by division.
And there is a lot of finger pointing coming from the Body of Christ.
I believe the Lord wants to release His mercy through us.
Think of this, Saul’s heart was so corrupt, he had no problem obeying the Lord to slaughter people including women and children.
But he couldn’t obey and destroy the livestock and the Amalekite king.
Saul wanted to obey the Lord and also reserve the treasure and the glory for himself.
His heart desired worldly riches even at the expense of lives.
He even desired the admiration of people above the heart of God.
“Then 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.” I Samuel 15:24 NKJV
Imagine the trajectory of a person who was corrupt in this fashion.
What would’ve happened when the Lord ordered mercy?
Saul would’ve still been more than happy to kill if it meant riches and the cheers and acceptance of the people.
He had been corrupted by power to the point he no longer appreciated the authority of God. He no longer worshipped God more than worldly riches.
He was not willing to make the sacrifice of self-denial.
And most important to this message…
Saul had not received the merciful heart of God.
Even when God ordered the slaughter of a people, He was exhibiting mercy.
He is always merciful, even in judgment.
We can’t forget, it’s His goodness and kindness that being repentance.
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 NIV
We are not so inclined to be merciful.
In this passage of scripture, God had allowed the Amalekites generations of time to repent for their treatment of Israel.
However, God knew the hearts of the Amalekite nation was corrupt beyond repair. And He had to remove them or it would only get worse. They were a hindrance to the gospel and the advancement of God’s glorious Kingdom being revealed in the earth.
Without the gospel of Jesus in the earth, removing sin wasn’t as easy or simple. It required more time and it required people to obey the God only found in Israel.
God had to work methodically across generations to undo the damage of sin.
The people of the earth had rejected God for generation after generation before the flood.
God had exhibited His mercy over all that time. But now to make way for the gospel of Jesus Christ, He had to make room for Israel and protect Israel.
No Israel, no gospel.
And no hope for the world.
When we see God’s heart in this light, it makes more sense that He would wipe out a people.
If they stood in the way of the world’s salvation, they had to go. But the Lord only brought about this kind of solution after generations of a people were allowed an opportunity to serve and worship God by turning away from wickedness and idol worship.
With the mercy of God in mind, now let’s return to Saul.
If Saul had not grasped the heart of God that bleeds mercy, he was unfit to lead Israel.
He was not fit to lead the nation that was carrying the gospel in its womb.
And we can’t forget, this was early yet in the nation of Israel’s history. Saul was the first king.
And the Lord knew by His infinite wisdom that Israel couldn’t handle their assignment to worship Him in full view of the world and give Him glory above all gods, if the very first king was corrupt to the point he would wipe out nations for riches.
God couldn’t allow anything to stand in the way of His will being established. He wanted a stable kingdom of Israel to establish His name in the earth.
Think of Moses.
He was revered and honored by God.
Yet Moses died on Mount Nebo and only saw the land of promise. He was not allowed to enter.
God saw something in the heart of Moses that if God had allowed Moses to lead the people in the promised land, it would have been a hindrance to the establishment of Israel and the establishment of God’s vehicle for world salvation.
The anger Moses exhibited when he hit the rock instead of speaking to it was a sign of corruption.
He did not obey God.
And the Lord knew Moses would have been increasingly infected by pride and moved away from God’s heart of mercy.
Of it happened to Moses, it can happen to anyone.
How does this apply to us today?
In our contemporary world, we are now carrying the gospel if we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
What a responsibility!
We are called to obey God.
And through our obedience, we are called to carry the mercy of God.
In this age of 30 second videos and instant web searches for information, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the mercy of God. He is ultimately patient with sin.
He’s a God of generations.
He sees generationally.
He works across the entirety of time all at once.
He sees all of world history at once.
So we can’t afford to be short-sighted and trigger happy.
Every issue and vote and topic is not a crisis.
It’s an opportunity for God to be revealed.
The God of mercy.
I believe the Lord wants us to be a people of mercy.
And He wants us to be a people of gentleness and respect.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
This is worship.
Loving the outsider.
Being aware of God’s heart for reconciliation.
Jesus didn’t die to give us a sword to plunge into our neighbor.
He died to give us power to transform the world around us with His name and His Spirit.
In this era of plight and division, we must be the people who don’t run to the world’s battles.
Everyone had an opinion.
Every issue had a binary approach.
You have to pick sides, dig in and fight.
That’s the world’s approach.
Instead may we have a heart of mercy.
To obey is better than sacrifice.
So to have a heart like God is better than going to church or a rally or a worship service.
We are called to walk as he walked.
And consider these words of Jesus where He placed another trait as higher priority than sacrifice.
Jesus prioritizes mercy.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Matthew 9:13 NIV
To obey God is to have mercy.
God is always seeking to save.
May we avoid all behavior and talk that exalts being right above saving the lost.
Jesus is a suffering servant.
And so must we be.
God is not about slaughtering people.
He’s not at war with people.
He’s wants His people to serve those who hate them.
We are called to teach people and show people Jesus.
His blood speaks a better word.
I pray we will endure suffering as good soldiers.
And fight our battles in the spirit, not against people.
For His glory and His kingdom to advance, we must embrace humility.
And we must obey God as we reject earthly riches.
There is no power above God’s power.
Don’t let the government trick you into thinking your fight is with Washington of city hall.
Our fight is in prayer.
Our goal is God’s goal.
Save the lost.
Love the world.
Do not condemn it.
May God bless you richly,