Sacrifice - It's Good, But Nothing Like Obedience

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, July 18, 2013 0 comments

I remember a story about five years ago involving one of the most exciting football players ever to put on pads in the NFL that ended up getting attention from many beyond the sports world because of it’s content. I’m talking about when then-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was found to be heavily involved in the illegal activity of dog-fighting. He not only financed a large operation in the “sport”, but he also participated directly in training, punishing, and betting the dogs. Most of the public was horrified as the details of what was done to these innocent animals surfaced. Vick was arrested, pled guilty to felony charges, and served a sentence of almost two years in prison. I remember hearing his public apology before he went to serve the sentence, but also hearing many in the media who said that, in order for Vick to change his reputation with the public, he would need to align himself with some sort of organization that stands against dog-fighting and animal cruelty. Being truly broken over his sins and walking away from the lifestyle wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the public.

I am sure glad that our Father does not look at us and demand of us what “public opinion” does. In fact, if our reputation-saving actions are not done out of obedience to him, Scripture tells us that they are pointless in God’s eyes. In the Old and New Testaments, the legalistic Israelites made a bad habit out of living in defiance to God while trying to justify it by the law or compensate for it with other good deeds. A perfect example of this that I came across within the past few months is found in 1 Samuel 15. The nation of Israel had demanded that Samuel, their last judge, appoint a king to lead them so they could be like all the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). Samuel sought the Lord and the Lord allowed Israel to have what they wanted, even though he knew it wasn’t what was best for them. The Lord chose Saul to be Israel’s first earthly king and things went well for awhile, but Chapter 15 is where we see that it all began to fall apart due to Saul’s own pride and disobedience.

I encourage you to read the whole chapter on your own and pay close attention to the comparison between what the Lord commands Saul to do and what he actually does. It’s a wonderful picture of how we all live at times, doing what we think is enough to satisfy others and even the Lord, while we know it’s not completely what he commanded. We forget the truth found in James 2:10, that he who “keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it”. Saul was told to attack and completely destroy the Amalekites and everything that belongs to them as a form of punishment from God for what they did to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

Saul appears to be obedient at first, as he goes to attack the Amalekites. However, the passage tells us that Saul spared Agag, who was king of the Amalekites, and the best of the sheep and cattle, or “everything that was good” (v. 9). He was willing to destroy anything that could not benefit him later, but chose to keep the “good things” that God had commanded him to destroy. After Saul sets up a monument in his own honor in Carmel (v. 12), Samuel goes to find him and confront his disobedience. At first, Saul claims to have obeyed God fully. Samuel then rhetorically asks in v. 14, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” After Saul tries to blame his soldiers, even though he was their leader, he continues to claim to have obeyed the Lord. He mixes God’s command with what HE THOUGHT was best. He tells Samuel that the soldiers brought back the best of the plunder to “sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal” (v. 21). Samuel’s response is fascinating: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (v. 22).

Samuel’s words are foreshadowing for what the next king of Israel would experience in his personal relationship with God when his sin with Bathsheba is exposed. Rather than try to earn back God’s favor with sacrifices or other good deeds, David simply comes before the Lord with humility. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Like David, we must never fall into the trap of thinking we can earn God’s favor, or compensate for our sin like Saul tried to do. We must simply accept that there is nothing we can do aside from coming before the Lord with godly brokenness that will lead us to repentance, and hope that he will have mercy on us. Friends, God knows that you have and will fall short, and a broken and contrite heart is what he desires for you to have because it’s only then that he can bring restoration into your life. If you never get to a point of brokenness over your own sin, then there is nothing for God to restore because you haven’t allowed yourself to be knocked down yet! Remember this: the word “sacrifice” was ALWAYS about what God would do, did, and has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross, and it has NEVER been and NEVER will be about what you can do for him. When he calls you to give something over to him, you better do it. But that’s the only time you should, because obedience always trumps sacrifice.