“22 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.
23Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
He has rejected you as king.’ “
~1 Samuel 15:22-23
The God of the Bible would much rather have our obedience than what we THINK he wants us to do. This is the message Samuel gives to Saul. Previously in the chapter, the Lord had ordered the destruction of the Amalekites-meaning everyone had to die. EVERYONE. Saul disobeyed, saving the king and the best of the livestock to be sacrificed for their victory. He thought that it would be a good thing, but he overlooked the fact that what he was doing was in fact disobeying God’s orders.
You see, there is a great difference in what WE think would please God and what He actually wants. We have constructed a world in which being “a good person” is good enough to please God. We have lowered the standard of what it means to be a Christian, and taken Jesus Christ down from His place as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is taught that we can find our OWN ways to reach Heaven, and even that Heaven and God is just a frame of mind inside of ourselves. Even in the Christian realm, it has become somewhat lax in what pleases God. The Gospel has been watered down so that obedience isn’t always necessary, just encouraged. We should just “try”.
But. God is perfect. This being true, He perfectly knows what would please Him. And it isn’t anything that we can possibly think of. Isaiah 55:8-9 says that
“8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
The best kind of praise and pleasing things we can think can’t even begin to compare to what God wants, or deserves. But what pleases God?
According to this, our obedience to His Word and commands.
Why is this?
Because when we are obedient to Christ-to the point of, and past spiritual death on a cross-it brings us closer to Him and also takes us out of this sinful world.
1. Obedience to Christ Brings Us Closer to Him
Look at the Words of James. “4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy?6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. “
The order of this passage is so important! James first comes out and says that we need to obey God, rather than obey the world. There is no in between, no walking the fence. There is either God, or the world. He then goes on to say that if we choose God, and draw closer unto Him, then God will also draw closer to us. But it has to go both ways. Christ is always there, arms open, speaking to us, ready. It is up to us, however, to continually be obeying Him and letting ourselves be conformed to His image. We do have to hold our end of the bargain. 1 Peter 1:16 says that “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”” This is a high call, to be holy! There’s not any room for an in-between. We are called to be set apart, to be holy. To be perfect. To not be a part of this world!
2. Obedience to Christ Takes Us Away From the World
There is clearly a difference between God logic and world logic. The world tells us that we can find the source of our own meaning and existence. They say do what makes you happy, and that truth is relative. That you can pick and choose what you want to believe, that sin is okay. These thoughts and ways of life leave people empty, constantly searching, forever looking for solidity and a foundation to put their life on. God tells us that He sent down His son so that we don’t have to be like this. He died for the sins of the entire world. All of us. He gave us a path back to Him so that we could have a foundation to put our life on, for someone that can perfectly fill the hole that’s inside of us.
Romans 12:2 says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” The simplest way to put this is this. God, our perfect, holy, righteous God, designed us in such a way that if we live life for Him, we will be living up to our fullest potential. We will also satisfy that desire in us for something…more. The Scriptures say that we all have a voice in us that cries out for God-because He made us that way. Humans try to fill that hole with other things-alcohol, drugs, sex, money, greed, friends, etc. We are too prideful to admit that we need to submit to our Lord. When God calls us to be set apart and holy, He is calling us out of this world we live in. We are not to act like those in this world-think like them-partake in those things. If we are of the Spirit of God, we are to walk and think and be in that same Spirit. It’s a high calling, to live here but not BE here. If we are willing to do this, however, that obedience will bring glory back to God-it will magnify the One we are obedient to.
When we are obedient to Christ, it will always then reflect the One we are obedient TO, and magnify Him. God wants our obedience because it creates a much better life for us, and brings Him the glory He very much deserves. In order for me to be a man after God’s own heart, I need to be completely obedient to His Son. I need to draw closer to Christ through the every day discipline of the Word, and prayer, and in doing so I need to also watch that I am not walking in the world. I cannot be friends with both the world and Christ. Being after God’s heart means submitting completely unto Him!