In general, most of us who seek to follow God would never intentionally and outrightly disobey Him. But there are less obvious ways we disobey that we also need to be vigilant about. Let’s start with a cautionary tale about Saul from 1 Samuel 15:1,3,8-9,13,19-24 (VOICE).
Samuel (to Saul): Because the Eternal One sent me to anoint you as ruler over His people Israel, listen to what the Eternal One, the Commander of heavenly armies, has to say: “I will punish Amalek because they waylaid Israel in her path out of Egypt. I want you to go down against Amalek and destroy them, everything they have. Do not allow anything to survive; destroy them all—man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
He cut down the entire population with the sword, as God had told him to do, except he captured King Agag of the Amalekites and kept him alive. Saul and the army spared Agag, and they saved the best of the livestock: the sheep, the oxen, the lambs, and the best of all the stock. They kept what was valuable instead of destroying it, and they only destroyed those things they considered worthless.
At last Samuel caught up with Saul. When Saul saw him, he greeted him as if nothing was wrong. Saul (to Samuel): May you be blessed by the Eternal One. I have carried out His commands.
Why didn’t you obey the voice of the Eternal One? Why did you grab the spoils of battle, doing what the Eternal considers evil?
Saul (defending himself): I did what the Eternal One instructed. As He commanded, I went on the mission and decimated all the Amalekites, and I have brought back Agag, their king. It was the people who took the sheep and cattle from the spoil that would have been devoted to destruction and brought them back to sacrifice to the Eternal One, your True God, in Gilgal.
Samuel: Does the Eternal One delight in sacrifices and burnt offerings as much as in perfect obedience to His voice? Be certain of this: that obedience is better than sacrifice; to heed His voice is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as much a sin as fortune-telling, and willfulness is as wicked as worshiping strange gods. Because you have rejected His commands, He has rejected you as king.
Saul: I have sinned. I disobeyed the voice of the Eternal One and your instructions because I was afraid of the people. I listened to their counsel instead of yours.
Some key points to note:
- Saul was honored by God and given a position of authority and responsibility
- Saul was given clear instructions
- Saul executed those instructions in part, using his own judgment to tweak the game plan – human logic does not qualify to override God’s instructions
- Because he mostly obeyed, Saul thought that counted as obedience
- God does not consider partial obedience true obedience
- Saul tries to execute delayed obedience
- God does not consider delayed obedience true obedience
- God’s hand lifts from Saul’s place of authority, in other words: There are consequences to disobedience
- Saul acknowledges his disobedience was rooted in fear (he tried to maintain a position given by God in his own flesh, trying to please the people to stay in authority, which he then loses because it was God-given in the first place)
Truly, this is a cautionary tale for us. The key principle here is it is not for us to judge God’s instruction, it is our responsibility to obey – fully and in God’s timing. It is not for us to give greater weight to the counsel around us. We should never allow ourselves to be talked out of obedience by someone else or ourself.
We may not understand the “why” of what God has instructed, but obedience doesn’t require our understanding, only our willingness to yield. This isn’t easy, but it’s what faith looks like.
Obedience speaks loudly. It communicates that God is worthy of trust. I share more about this in Showing God is Worthy of Our Trust (Numbers 20) where I share the story behind Moses disobedience that kept him from the promised land (again, disobedience has consequences).
In closing let me share tomorrow’s Prophetic Nugget on this topic from this scripture. It’s called “Obedience: a Sweet Act of Worship.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23 (VOICE) …Be certain of this: that obedience is better than sacrifice…
Beloved, yielding to My voice is one of the sweetest acts of worship you can bring. It is an aroma so pleasing before Me. It is a wordless declaration that you trust Me and that I AM a worthy God. No form of sacrifice outweighs the gift of your obedience.
Partial obedience is still disobedience. It is a sign you trust your own judgment and agenda above My own. If you truly trust Me, you will obey Me. Even your need to understand is based in a desire to judge My judgment.
Release your need to understand. Release your need to determine if you agree with My instructions or requests, and simply yield. Yield out of love. Yield out of respect. Yield to give honor. Yield to bring glory. Part of “giving your life to Me” is yielding to Me, so release any need to judge or control and simply trust and obey.
1 Samuel 15:22-23 (VOICE) Samuel: Does the Eternal One delight in sacrifices and burnt offerings as much as in perfect obedience to His voice? Be certain of this: that obedience is better than sacrifice; to heed His voice is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as much a sin as fortune-telling, and willfulness is as wicked as worshiping strange gods. Because you have rejected His commands, He has rejected you as king.