1 Samuel 15
"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."
1 Samuel 15:22
Saul, the first king of Israel, had enjoyed several military victories at the beginning of his reign and now God was asking him to destroy the Amalekites.
The Amalekites were a people who had given the people of Israel a hard time after they had escaped Egypt during the Exodus. As the Hebrew people marched away from Egypt, the Amalekites swooped in from behind to kill off the weak and feeble among them (Deut 25:18) and after 500 years they seem to be continuing the work of their ancestors as we find out later they ambushed Israel in a similar fashion while Israel's second king, David, was in power.
Saul was commanded to destroy everything that belonged to the Amalekites. But instead Saul saw how good the livestock was when he invaded and kept the best of it for himself and his army. God told Samuel the prophet about the disobedience of Saul, so the next day Samuel confronted this mighty king.
At first Saul made and excuse that the choice livestock was to sacrifice to God in light of such a great military victory, but Samuel would have none of it. The verse above is his response. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” he says.
After Saul is confronted with this chastisement, he finally admits that the reason he took the animals was because he was being pressured by the men in his army and he was afraid to tell them “no.” The mighty King of Israel who was fierce in battle crumbled under the pressure of his peers and subjects.
These passages from the Bible brings up two points.
The first is that God's desire is for his people to be obedient. There are many in the world who profess to believe in God but very few who would not take advantage of a situation like Saul faced. Many go through the motions of giving up their time to go to church on Sunday mornings and this they might consider a sacrifice. However, after this Sunday morning sacrifice, does obedience, for instance loving God and loving their neighbors, follow them throughout the week, because it is this that marks true obedience.
Secondly, trying to please God and please people will, often times, end in disaster. When Saul acquiesced to his army's request, he achieved a short term relief from the grumblings of his soldiers but, as we later find out, lost the throne for future generations of his family. God was to move his favor to another. Sometimes it is hard to see the long term consequence of our short term, sinful indulgence.
May God rescue us from our good intentions, give us direction in our temptations, and make us fully devoted, obedient followers of His will.