To Obey is Better than Sacrifice
“Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” “Tell me,” Saul replied. Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:16-23
Out of all Israel God chose Saul to lead His people as their first human king. He started off humble and brave in leading Israel, but shortly showed or developed a propensity to trust himself rather than the Lord. Here, the Lord had commanded Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, all their men, women, and children, all their flocks, herds, and animals. Yet Saul thought he could get away with keeping the Amalekite king alive as a living trophy, and taking the best of the flocks and herds as plunder and sacrifice to the Lord. When Samuel confronts Saul with what God spoke to him, Saul confesses he sinned and violated the Lord’s commands. But it is too late. God has rejected Saul as king. Obedience to the Lord was critical then, and is critical now. As Samuel relayed God’s words to Saul, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.