1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: “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.”
In this passage, the prophet Samuel is rebuking King Saul. He had disobeyed a direct command of God for “religious” reasons. Saul said that he was going to give God a sacrifice instead. In his rebuke, Samuel gives us a principle that we would do well to remember.
Obedience to God is always better than any sacrifice we can make. It doesn’t matter whether you’re putting money in an offering plate or offering up a “sacrifice of praise.” Obedience trumps sacrifice every time.
The reason is that sacrifice can be manipulated. It can be motivated by self-will or arrogance. Obedience, on the other hand, honors God by putting Him directly in the center of what we’re doing. Usually, total obedience to God can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Not only is God the focus, but He is also the One who strengthens us.
A good example of this is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He cried out to God He said, “If it is Your will, take this cup [dying on the cross] from me.” Then He told the Father that it was not His own will that was important, but the Father’s. The Lord’s prayer that day was in accordance with the principle of Samuel. What Jesus wanted didn’t matter – it was the Father’s will that was supreme.
Our “cup” and God’s will are two totally different things until we allow the Lord to merge them. Our highest goal should be to know God’s will and obey it. More than any other part of our lives, this is our highest call.