Now that I have my word for the year, I need to delve into the scriptures I’ve chosen. There were 4 scriptures that resonated with me and 2 I chose for my focus verses.
The first of my 4 verses that I chose is from 1 Samuel 15:22. King Saul was anointed by Samuel, the priest, as King and blessed by God. The Lord gave him instructions on how to deal with the evil Amalekites. He was to completely destroy them and not take any plunder at all. Saul mustered his army and went to battle with the Amalekite King. He won the battle but took King Agag prisoner and took his flocks as his own. Here is the story after Saul returns from battle, 1 Samuel 15:13-29
When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
“Tell me,” Saul replied.
17 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. 18 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.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “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. 21 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.”
22 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.
23 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.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”
27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”
Did you notice that King Saul did not obey the Lord’s commands but says he did in verse 20. He thought that partial obedience was obedience. Does that sound familiar? When God requires us to not murder or covet, yet we hold murderous or covetous thought in our minds that is only partially obeying the Lord. When God requires us to keep the Sabbath holy, yet we feel it is okay to miss church or not ever go because we don’t feel like it or it interferes with our rest time that is partial obedience. When we believe in God and desire to follow Him but only do it half way that is partial obedience. King Saul only partially obeyed the Lord and choose what he wanted to do instead. He kept King Agag as a trophy to parade before the people as a symbol of their victory and they only kept the best of the sheep and cattle and killed the rest. To compound this sin of disobedience, Saul tries to put the blame on his men. He said his soldiers brought back the best sheep to use as sacrifices. God tells King Saul what he thought of his partial obedience in verse 22. You thought to bring the best sheep as sacrifices to me, said the Lord, but I’d rather have total obedience. Don’t try to cover your disobedience with an excuse. As a result, God removed the throne from King Saul and his descendants. Later Samuel anointed David king but he had to wait 14 years before Saul to died in battle. During those 14 years, Saul tried to kill David repeatedly and remove him as the future king. His plans always failed as God protected David and his kingship was established.
What do we learn about obedience in this story? God requires that we totally, wholeheartedly follow Him. He wants our total surrender to His ways and plans. Partial obedience = disobedience. This concept is hard to see sometimes as we like to rationalize how our doing part of what God wants and see that as okay with Him. Looking at this story, God wants it all. The glory for the battle victory belonged to the Lord and was not Saul’s to take as his own. They were ridding the land of an evil group of people. By partially obeying the command, we see later in 2 Samuel 1 that David was still fighting the Amalekites and one actually came to him and reported Saul’s death. God knew the Amalekites would continue to be a thorn in the side of Israel, influencing them with their evil ways and God wanted that influence gone. The parallel for us is that God knows the evil or worldly influences He desires eliminated from our lives. He desires our wholehearted devotion. By only being partially obedient to Him, we are allowing those influences to remain in our lives and leaving ourselves open to temptations and sin.
Where do you need to be obedient wholeheartedly, not partially? Are you only partially committed to Bible Study or daily reading of the Bible? Do you only go to church when you feel like it or do you make it a priority to worship God each week? Where do you choose the majority of your friends? Are they from the world around you or from others believers? Friends can be a powerful influence on you as well as those you can influence. Ask yourself, where is most of my influence coming from? Who do I need to influence for the Lord?
Ponder this verse and examine your own obedience and ask God to show you where you are only partially obeying Him. He will reveal this to you as you seek Him, then repent and seek to be totally obedient. God desires obedience as it pleases Him. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Here are a couple of quotes on this subject- old and new.