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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

SaulInBattleRebukedbySamuelAnd Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. - 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

Obedience is important to God.

Perhaps that sounds to you like the understatement of the century. You may be saying to yourself, “Of course obedience is important to God…what a remarkably unimpressive way to start to a devotional!” And that may be a fair summation of your perspective on the Christian life. However, I’d like to suggest that the importance God gives to our obedience is an often-underemphasized reality in substantial portions of the American church. 

Why is that? A variety of different reasons could be posited, all of which might provide helpful insights. For the purpose of this devotional, however, please note one possible reason through the means of a key verb that is employed in 1 Samuel 15:22: Delight.

Allow me to provide a little background context to this verse. In 1 Samuel 15, God asks Saul, through the prophet Samuel, to attack and destroy the Amalekites, the ancient and wicked enemies of Israel. God instructs Saul that the Israelites are to keep none of the Amalekites or their possessions as spoils of war; rather, they are to utterly destroy the Amalekites and their possessions as an act of obedience to Him.

To be sure, this is an undeniably difficult text on a number of levels. Regardless, the story continues on to tell us that while Saul may have been victorious in battle over the Amalekites, he did what was right in his own eyes rather than follow God’s clear commandment. He and the Israelites kept the choice possessions of the Amalekites for themselves (along with allowing their King, Agag, to live). When caught in his sin by Samuel, Saul explained his disobedience away by saying that they intended to use the spoils of the victory as material to sacrifice to God in worship. Saul admitted that he and Israel had been disobedient; however, he justified their disobedience due to their (supposed) desire to offer sacrifice and worship to God. His rationale was simple: worship and sacrifice trump (or at least mitigate) disobedience.

It is into that setting that Samuel’s rebuke of Saul occurs: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

Please do not miss what the Lord is saying through Samuel. Our obedience brings delight to God. Greater delight than sacrifice. Greater delight than worship. Greater delight than offerings of praise. One of the reasons why the American church doesn’t talk more about obedience is simple: we don’t realize the joy it brings to our Father!

God loves it when we obey! He very much enjoys our worship; however, He is crazy about our obedience. May that fact stir us today. As we fast and seek God, set your heart, mind, and will on obeying Him this day. He delights in that obedience!

Jim Black
Director of Athletic Ministries at Stanford