A teaching by Rev. Barbara Williams, President of the Ministry of the Watchman International
Week of May 31-June 6, 2021
Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”
1 Samuel 15:13
King Saul reports to the Prophet Samuel that he has obeyed the Lord. Well, he has in his opinion. Whose opinion counts anyway, ours or God’s?
One of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Lamentations: “This I recall to mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; because His compassions fail not; they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Of course it is God’s opinion that matters. He is Lord of all things. So we would be wise to understand what obedience means in God’s eyes. This is a problem for many. Our idea of obedience is different from God’s idea of obedience.
If you are in need of healing, there is good news! Proverbs 4:20-22 SAYS:
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
So there is life and health in God’s word. Since God’s word is medicine, we must take it like we would a prescription. I suggest three times a day, like you would your food. Remember, healing is the children’s bread. Consider this your “dose” for today. Remember, read, and meditate three times a day the following:
Rx: Psalm 103:1-5 ~ Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
If you’ve never studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we invite you to join us as we read through the Bible in a year. Read and meditate on these chapters this week:
May 31: Deuteronomy 4, Psalms 86-87, Isaiah 32, Revelation 2
June 1: Deuteronomy 5, Psalms 88, Isaiah 33, Revelation 3
June 2: Deuteronomy 6, Psalms 89, Isaiah 34, Revelation 4
June 3: Deuteronomy 7, Psalms 90, Isaiah 35, Revelation 5
June 4: Deuteronomy 8, Psalms 91, Isaiah 36, Revelation 6
June 5: Deuteronomy 9, Psalms 92-93, Isaiah 37, Revelation 7
June 6: Deuteronomy 10, Psalms 94, Isaiah 38, Revelation 8
But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”
1 Samuel 15:14
The prophet Samuel asks about the bleating of sheep and lowering of oxen that he hears. Could it be that the prophet has located the source of Saul’s disobedience that quickly? How is it that the prophet is so smart and the King is totally clueless? Could it be that what Saul thinks is obedience is different from what the prophet knows and what God knows is the right thing to do? How could two people hear the same instruction from God and determine to do two different things? The problem lies in how we hear and how we obey.
And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”
1 Samuel 15:15
King Saul finally says what he has done. He recites what he thinks is obedience. This is far different from what God has told him to do. God told him to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their cattle. Saul says he has done that, except he has saved a few sheep (the best ones, of course) to sacrifice to God. You know, it looks good on paper, but God never asked him to do this. God would never receive something that he ordered to be destroyed. The animals were considered accursed in God’s eyes.
Could this be true of what we offer to God as obedience?
Why would Saul offer something to God that God had cursed, or placed His disapproval upon? I guess it goes back to Saul’s definition of obedience. Obey God a little, and do what you want to do a lot. Well, we’ve all been there. Some of us go there all the time, never understanding that God calls the shots, sets the standards, and gives the rewards. You know, this will help you get rid of some long-standing and recurrent problems, if you let it work for you.
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
And he said to him, “Speak on.”
So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”
And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
1 Samuel 15:16-21
Samuel has to explain a few things to Saul. When Saul was a nobody, God made him a somebody. This is true of all believers. When we were in sin, sickness, poverty, low self-worth, drugs, alcohol, backbiting, lying, stealing, etc., He came and cleaned us up, elevated us. He lifted our heads. Then He asks us to do one thing for Him.
Perhaps it’s believing for a bad marriage, loving a wayward child, serving food, praying regularly, working in the ministry, doing follow-up, taking time to show love to a spouse. You know, being a Christian, putting someone else’s needs before our own. Perhaps He’s teaching us not to feel sorry for ourselves so much by taking what little free time we have and volunteering it for His use. Perhaps He just wants us to make His work a priority instead of a back-burner thing. You might as well say ouch!
How many times have we promised God we’ll change that about ourselves, and we never make the change and break the pattern? How often do we, like Saul, do God’s will when we get around to it and in the way we think it ought to be done? Have we ever considered that many of the things we think we do for God never make it to heaven? It’s not because we don’t do them, it’s because of the way in which we do them.
There’s often too much of us in what we offer to God for it to be acceptable. Like King Saul, we lie, make excuses, blame others, and say we’re doing everything for the Lord. Could it be that we don’t know what obedience to God means? Perhaps we’d better look at what God means when He tells us to do something.
So 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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23
God really doesn’t delight in sacrifices. He delights in obedience. Do you know why? Because the sacrifice comes due to disobedience.
Saul made the offering to cover up his disobedience to God. Been there, done that. Ever disobey your parents and try to be extra nice to cover up the wrong? Hoping they’ll forget because you’re extra nice? It takes a lot of energy to cover your sins. It’s much easier to obey.
Each time we disobey God, something is sacrificed. The answers to prayer that take so long may be due to our slow response to God’s commands. The things we pray for that never are the right quality … perhaps we sacrificed God’s best because we didn’t give Him our best service. The lack of favor on a job or with merchants … perhaps our favor is sacrificed because we do not favor God.
We don’t do things as unto the Lord. Perhaps we don’t respect an honor others. When was the last time you baked a cake for a neighbor, or offered to help in some way? All these things add up. So that when we begin to expect God’s answer, we find that the quality of God’s response to us is diminished from what His word says it should be because we disobeyed.
God would prefer to bless us, but He can only give a weak response because of what we’ve sown. Our disobedience has caused part of the answer to be sacrificed.
God would much rather have us obey than make grand gestures, give large sums of money, go on long fasts, or any of the religious things that we can think of doing to prove how much we love Him. He commands us to obey so that we can receive the blessing from it. After all, it was disobedience that caused us to be separated from God in the first place. Obedience brings us back into fellowship with God. He wants the fellowship, not our offerings and sacrifices.
So how hard is it to obey God? Not very, if you remember He wants our very best effort. Ask yourself, is this the best I can do? Am I putting this off too long? Am I rushing through this, hoping for the best? Did I think of God first or after I had done everything I wanted to do? The word says to put nothing else before Him. Rejecting God’s word will cause Him to reject us. We all want to be accepted by God. Once He has set His love upon us, we should be ever diligent in carry out His commands. This is where the joy of God is … in obeying rather than sacrifice.