To Listen Like Linda is Better than to Sacrifice Like Saul
17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And 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.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
Instructions are tricky. Like the game of telephone, (at what point will we not call it that anymore?) the instructions changed from God to Saul to his army through the filter of Saul’s pride and the people’s greed. The problem was that not listening to God didn’t make them take a wrong turn and miss their exit.
Not listening cost Saul his entire kingdom.
When we talk about obeying, the connotation is that we need to do what somebody said. Obey your parents and clean your room when they tell you to. Obey the law and don’t drive 50 through the school zone.
But in the Bible, playing telephone from Hebrew into English into American culture, we read “to obey is better than sacrifice” like you’d better do what God says or else I’ll hit you over the head with this marble replica of the Ten Commandments!
But it’s Hebrew we’re talking about, so you already know there is more to it.
The word “Obey” is from the same root as “Listen.” It’s not just “listen and do what I say” but it’s deeper.
Listen and hear what I’m saying and what I want.
Be close enough to listen to what I say.
That’s why it’s better to obey than it is to sacrifice. To sacrifice is to follow the law. It’s action and it’s doing what you think God wants. To obey is to listen to God. It’s like the difference between a Hot Wheels car and a remote-controlled drone. The Hot Wheels car is set in motion and it follows the orange track. It might do awesome and be cool, but it doesn’t need the booster or any input once it starts. It follows along the track, but no matter how true to the track it is, it doesn’t need the 9-year-old any more.
The radio-controlled drone has to stay connected. It can go all over the place and be 1,000 times cooler than a Hot Wheels car, but if it flies out of range, it can no longer listen and it will be lost.
More than teaching the next generation how to stay on the track, God wanted a king that would listen and lead others in listening. Saul wasn’t that guy and he showed it. The kingdom was passed to a man that listened in such a way that God would call him:
a man after [God’s] own heart