Monday, May 11, 2015

Obedience Matters Most

"a broken and contrite heart you, God,  you will not despise."
I just read the account of Saul in 1 Samuel 15 where we have perfectly illustrated for us a critical aspect of Christianity. It goes like this: "partial obedience = disobedience."

Chapter 15 is Saul's second big blunder. To reset for you, God, through Samuel, tells Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. The Amalekites were going to be punished by God for not helping the Israelites when they were fleeing Egypt. The command doesn't leave any room for interpretation:

" 'Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " (1 Samuel 15:3)

Saul and his men choose to mostly obey God, but not totally. They decide to withhold (not kill) some of the "best" (in their eyes), animals:

"But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed." (1 Samuel 15:9)

Predictably, Samuel brings the rebuke from God:

"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. 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' 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.' " (1 Samuel 15:22-24)

These verse outline three things we should avoid; two sins, and the cause of the sins.

  1. Sin of rebellion - God apparently looks at his disobedience as nothing short of rebellion against Him. And remember...Saul mostly obeyed God. But the part of the command he didn't obey? Nothing short of rebellion. In fact, God views rebellion as "divination" or idolatry. In essence, you worshipped someone else in place of Him.
  2. Sin of arrogance - Saul, by not fully obeying is acting very arrogantly. Where is the arrogance? Look back up at verse 9 where Saul and his men dare to call something "good" that God has already declared is evil.
  3. The motive behind them...misplaced fear - Saul himself tells us why he sinned. He was more afraid of man, then God.

This last thing, the cause of the sin is something that so many of us, myself included struggle with. We are after the approval of people more then the approval of God, and oftentimes the things that God asks from us are not in agreement with what people want from us. It's not so much about a list of things God wants from us, as it is a heart attitude. What God is most after in each one of us is a heart that is fully surrendered to Him.

Someone like Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his own son if God asked that of him. Someone like David, who even though he sinned greatly, maintained a broken heart towards God.

"My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

So how about us? For me, the question is not if, but where. Where in my life am I guilty of fearing man more than God? Where is that leading to rebellion, arrogance, idolatry? And am I brave enough to ask God to show me, and then humble enough to confess to Him, and grateful enough to receive His forgiveness and grace?

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