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.
1 Samuel 15:19-22
This exchange between Samuel, the last judge of Israel, and Saul, the first king of Israel is very telling about the condition of Saul’s heart as we discussed somewhat yesterday. Saul’s direction from God was to kill all the Amalekites and all their livestock, but he brought back their king Agag and permitted his soldiers to bring back sheep and cattle as plunder.
As the verses above tell us, Saul tried to excuse his rebellion by saying 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. Notice he tries to shift the blame to the shoulders of his soldiers who were under his command. They would not have taken the sheep and cattle as plunder without Saul’s approval and he knows Samuel knows this. So what does he do, he further prevaricates (lies) by stating this was done so they could be offered in sacrifice.
That’s when Samuel tells him 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. Samuel is not deceived and is making sure Saul understands his self-deception and outright lies have not fooled Samuel or God.
If you are wondering now why these additional comments, permit me to explain. I found so much commentary that was rich in explanations and details about just how very wrong-headed Saul was. Much of it is applicable to us today when we want to justify our own actions in disobedience to the Lord our God instead of simply obeying Him. I expect to continue these additional comments tomorrow as well and maybe beyond. Some of the resources I am looking at are found here, here, and here if you should want to browse through them for yourself.
Recall Samuel spoke directly to Saul about his disobedience
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.”
1 Samuel 15:23
Disobedience is almost always a result of some form of arrogance where we tell ourselves we know better than God what is okay and not okay to do, even when we know it is direct opposition to what He has told us through His word. We all have done it at one time or another. The problem is truly admitting it and also truly repenting of it – fully acknowledging our sin and fully seeking His forgiveness. Saul did not do this.
In the Pulpit commentary we read concerning Samuel’s rebuke of Saul To obey is better than sacrifice
It asserts in the clearest terms the superiority of moral to ritual worship, and that God can only be really served with the heart.
Matthew Poole’s Commentary adds
obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness; and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner; therefore thy gross disobedience to God’s express command is not to be compensated with sacrifice.
How do you find yourself behaving? Obeying God or making meaningless sacrifices of one sort or another? Your answer (to yourself and God) is important.