The Importance of Obedience
It is a high and holy truth that demands careful and earnest reflection—God has in condescending grace, privileged us to honor Him with loyal and obedient service. Surely there are no disappointments to those whose wills are buried in the will of God.
The Scriptural basis for our study is found in I Samuel 15:22—24. It will be profitable to examine the historical background of this Scripture passage, for it will give us a better perspective of King Saul.
The period of the Judges had concluded. The time of the Judges was marked by rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration. It was an age of disobedience and failure (Judges 21:25).
The time was ripe and the stage was set for the establishment of a monarchy. Samuel with divine guidance advised against a monarchy in view of the tremendous hardships such a form of government would place upon the people (I Sam. 8:10—18). The Lord, however, permitted it within the guidelines of His permissive will.
As the wheels of the monarchy began to turn, Saul, son of Kish, was chosen to be Israel's first king (I Sam. 9:2, 16-17). He was a choice and promising young man with every potential to succeed.Anointed by Samuel to be the leader of the people (I Sam. 10:1). Saul had an excellent beginning. He enjoyed the singular blessing of the Lord in directing the affairs of the people (vs.24).
As king, Saul must have demanded loyal allegiance from the subjects of his kingdom. The Lord likewise expects yielded surrender and obedience from His people.
The Lord's command given in I Samuel 15:1-3 was clear and forceful. Any faithful servant would recognize at once that the Lord has a purpose in His directions. Remember, revelation always has precedence over reason. Amalek was the focus of God's punitive action. Though the chariots of judgment move slowly, they move according to the Lord's sovereign will.
Failing to hear and do the will of God, Saul willfully took matters into his own hands and brazenly disobeyed the specific command of God. He spared Agag, the best of the sheep, oxen, lambs, “and all that was good” (I Sam. 15:9). Saul's overt disobedience was in the guise that a sacrifice would be given unto the Lord (vs.15). Saul failed miserably in his assigned responsibility. There was no escape from his accountability to the Lord.
Disobedience as well as obedience of heart will manifest itself in actions, choices, and decisions of life. Saul's arrogant failure was announced by the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of oxen, which sounded out over the countryside and rang in Samuel's ears (I Sam. 15:14).
Saul also excused his sinful disobedience by blaming the people, who he said took of the spoil to sacrifice unto God (I Sam. 15:21). Faithfully, Samuel reminded Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice (vs. 22). There is no substitute for heart obedience. The Lord delights in a person's obeying His voice.
The Lord wants what is in our heart before He wants what is in our hands. He wants our surrendered spirit before He wants our service for Him. We must have absolute faith in God if we are to absolutely obedient.
Samuel began to show Saul the true nature of his sin, which was rebellion and stubbornness (I Sam. 15:23). Saul's humility had turned into haughtiness, his flagrant disobedience bred rebellion in his soul. Rebellion is in the same category as witchcraft. Stubbornness cannot be dismissed as less serious than iniquity and idolatry. The divine charge against Saul is that he rejected the word of the Lord. To reject the word of the Lord is to reject the Lord Himself.
Saul probably reasoned that what he had done was small, but God called it a rebellious sin. Saul learned that to reject God's command has serious and far-reaching consequences. Because of his sin, the Lord rejected Saul as king over the people.
Looking back on Saul's beginning, which was clothed with such promising potential, one asks himself, “Why did Saul fail so wretchedly?” The answer comes quickly. He provided for the flesh rather than submitting to the Lord (cf. Rom. 13:14).
The power of influence is demonstrated in what we do. Saul said that he had obeyed God, but his actions proved otherwise (I Sam. 15:20). The example one shows by the life he lives may have far more weight than the the advice he gives.
A question is in order: How may we profit in our Christian life from Saul's bad example? Let us consider the reason Saul gave for his actions. Saul stated that his sin was committed because he “Feared the people and obeyed their voice” (I Sam. 15:24).
At once our thoughts jump back to the garden of Eden, where Adam blamed his sin on Eve, saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12). Not only did Adam blame Eve, but he also blamed God, saying, “The woman you gave to be with me” (vs. 13).
It is well to note that God did not inquire of the serpent about its sin but moved immediately to pronounce a curse upon it (Gen. 3:14). The Lord also moved quickly to give a prophecy (Gen. 3:15) which would bring ultimate defeat to Satan.
Returning to Saul, note that his blame shifting, gives us additional insight into his timid heart. He had a choice to make, to obey God or the people. He wanted to have the smile, favor, and approval of the people instead of the blessings of the Lord. Saul failed to realize that it is always best in every situation to listen to the voice of the Lord, for “The fear of man brings a snare” (Prov. 29:25).
The pages of biblical history are emblazoned with the influential examples of those who stood in steadfast revolve for the Lord:
Moses stood fearlessly as a lion before Pharaoh (Exod. 7:10).
Elijah stood valiantly for God against Ahab who led Israel in disobedience to the Lord (I Kings 18:17-18).
Daniel spoke plainly to King Nebchadnezzar (Dan. 2:27-28). Later, Daniel entered the regal presence of Belshazzar. Without seeking any favor of him, Daniel spoke forthrightly of God's solemn message of judgment against Belshazzar (Dan. 5:18—28). In the presence of Babylonian royalty, Daniel's voice was as calm as an inland lake never touched by breeze as he made it clear to the king that God would him that very night.
John the Baptist stood tall and true before King Herod and exposed his sin of immorality, charging that it was unlawful tor him to live with his brother's wife (Mark 6:18).
The Apostle Paul stood unafraid before Agrippa and gave a testimony for his Lord, even though the future was uncertain (Acts 26:1—29).
Receiving encouragement from these biblical examples, let us resolve anew to serve our Lord with faithful obedience.