Saul disobeyed God’s command to kill all the animals, rationalizing that he could use the animals for sacrifice. God’s response, declared through the prophet Samuel, was unequivocal. God wants obedience, not sacrifice. God wants obedience, not religious ceremony. Never ever choose religious ritual over obedience.
We still need this message. How many people attend church, thinking they have done their religious duty, and yet their lives are filled with self-centered thoughts and disobedience to God’s holy commands?
How many Christians show up at church, put their time in, hear God’s Word, and think they have earned God’s favor? But our all-holy, sovereign God expects us to do the Word of God, not just hear it. The Lord God Almighty expects obedience, not mere ceremony or ritual. God expects us to come, hear His Word, and then obey it. This lesson to Saul is a lesson to us: there is no substitute for obedience. Unreserved, wholehearted, immediate obedience.
In his book Authentic Christianity, John Stott said, “Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience.” Or, as Oswald Chambers put it, “The best measure of a spiritual life is not its ecstasies, but its obedience.” In the kingdom of God, there is simply no substitute for obedience. God wants us to obey Him, no matter what it costs us. And in that obedience, we will find our joy.