1 Samuel 15:22-23: Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight as much in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. Indeed, rebellion is like witchcraft, and stubborn arrogance is idolatry. Because you have rejected this message from the Lord, he has rejected you from being king.”
This passage comes from the story of King Saul and the prophet Samuel, when God told Saul to take his army and kill all the Amalekites; man, woman and child; and destroy all the plunder, all the stuff they captured in the battle. Turns out, Saul did not obey. He brought back the best of the sheep and cattle supposedly to sacrifice to the Lord; and he even failed to execute Agag, the king of the Amalekites. God was very angry, so He sent Samuel to tell Saul what was going to happen.
It reminds me of the times when I’ve told one of my sons to do something, like mow the grass, and when I came back they hadn’t done it, and they’d say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Mom told me to do something else.” So while they said they were sorry, the job didn’t get done. Kinda like in this story. As soon as Samuel said what he did, Saul said, “I have sinned, . . because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. .” Sounds just like some teenage kid trying to get out of doing the work. He said he was sorry and he blamed it on someone else. It would make you laugh if it wasn’t so serious.
God is saying, “I don’t want to hear sorry. I want you to do what I said.” Saul was guilty of willful disobedience, on more than one occasion. Sounds like me, many times in my life. Thank God He loves us and He is forgiving. But sometimes He makes us pay a penalty for our disobedience. The real key factor is that God is looking at your heart. He knows if you purposefully defied him. That’s the reason Samuel says, “Rebellion is like witchcraft, and stubborn arrogance is idolatry.” God is not going to let us get away with that kind of willful disobedience.
So here we are. Sinful humans. Like Paul says, “Who will deliver me from this wretched man that I am?” Only one answer. God through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins; and us accepting that sacrifice by surrendering ourselves and trusting Him to save us. Then we can start to be obedient by the Holy Spirit working in us.