Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of 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. (1 Samuel 15:22, 23a NIV)
To obey is better than sacrifice. That’s what Scripture tells us. Why is that? As one ponders the thought, it really does become clearer. From His throne in heaven God can be anywhere and everywhere. So what could we ever sacrifice that might help Him move from one place to another? From His eternal home in heaven He is preparing eternal mansions for us. What then might we sacrifice that would provide Him a place to reside? He is the beginning and the end of all time, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. What amount of time might we sacrifice that would enhance His authority over time eternal? He is the giver of all things, giving gifts to all He chooses to. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him and He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (See Ephesians 1:3). So what do we own that we might offer to help accomplish His will and purpose on this earth?
The answer to all of these is nothing.
That is right.
He needs nothing from us to complete His work. He needs nothing from us to sustain His creation. We can offer nothing that will enhance His salvation and grace for mankind (or even ourselves for that matter). Therefore, God does not delight in sacrifices—all He asks for is our obedience.
To obey is better than sacrifice! Why? It is simple really. To sacrifice something just for the sake of doing so is to say that we give something up so that God will be happy with us and pat us on the heads like the dog who has returned a fetching stick. To sacrifice something just because we chose to says, “Look at what I did! Will you bless me now?” But, to obey simply means that we humbly submit ourselves to Him as the gracious and loving Master of our lives. Obeying means that we do what He asks us to when and how He asks us to do it. He is, of course, always our gracious and loving Master. So why would obeying Him be difficult? Obeying means that we recognize that everything He has given us remains His and ought to be used on His behalf, in thanksgiving and appreciation for His generosity and grace. To obey means that, in reverence and awe of the blessings of the Almighty, we are responding in appreciation and sharing all of His good things with those around us. Obeying Him means that we are not keeping His blessings for ourselves, hoarding them as our own treasures and hiding them behind the locked doors of our hearts, homes and churches. Instead, we share those blessings with others, loving others as Christ loved us—because then they might be drawn to our Lord as well. Obeying, then, means that we live our lives to honor our Life Giver and not our own fleshly interests and rewards.
Remember Jesus’ statement that if we love Him we will obey His command? His command was that we would love (‘agape’ in Greek) which means to live in such a way as to bring those around us to Christ. He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (See John 14:21 NIV). There is such a higher purpose to obeying our Lord! Sacrifice is selfish because it has a personal reward, but obedience is totally selfless. Obedience to Christ is pure and true love…received…returned…and revealed! So yes, when all is said and done, to obey is better than sacrifice!