Tag Archives: obedience is better than sacrifice

An Understanding Heart

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom. I tried looking up the scripture where he asked God for “wisdom”, but the Bible doesn’t put it that way. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so he could judge the people well. In essence he was asking for wisdom, but as I dug deeper, he wanted more than just wisdom. He wanted to do well in God’s sight and to care for His people.

When I looked up the word “understanding” as it was used in this context, it had three meanings. The first was to hear. Solomon wanted a heart that could hear not only God, but what others were saying too. He didn’t want to just rely on what his ears heard, he wanted to really hear what people meant. Wisdom comes in not just hearing what is spoken. It comes when we can discern the true intent of the words spoken.

The next meaning of “understanding” was to listen. Almost everyone is born with the ability to hear, but only a few ever learn to listen. I believe that God is always speaking to us. We hear Him, but we don’t really listen to what it is that He’s telling us or showing us. Solomon was concerned about the ability of his heart to listen to God. He wanted God to know that he understood the only way to truly govern the people well would be if He could listen to His voice.

The third meaning of “understanding” in this context is to obey. It’s not enough to hear or listen to God. We have to obey what He tells us. I’m sure that Solomon had been told of Saul’s disobedience and of God’s response in I Samuel 15:22. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God is more concerned with our obedience to His word than in our obedience to religious rituals. Anyone can walk through the motions of a ritual, but only the wisest among us obey a God at all costs.

Wisdom was a by product of what he truly wanted. Hearing the voice of God, listening to what He really said and acting on it from his heart is what made Solomon truly wise. You and I can experience that wisdom. Solomon’s request for an understanding heart is one that you and I can ask for today. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God would love to give each of us the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

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Quit Checking Boxes


Have you ever thought you knew what someone else wanted, but it turned out you didn’t? Maybe they complimented something once, so we assume they always want that one thing. Or it could be that they told us they liked it, but we never checked back to see if their taste changed. Whatever the case, even though assumptions usually get us in trouble, we still operate on them more often than we should.

Not only do we assume what people want, we also assume what God wants. We often forget that God looks at our heart more than our actions. We treat Christianity as if there are boxes we have to check off to make God happy so He will bless us and hopefully let us go to Heaven. Go to church often: check. Give some money in the offering plate when it passes: check. Do something good for someone else every now and then: check. What if I told you that’s not what God wants?

In Hosea 6, the people assumed they knew what God wanted. They had sinned and thought, “Hey, all God wants are some sacrifices and He’ll come rescue us.” While that was God’s promise to them, they had forgotten what moves God isn’t our outward act, but our inward posture. God’s response to them in verse 6 was, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings” (NLT). They had assumed what God wanted and were wrong.

I think what God said to them is what God wants to say to us today. He would rather we love Him than to check a bunch of religious boxes. He would rather we get to know Him on an intimate level than to do things in His name for our own glory. When you love someone, you put their needs above your own. That’s what God is looking for from you and me today. He’s looking for a selfless love from us that gets to know Him so we don’t have to assume what He wants. It starts with us putting away our religious list and spending time in His presence.

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Simple Obedience 

  
Do you remember when you were told to clean your room? What did you do? You probably went in there and thought of ways to not do it. After a long time contemplating, you decided to either shove everything under the bed or put it in the closet. When your room is checked, you didn’t fool anyone. The shelves and boxes where your things should have been are still bare. Your closet gets opened and your sheets pulled back exposing your lack of obedience.

Sure the floor is free of clutter, but you didn’t do what was asked. You didn’t clean your room. You merely rearranged it without putting things where they belonged. In your mind, you think you obeyed, but deep down you know what you did was an act of defiance. You try to argue your case by using technicalities, but you don’t get very far. What you’ve done is caused more work for yourself and lost more time because you have to do it over the right way.

Saul was like that. He got specific instructions from God on what to do, but somehow put the toys in the closet every time. He obeyed, but didn’t. Each time he had an excuse for doing what he did. God finally had enough and Samuel called him out on it. In I Samuel 15:22-23 Samuel said to Saul, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king” (NLT).

Each of us struggle with simple obedience for some reason. God gives us simple instructions, but somehow we complicate them. God is looking for us to simply obey what He’s asked us to do. Anything other than obeying His call on your life is an act of rebellion in His eyes. Whatever He’s called you to do, you need to do. Wherever He’s called you to go, you need to go. Whatever He’s called you to say, you need to say. Don’t find ways to put they toys in the closet. Do what He’s asked willingly and with a good attitude and your life will be fulfilled like never before.

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Obedience In The Silence

  
Since I was a child, I have heard the story of King Saul in I Samuel 13. The army of Israel had won a small skirmish with a Philistine garrison. The Philistines then mustered an army several times the size of the Israelite army. As they waited for battle, fear crept into the Israelite camp. Men began to desert the army. Those that remained were visibly afraid. Saul looked around, saw their fear, and then checked the calendar. Where was the prophet Samuel? He had said he would be there by now.

As he watched more troops leave, he decided decisive action is what was needed to keep the troops. Verse 9 says, “So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself” (NLT). Wouldn’t you know that as soon as he finished with the burnt offerings, Samuel showed up. Saul realized that he jumped the gun. He ran to Samuel hoping to smooth things over, but Samuel wouldn’t hear it. He explained what a foolish thing he had done, and now God would take the kingship from him.

For me, this story is a reminder to stay patient when doing what God asks. If we let our circumstances dictate our obedience, we will fail and miss out on the blessings of God. It’s hard enough to stay obedient when God is silent, let alone when your circumstances show your obedience isn’t paying off. The easy thing to do is make assumptions, but assumptions often lead to disobedience. If God asked you to do something, you must keep at it until He says, “Stop.”

I Samuel 15:22 says, “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” Whatever God has called you to do, obedience to that calling is most important. Your calling may seem small and insignificant. It may lack the spotlight that you want, but it is a valid calling. Don’t ditch it to do something more spiritual. God has you doing exactly what He wants you to until He’s ready to give you more. Stay obedient in the silence and God will reward you in due time.

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10 Scriptures On Obedience

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1. An undisciplined, self-willed life is puny; an obedient, God-willed life is spacious. (Proverbs 15:32 MSG)

2. Samuel said, “Which does the Lord prefer: obedience or offerings and sacrifices? It is better to obey him than to sacrifice the best sheep to him. (1 Samuel 15:22 GNB)

3. [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. (1 Peter 1:14 AMP)

4. Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. (Ephesians 6:1 NLT)

5. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; (Isaiah 1:19 AMP)

6. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (Titus 3:1 ESV)

7. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 NLT)

8. For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead. (James 2:26 AMP)

9. “Preach to the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem. Tell them this: ‘This is GOD ’s Message, the Message of Israel’s God to you. Anyone who does not keep the terms of this covenant is cursed. The terms are clear. I made them plain to your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt, out of the iron furnace of suffering. “‘Obey what I tell you. Do exactly what I command you. Your obedience will close the deal. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that’s what I did.’” “Yes, GOD,” I replied. “That’s true.” “‘Obey what I tell you. Do exactly what I command you. Your obedience will close the deal. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that’s what I did.’” “Yes, GOD,” I replied. “That’s true.” (Jeremiah 11:4-5 MSG)

10. I will give them a new heart and a new mind. I will take away their stubborn heart of stone and will give them an obedient heart. (Ezekiel 11:19 GNB)

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An Understanding Heart

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom. I tried looking up the scripture where he asked God for “wisdom”, but the Bible doesn’t put it that way. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so he could judge the people well. In essence he was asking for wisdom, but as I dug deeper, he wanted more than just wisdom. He wanted to do well in God’s sight and to care for His people.

When I looked up the word “understanding” as it was used in this context, it had three meanings. The first was to hear. Solomon wanted a heart that could hear not only God, but what others were saying too. He didn’t want to just rely on what his ears heard, he wanted to really hear what people meant. Wisdom comes in not just hearing what is spoken. It comes when we can discern the true intent of the words spoken.

The next meaning of “understanding” was to listen. Almost everyone is born with the ability to hear, but only a few ever learn to listen. I believe that God is always speaking to us. We hear Him, but we don’t really listen to what it is that He’s telling us or showing us. Solomon was concerned about the ability of his heart to listen to God. He wanted God to know that he understood the only way to truly govern the people well would be if He could listen to His voice.

The third meaning of “understanding” in this context is to obey. It’s not enough to hear or listen to God. We have to obey what He tells us. I’m sure that Solomon had been told of Saul’s disobedience and of God’s response in I Samuel 15:22. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God is more concerned with our obedience to His word than in our obedience to religious rituals. Anyone can walk through the motions of a ritual, but only the wisest among us obey a God at all costs.

Wisdom was a by product of what he truly wanted. Hearing the voice of a God, listening to what He really said and acting on it from his heart is what made Solomon truly wise. You and I can experience that wisdom. Solomon’s request for an understanding heart is one that you and I can ask for today. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God would love it if each of us possessed the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.

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