“But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to hearken than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:21-22 KJV
The first thing I learned about reading and studying the Bible is that it’s not the same as reading a normal book. You need to understand what God is saying given the context or the surrounding circumstances in the story. For example if you read the following two sentences:
Lisa is so ugly. I hate her.
You would believe two things: that Lisa was ugly and whoever was writing the passage hated her. However, let’s say that was only two sentences out of an entire passage. The actual passage was as followed:
Lisa was my best friend. We had the best school spirit at Lulov Middle School and participated in everything during homecoming week. Today was Opposite Day and the warm up for Social Studies class instructed us to write two sentences to our closest friend taking in account today was Opposite Day. Of course I chose Lisa and wrote the following: “Lisa is ugly. I hate her.” I flashed her a glimpse of the warm up. She smiled and quietly whispered, “love you too best friend.”
Now that was an extreme example, but you get my drift. Too often we want to pull out two sentences of a scripture and try to gauge understanding with minimal information. You can’t determine the context of God’s word with two sentences.
A biblical example is the famous “obedience is better than sacrifice” statement. Folk will tell you God desires obedience more than sacrifice, but you must read Samuel Chapter 15 in its entirety to understand the true meaning. King Saul was commanded to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites and not spare any of them. King Saul destroyed all the people except King Agag and best of the sheep, oxen and lamb that were good. Once King Saul was confronted by Samuel because of his lack of obedience he tried to justify it by saying we kept the best of the best to use it as sacrifice/burnt offerings to God. In this specific situation, Samuel reminded him that his obedience was desired more than burnt offerings or a sacrifice. In this specific situation it reminds me of how people today try to give tithes or offerings to the church, but are not saved or live any kind of way. Giving an offering cannot replace being obedient to God’s word.
In those circumstances God was more concerned with King Saul obeying than him offering a sacrifice. However, in almost all circumstances, God instructs the Believer to actually do both. God wants you to be obedient to His word (to him) and he also wants you to sacrifice your life to him which means you surrender to His will.
Matthew 16:24-25 says: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
In Matthew and also Luke, God instructs us to take up our cross and follow Him. He also says whosoever will save his life will lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. In other words Believers have to be willing to follow God (obedience) but also know they have lose their life (surrender, suffer and sacrifice) to follow God. Another indication that you have to be obedient by following his instructions but also be willing to give up something or sacrifice (your life, your ways, your desires). Ultimately, God instructs us to do both: be obedient but also be willing to sacrifice. If you truly hear from God and understand His word you will understand the value in doing both.