When did obedience become a sacrifice?
Scripture tells us God wants those who are His to follow Him in loving obedience. Yet, those He commands to obey rebel and may justify their rebellion as an obedient sacrifice. This shows superstitious thinking, trying to hide personal sin and rationalize poor choices and actions.
Though Scripture is replete with examples the coronation of King Saul is one such story. God chose Saul as king over Israel because the people wanted a king. Samuel grieved over this choice but God reminded him of the rebellious hearts of the people.
“Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. … Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. [1 Samuel 8:7, 9-10 ESV]
Read what Samuel told Saul when he anointed him king in 1 Samuel 10:1-7.
God’s priest, Samuel, gave Saul God’s authority anointing him king. Saul now has authority to act as one with God’s full power behind him. Yet, Saul was weak so God gave him three signs to confirm his authority. What did Saul do after these signs were fulfilled? Was he fully convinced of his place before God? Did he rally the people and the fighting men around him and attack the enemies of Israel? Did he throw off the oppression of the enemies of God? Did he take the throne with strength and force and certainty? Did he plan anything to help his people become free from the threat of God’s enemies? Did he seek God and set his hands and will to do the will God?
He went home and started plowing. He knew how to work for his family but had never been taught to work for God. It wasn’t until the Ammonites attacked Jabesh-gilead that God’s righteous anger welled up in Saul and he took command.
Saul’s authority was as Israel’s king not as God’s priest. God held these offices in sharp distinction. Samuel would not do what Saul was appointed by God to do and Saul should not do what Samuel was given to do by God. Here is Saul downfall. He had not been taught, nor did he seek to have, a relationship with the God he served. When the Spirit of God came upon Saul as fulfillment of one of the signs of his authority he was changed. He did not embrace the change but retreated to the comfortable and known.
Again, the Philistines attacked Israel and Saul, the designated leader, hid with his men in caves. When Samuel did not arrive within the designated time Saul committed a rash act.
“Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him.
Samuel said, “What have you done?”
And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” [1 Samuel 13:9-12 ESV]
Saul was afraid. He did not trust God. Being God’s appointed authority over the nation gave him a place before God no one else had. But, he was superstitious and tried to control God by offering a sacrifice which he had no authority to offer. He knew offering the sacrifice was wrong. Notice he said he “forced” himself to offer the sacrifice.
This one act sealed Saul’s future. It is not that sacrifice was wrong. Nor was it that Saul didn’t need to seek God’s face and will. He needed to ask for God’s strength and direction, to talk with God and listen to Him. His act was foolish, the act of a man who thinks he can manipulate God by doing something, anything, to gain His attention and good-will.
Because of this act Saul lost the kingdom to David, a man after God’s own heart. David sinned more grievously than Saul ever could. But David carried in the thinking of his heart a spirit of repentance. When David did wrong he grieved at how he sinned against God. When Saul did wrong he excused his actions as necessary. David loved God. Saul had no love for God.
Obedience is evidence of love for God.