This year I set out with a goal to read the bible, in order, cover to cover. I have never read it in its entirety, and last year I was given a new bible from a friend that was already broken down with daily devotionals included. So really, the hard work was done. All I had to do was read.
While I was in the book of 1 Samuel I came across a verse that just kind of hit me. You know, like when you are hearing straight from God himself. Hidden in chapter 15, verse 22, Samuel says, “… Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” and for some reason that day I was like “Wow.” I literally stopped and pondered this verse.
Not Really A New Concept
In reality, what I read was not a new concept. God has been telling us, His people, to obey since the Creation of mankind. Adam and Even only had one real rule, and even that proved to be too challenging to follow. So it comes as no surprise the rest of us have a problem following rules either. There are large sections and books of the bible devoted to laws and rules and obedience. The consequences of disobedience are clearly spelled out in the lives of David, Jonah, and Judas. The blessing of obedience of gloriously recorded in the lives of Ruth, Ester, and Mary.
But, we live in an imperfect world – a world where we are told breaking rules has varrying degrees of “badness.” Speeding is OK, if it’s only a little or if you are running late. Lying is OK if it’s just a little white lie, or if you are trying to protect someone. Cheating is OK if you are unhappy. So when I came across this verse it just struck a chord.
Knowing Is Not The Same As Understanding
Knowing the rules is clearly not the same things as understanding them or applying them. My kids know that yelling is not allowed in the house, but that doesn’t prevent them from yelling at a sibling. I know that speeding is illegal, but that doesn’t prevent me from occasionally being a little too aggressive with the accelerator. I also know that Jesus was clear when He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).” And His commandments were pretty simple: love God and love others (Luke 10:27). Now I know there is a lot more to that verse than the five words I summed it up, but the message is pretty clear.
Loving God and obedience to God are a package deal. No, we are not always going to get it right, and He expects that. He even provided a way to heal the brokenness between us and Him. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, given to allow us the relationship with God we were designed to have. You see, God didn’t mess up the relationship – we did. We messed everything up and yet God still created a way for us to be near Him. In the Old Testament it was a literal sacrifice which was required, but under the New Testament that sacrifice has been paid in full. But even in the Old Testament they were told that it’s better to obey than to ask for forgiveness because asking for forgiveness proves you did not obey.
Where Have I Heard This Before?
How many times have you told your children, “if you have just done it they way I told you to?” or “if you would have just followed the rules in the first place?” or something to that effect. I know, for me, it’s a lot. I frequently have to remind my children about various rules as I guide them through their childhood in the hope that they will turn out to be civilized, polite, decent human beings. Turns out, God has been telling us the same thing. If we had just followed the rules from the get-go none of this would have been necessary.
So while it is better to obey than to sacrifice, today I am grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus. He paid the ultimate price for all of mankind. And there is so much hope in that, so much hope for all of mankind. The hope that we can keep trying, the hope that we can learn, and the assurance that when we miss the mark, we can have forgiveness, if we just ask (1John 1:9). And for me, that hope clears all the chaos that is trying to understand every book, every chapter and every verse because I know that I have grace to try and fail, and try again until I get it right.
Do you have a story of hope, of grace, or of obedience? Feel free to comment below and share it with others!