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April 8, 2018 Obedience is Better!

 

Scripture reading: I Samuel 14:47-48; 15:1-23.

 

[I. Introduction] What great privileges we have in the new covenant! The Lord has blessed us with so much! We have greater revelation. We have greater grace. And, we have greater blessings than the saints in prior dispensations. But, we can still learn from the people of God under the old covenant. In fact, this is what the apostle tells us in I Corinthians 10 –

 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. [1]

 

The lives of Old Testament figures are meant to be an example to us. This includes positive examples as well as negative examples. King Saul is a negative example to us. Let us learn from his experience so that we will not follow his example which, indeed, it is easy to do! It is easier than you think! Let anyone who thinks all is right take heed lest they fall!

 

Samuel spoke to the king under the power of the Spirit and and said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” The foundational lesson in this incident is that we must obey the Lord!

 

We have seen recently that the Lord has an eternal purpose. God has a plan to work Himself into a group of people that he might be their life and that they might become His expression. Man was destined to receive God, to be filled, saturated, and permeated with God and to have God flow out of him that he might be the living expression of God!

 

If we see this it is exciting! It is a high revelation beyond that which the old testament saints ever received.  We need to take it , embrace it, love it, and carry it out. We carry it out with the power of the resurrection life! We carry it out by being filled with God Himself which is Christ Himself which is the life-giving Spirit! We do not carry it out by simply seeing what the will of God is and then trying in human energy to accomplish it.

 

Although this is all true, there is still the danger of allowing all of this to be subjective. It is subjective because the Spirit is within us! If we neglect the subjective aspect of the Spirit’s work we become dry and feel dead. But there is an objective part to living out the life that God has called us to live and if we neglect this part then we can go astray. The foundational lesson found in Saul’s life needs to be taken. We must obey the Lord!

 

[II.] We must obey the Lord because the Lord wishes to use us to accomplish his purpose. Look at the verses in chapter 14 once again.

 

47 When Saul had taken the kingship over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the Ammonites, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned he routed them. 48 And he did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them. [2]

 

See that Saul was uniquely blessed by the Lord. He fought. There are many cowards in the world. I am reminded of Sheriff Deputy Scot Peterson in Parkland, Florida. He was armed but he was afraid to go into the school when Nikolas Cruz entered and murdered 17 young people at Stoneman Douglas High School this past February. He was a coward.

 

Saul was not a coward. He fought. His bravery was from the Lord.

 

He was victorious. Not every brave person is victorious. Many try to win the battle but lose. Saul routed the enemies of God. His victories were from the Lord.

 

He was valiant. Valiant means to be bold in a heroic way. He was bold and heroic. Valor is from the Lord.

 

The Lord blessed Saul with courage, valor, and victory! He was using him to accomplish his purpose. His immediate purpose was to conquer the enemies of Israel so that they could inherit all the land that was promised to them. Saul was being used by the Lord! What a privilege! To be used by God is a wonderful thing!

 

Yet, because of his disobedience he would no longer be used by the Lord. The Lord would find another.

 

We, too, must obey the Lord because the Lord wishes to use us to accomplish his purpose. You have unique talents, a unique personality. The mix of which no one else has in the same measure. There are people that you can reach with the gospel that others cannot reach. There are people that you can disciple that others would not because of talent and personality. The Lord has blessed you in unique ways.

 

If you disobey the Lord you may be bypassed. Do not give up the blessing of being used by the Lord!

You must obey the Lord because the Lord wishes to use you to accomplish his purpose!

 

[III.] We must obey the Lord because the Lord delights in it! Look how Samuel responds to Saul in verse 22.

 

“Has 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 listen than the fat of rams. [3]

 

He asks a question but he does not expect an answer. Why? Because it is a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is a question in which everyone knows the answer already. “Does a bear do his business in the woods?” is a rhetorical question. Of course, it does! The answer to a rhetorical question an be yes or no, but everyone knows it.

 

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obeying him? The answer is No! He delights more in obedience! Remember this simple truth: The Lord delights in your obedience! When you obey the Lord is happy. That is right! You can make God happy!

 

Do not get delight confused with acceptance. Once we come to Christ in faith and repentance the Lord accepts us, and our acceptance is not conditioned upon our obedience. We may fail the Lord, but he still accepts us because we are accepted in Christ not in ourselves nor our actions.

 

But it is a simple truth that God is delighted when we obey and sorrowful when we do not.

 

We must obey the Lord because the Lord delights in it.

 

Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.[4]

 

Abijam, also called Abijah, was King Solomon’s grandson and King David’s great-grandson.  (“Father” was a title given to any direct ancestor.) He was not a good king. Yet, because David did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh and David did what the Lord had commanded, the Lord was pleased with him and even blessed his great-grandson! So, we see that obedience brings both the delight of God and the blessing of God.

 

We must obey the Lord because the Lord delights in it.

 

Sometimes when we read or hear about other Christians who do great things for the Lord or who make sacrifices for the Lord we can get encouraged, especially if they came from humble beginnings. On Resurrection Day last week our family watched the movie The Cross. It is a documentary  about the life of Arthur Blessitt who carried a 12 ft cross around the world. I mean he literally walked around the whole world carrying the cross, talking to people about the Lord and passing out tracts. He walked over 38,000 miles and walked through every nation on earth – 315! It is a moving story and it is amazing how the Lord supernaturally protected him in very dangerous places and situations. I was encouraged by it.

 

On the other hand, we can also get discouraged hearing about great exploits. Although I was encouraged I can easily see how someone can look at the sacrifices that Arthur Blessitt[5] made or others and say, “I will not make those kind of sacrifices.”  Here is good news!

 

The Lord takes greater delight in obedience than in sacrifices. First things first. Obedience is foundational. Obey the Lord in the small things and he will give you big things later.

 

[IV.] We must obey the Lord, otherwise the Lord will reject us from being king. Verse 23:

 

For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

       Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

he has also rejected you from being king.” [6]

 

Because Saul rejected the word of the Lord he was rejected from being king. What would have happened if Saul had obeyed the Lord? Answer: He would have continued to reign as king with the Lord’s blessing! He abdicated his right to rule by his own disobedience.  More, consider how he disobeyed. It wasn’t as if he completely rejected the Lord’s word. He fulfilled most of what the Lord had commanded. He destroyed all the Amalekites: the men, women, children, and infants. He killed them all except for the king. He destroyed all the animals except for the best which, according to what Saul said, he was intending on sacrificing to the Lord.

 

How did he disobey? He disobeyed partially. Here is a lesson: When the Lord gives a command we must obey wholeheartedly, not half-heartedly. Not three-fourths heartily. Not even nine-tenths heartily. Saul was expected to obey fully. So are we.

 

Every Christian is called to be a king or queen. Not in this age, but in the age that is coming.

 

The saying is trustworthy, for:

       If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

12    if we endure, we will also reign with him;

       if we deny him, he also will deny us;

13    if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. [7]

 

And,

 

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you![8]

 

Yes, there is a day coming when the faithful ones, the ones who obey and endure, will reign with Christ over the earth. There is a kingdom coming and we have the privilege to participate within it as co-inheritors and co-rulers with the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We are all called to rule and reign with Christ. But not all will.

 

We are all called to rule and reign with Christ. Therefore, this should be our desire and our goal.

 

In the same manner that Saul was rejected as being king, so some Christians will be rejected from being king (or queen[9]). Not all will participate in the coming kingdom. Some will be found to be unworthy (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 20:35). They will not forfeit eternal life. Eternal life is an irrevocable gift. But much can still be lost.

 

We must obey the Lord, otherwise the Lord will reject us from being king.

 

[v. Conclusion and Application] Obedience is better than sacrifice. Don’t think that you have to do great deeds for God as did Arthur Blessitt. Maybe one day the Lord will call you to do something great, but above sacrifice and above great deeds is simple obedience.

 

Obey the commands that you find in the Bible. In order to know God’s will you must read or hear his word. You can start with the ten commandments for these are God’s moral directives which live on in perpetuity. You can find those in Exodus 20.

 

But do not take them in a superficial way. That is what the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Jesus’ day. Jesus revealed the deeper meaning of the commandments in his famous sermon on the mount, starting in Matthew chapter five.

 

I presented a series on the ten commandments three years ago. It began on April 12, 2015. It is still available on the church website. I would encourage you to read and study those sermon notes in order to discern how to live out God’s law.

 

The ten commandments are just the foundation of living obediently. One must move on from there. The New Testament has more commands than the Old Testament even though it is much shorter in length.  The person whose heart has been made alive by the Spirit will delight in the Lord’s commands and will joyfully seek them.

 

When one turns to the New Testament, besides the deeper meaning of the ten commandments being revealed, one will also find commands about not forsaking the assembling of Christians together and giving of one’s means to the work of the church. That would be more than 10 % according to Scripture.

 

One will find commands about treating one another kindly and one will find complaining to be a sin.

 

God’s word is the means by which he reveals his will to us today. Let us seek his will in his word.

 

  • We must obey the Lord because the Lord wishes to use us to accomplish his purpose.  The Lord desires to use you for good things. But for him to use you as he wishes you musty obey him.
  • We must obey the Lord because the Lord delights in it!
  • We must obey the Lord, otherwise the Lord will reject us from being king.

 

The Lord has given us incentives. We can learn from king Saul. Let us take the incentives. Let us repudiate the Saul-life.

 

This week, read and meditate on Exodus 20 and Matthew 5. Read the lessons on God’s law starting from April 12, 2015. Experience the delight of the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 10:11–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Sa 14:47–48). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Sa 15:22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 15:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] Although it is true that Arthur made many sacrifices for the Lord, he was also certain the Lord had communicated to him to take the mission of carrying the cross around the world. So, for him, it was a matter of obedience, too.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Sa 15:23). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 2:11–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 4:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] Because the promises of ruling with Christ is given to all believers irrespective of gender. (Although, the term “queen” is never used in the NT in this respect.)