Better Than Sacrifice

Control.  Everyone desires to have and maintain it and everyone feels uncomfortable and fearful without it.  This is one of the key reasons why more people feel safer driving a car than flying in a plane.  Statistics prove that air flight is far safer, however, our lack of control over the flight deny the facts.
However, this need for control can cloud our judgment and keep us from the abundantly blessed life that God has promised us.  Whether we choose to admit it or not, we like to do things our way, do them when we want to do them.  Our actions often prove that we have a far greater desire for temporary happiness and comfort in life than we do eternal reward and joy.  How we spend our time, money, and other resources undeniably scream this fact.  It’s amazing what a person is willing to do for money, which is here today and gone today and how little they are willing to do for the Lord, who reigns and rewards eternally.
Jesus said:
Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And there lays the true issue.  Where are our hearts?  What is the desire burning within us?  What is that treasure that we exhaust ourselves to gain?
The challenging question for us isn’t really so much “Can we trust God?”.  The really challenging question for us is “Can God trust us?”.  God is always faithful to do His part, but are we willing to be faithful to do our part?
This need for control is revealed by the reaction that we initially give when we discuss what we’re going to cover in today’s message.  However, by the end of the message, prayerfully, our minds will be transformed and renewed so that we understand that this word is not a curse, but rather, it is the key to the greatest treasures that one could ever gain!  That word is obedience…
Obedience – not the most popular of concepts, in fact, most of us cringe at the word.  It often sparks feelings of submitting to one whose desire is to bring harm to you for their benefit.  However, this is a key to unlocking an abundantly blessed and joy-filled life!
In 1 Samuel 15, the Lord commanded King Saul (the king over Israel) to serve justice to the Amalekites for ambushing Israel when they had just left Egypt.  He was to go in and destroy all living things in that place.  God had waited patiently for them to turn from their evil ways, but they refused to…
King Saul went in and destroyed all living things except for their King (Agag) and the good livestock from the land.  God regretted having anointing Saul as king over Israel.  When confronted by Samuel, Saul said that he did obey the Lord, but wanted to bring back the good livestock to use to sacrifice them to God.  That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, right?  It seems that Saul wanted to honor God and praise Him for their victory.  However right it may have seemed, the truth is that Saul rebelled against God by not doing as he was commanded.  As a result of this choice, King Saul was stripped of his title of king by God, Himself…
Many choices that we make in our lives, we make by judging whether they seem right or wrong to us.  Like chickens outside of their fencing, we run around wherever seems right and doing whatever feels right.  We run from one piece of corn to the next with no regard to where our path is actually leading us.  From pleasure to pleasure, we continue down the path that continues to provide temporary happiness.  We run away from, instead of running into, the safety and covering of finding and obeying God’s will

; like the covering and safety of the chicken’s coup and fence

.

Samuel asks King Saul just a few breaths before Saul’s title is stripped away from him:
1 Samuel 15:22-23 Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Here the comparison of obedience to the Lord and rebelling against Him is amplified.  The truth is, we are either doing one or the other in our lives with every choice we make.  We are either obeying the Lord or we are rebelling against Him with every choice.  We are either controlling our lives or allowing the Lord to guide and direct us.
Although we don’t like to think of it about ourselves, we tend to be quite rebellious people.  Why?  Because we like to be in control, which is one of the primary purposes of witchcraft.  We like to be in control and we do not like to submit and obey anyone – even God, Himself.  We’re drawn to the Burger King people and places in our lives – the ones that are quick to agree with us and say, “Have it your way!”.
We have a tendency to do what pleases us and then to find a way to justify our actions – even using scripture itself!  We tend to do what seems right to us and then ask the Lord to bless it.  We think and reason and allow our hearts and our emotions to direct and guide our decisions.  However, living life on our own understanding ultimately leads down paths of bondage and destruction instead of the paths of abundance and blessing that the Lord desires for us.
Proverbs 3:5-10 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
All throughout scripture we find this battle and tension taking place.  To obey or to control.  To do what God desires or to do what we desire.  This isn’t just in the context of living how God’s written word directs us to, but also being obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit individually directing us every moment of every day.
The true questions at hand are: Can I really trust God?  Does God truly have my best in mind?  Are God’s ways truly better than our ways?
The answer to these questions is a huge: YES!!!!  Just take a look through scripture at the real people who faced real temptations and the results of their choices.  Looking just at their earthly lives and temporary, worldly things, those who chose their own way always missed out and lost what they had gained.  Those who chose God’s way, even in their earthly, temporary lives were blessed.  However, the true focus that Jesus called us to have is the eternal impact that the choices that we make today have.
Jesus is our rewarder.  He has plans to prosper and not harm us, to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)!  Everything that we have comes from the hand of God.  However, the choice is ours.
God is also our savior.  He knows that we will stumble, we will fall, we will sin and rebel against Him.  Praise Him, He made a way for us to be forgiven.  Under the old covenant of the Old Testament, this forgiveness was made available through the sacrificial system.  There were very specific laws that God gave man to know what sin was and what animal sacrifices needed to be made in order to be forgiven for them.  After all, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22).  This system began, however, long before God spoke the details to Moses.  It began when Adam and Eve first sinned and God made a covering for them out of animal skins.  Under the new covenant of the New Testament, the blood of Jesus was spilled once and for all, the perfect sacrifice, so that by His grace and through our faith, we are forgiven of our sins.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
So if we can be forgiven from all sin just by confessing it to God, why is obedience better?  Why even bother with doing what is right whenever I can do whatever I want and just ask forgiveness for it?
1 Samuel 15:22 To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
The difference is the quality of life, reward, and blessing that comes with obedience.
Those with children can probably well relate to this.  You’re excited about a surprise that you have for your child, something that they had been wanting for a while, but you couldn’t provide them until now.  However, right before you give them this surprise, you receive a phone call and find out that they have been lying to you and placing themselves in a dangerous situation that you’ve warned them against time and time again.
The entire atmosphere of your relationship with them has done a 180.  Instead of the joy-filled time of blessing and celebration, the atmosphere is now darkened by deceit and the need to confront and discipline these bad choices.
Why is this the case?  Because you care about your child and do not want to see them harmed, you want to see only the best for them!  You likely won’t give them their surprise, but even if you still chose to do it out of your love for them, it just isn’t the blessing that it was intended to be for either your or your child.
It is no different with God.  Because God truly does love us and care for us, He must discipline us.  Not because He is a mean Ogre in the sky waiting to thrown down a couple of lightning bolts, but because He is the perfect Father and knows what is best for us.  Every choice comes with a consequence.  Even though God will forgive us and restore us to be righteous in His sight, we still are left to live with the consequences for our decisions.  They are there with a divine purpose, to teach and guide us into blessing and life and away from curses and death.
Moses made this reality as clear as possible as he spoke to Israel as they were preparing to enter into their promised blessing so that they would be able to receive it and keep it.
Deuteronomy 30:11-20 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This morning, we also are faced with a choice to make – just as we are constantly throughout our lives.  What God has asked of us is not too difficult for us to do nor beyond our reach.  God’s word is readily available for us to learn and to understand.  We are faced with the choice of life or death, blessings or curses.  We are faced with the truth that obedience is better than sacrifice.  To be blessed for obedience is better than to be forgiven for sin.  Now then, choose life and be blessed!