1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel declared: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, and attentiveness is better than the fat of rams.
No True Worship or Service Without an Obedient HeartJ. Slade, M. A.1 Samuel 15:22
ObedienceM. Brokenshire.1 Samuel 15:22
ObedienceG. Dawson, M. A.1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience and SacrificeWilliam Knox.1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience and Sacrifice ComparedT. Witherspoon.1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience Better than SacrificeSpurgeon, Charles Haddon1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience Better than SacrificeE. Cooper.1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience Better than SacrificeH. Alford, B. D.1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience Better than SacrificeHomiletic Magazine1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience Better than SacrificeT. D. Jones.1 Samuel 15:22
Of the Duty Which God Requireth of ManT. Boston.1 Samuel 15:22
Sacrifice InterpretedSt. John A. Frere, M. A.1 Samuel 15:22
The Commands of God to be ObeyedJ. Grantham.1 Samuel 15:22
The Principle of ObedienceHomiletic Magazine1 Samuel 15:22
The Supremacy of ObedienceHomiletic Magazine1 Samuel 15:22
The True Spirit of WorshipR. Steel.1 Samuel 15:22
To Obey is Better than SacrificeHomiletic Review1 Samuel 15:22
Willfulness of SaulH. Goodwin, M. A.1 Samuel 15:22
Christian CultureHomiletic Review1 Samuel 15:11-23
Grief Over a Fallen BrotherH. O. Mackay.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Partial Obedience a SinW. Jones.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Samuel's Grief Over SaulHelen Plumptre.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedCharles E. Jefferson.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedMonday Club Sermons1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul RejectedJ. Parker, D. D.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's Continued DisobedienceJ. A. Miller.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's DethronementHenry W. Bell, M. A.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Saul's Disobedience and RejectionW. G. Craig, D. D.1 Samuel 15:11-23
Showy ProfessionA. Toplady.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Commission Given to SaulR. G. B. Ryley.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Self-RighteousW. E. Fetcham.1 Samuel 15:11-23
The Sentence of RejectionB. Dale 1 Samuel 15:22, 23

"Hath Jehovah (as much) delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of Jehovah?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to give heed than the fat of rams.

For (like) the sin of divination is rebellion,
And (like) an idol and teraphim is obstinacy.
Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah,
He hath rejected thee from being king." The crisis has now fully arrived. The aged prophet confronts the self-deceived king, whom he looks upon as no longer reigning as servant of Jehovah, in consequence of his endeavour to rule according to his own will and pleasure, though in connection with the outward forms of the religion of Israel. He has striven in vain to turn him from his way, and can henceforth only regard him as a rebel against the supreme Ruler. Inasmuch as Saul, in seeking to justify himself, showed that he estimated moral obedience lightly in comparison with ritual worship, Samuel first of all asserts the incomparable superiority of the former to the latter. He then declares that disobedience is equivalent to heathenism and idolatry, against which Saul, in offering sacrifices to Jehovah and other ways, exhibited such zeal. And, finally, he pronounces, as a judge upon a criminal, the sentence of his rejection. "There is a poetical rhythm in the original which gives it the tone of a Divine oracle uttered by the Spirit of God, imparting to it an awful solemnity, and making it sink deep into the memory of the hearers in all generations" (Wordsworth). Notice -

I. THE PARAMOUNT WORTH OF OBEDIENCE, considered in relation to offerings and sacrifices and other external forms of worship (ver. 22).

1. It is often less regarded by men than such forms. They mistake the proper meaning and purpose of them, entertain false and superstitious notions concerning them, and find it easier and more according to their sinful dispositions to serve God (since they must serve him somehow) by them than in self-denial and submission to his will. It is indeed by no means an uncommon thing for those who are consciously leading a sinful life to be diligent and zealous in outward religious worship, and make use of the fruit of their disobedience "to sacrifice unto the Lord," imagining that it will be pleasing to him, and make compensation for their defects in other things.

2. It is absolutely necessary in order that they may be acceptable to God. The spirit of obedience and love is the soul of external services of every kind, and without it they are worthless. "To love him with all the heart is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). The one ought never to be disjoined from the other, but it is often done; and they are set in contrast to each other. "If we were to say charity is better than church going, we should be understood to mean that it is better than such church going as is severed from charity. For if they were united they would not be contrasted. The soul is of more value than the body. But it is not contrasted unless they come into competition with one another, and their interests (although they cannot in truth be so) seem to be separated" (Pusey, 'Minor Prophets,' Hosea 6:6). "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination" (Proverbs 21:27).

3. It is incomparably superior to them, considered as needful and appointed modes of serving God (apart from the "wicked mind" with which they are sometimes observed). Because -

(1) The one is universal; the other is partial, and really included in it.

(2) The one is moral, the other ceremonial. It is a "weightier matter of the law."

(3) The one is of a man himself, the willing sacrifice of his own will; the other of only a portion of his powers or possessions. And "how much better is a man than a sheep!"

(4) The one is essential, being founded upon the natural relation of man to God; the other is circumstantial, arising from man's earthly and sinful condition. "Angels obey, but do not sacrifice."

(5) The one is the reality, the other the symbol.

(6) The one is the end, the other the means. Sacrifice is the way of the sinner back to obedience, and the means of his preservation therein. Even the one perfect sacrifice of Christ would not have been needed if man had been obedient. Its design is not merely to afford a sufficient reason for the remission of punishment in a system of moral government, but also to restore to obedience (Titus 2:14).

(7) The one is temporary, the other is eternal. The sacrifices of the former dispensation have now been abolished; and how much of the present form of Divine service will vanish away when we behold the face of God! But love and obedience will "never fail." Since obedience is thus the one thing, the essential, more important than anything else, it should hold the supreme place in our hearts and lives.

II. THE IDOLATROUS CHARACTER OF DISOBEDIENCE (ver. 22). In proportion to the excellence of obedience is the wickedness of disobedience.

1. It is a common thing for men to make light of it, especially in actions to which they are disposed, or which they have committed, being blinded by their evil desires and passions.

2. In the sight of God every act of disobedience is exceedingly hateful. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Habakkuk 1:13) without punishing it.

3. In the light of truth it is seen to be the same in principle as those transgressions on which the severest condemnation is pronounced, and which are acknowledged to be deserving of the strongest reprobation. It is probable that Saul had already taken measures to put down the "sin of divination" (1 Samuel 28:9), and prided himself upon his zeal against idolatry; but he was acting in the spirit of that which he condemned, and was an idolater at heart. For he was turning away from God, resisting and rejecting him, and making an idol of self, which is done by all who (in selfish and superstitious fear or desire) seek divination (witchcraft) and trust in an idol ("which is nothing in the world") and teraphim (household gods - ch, 19:13). "The declinations from religion, besides the privative, which is atheism, and the branches thereof, are three - heresies, idolatry, and witchcraft. Heresies when we serve the true God with a false worship; idolatry when we worship false gods, supposing them to be true; and witchcraft when we adore false gods, knowing them to be wicked and false - the height of idolatry. And yet we see, though these be true degrees, Samuel teacheth us that they are all of a nature, when there is once a receding from the word of God" (Bacon, 'Advancement of Learning'). "All conscious disobedience is actual idolatry, because it makes self-will, the human I, into a god" (Keil). "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).


1. The punishment of the disobedient is the appropriate fruit of his disobedience. "Because thou hast rejected me," etc. Saul wished to reign without God, and have his own way; what he sought as a blessing he obtains as a curse. Sinners say, "Depart from us," etc. (Job 21:14); and the most terrible sentence that can be pronounced upon them is, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Psalm 6:8; Matthew 7:23). "God rejects no one unless he is before rejected by him."

2. It involves grievous loss and misery - the loss of power, honour, blessedness; the experience of weakness, reproach, unhappiness, which cannot be wholly avoided, even though mercy be afterwards found.

3. Judgment is mingled with mercy. Although Saul was discrowned as theocratic king, he did not cease to live or to reign as "legal king." He was not personally and entirely abandoned. God sought his salvation to the last. "His rejection involved only this -

(1) That God would henceforth leave him, and withdraw from him the (special) gifts of his Spirit, his counsel through the Urim and Thummim and by his servant Samuel; and

(2) that in a short time the real deposition would be followed by tangible consequences - the kingly ruins would be destroyed, and the kingdom would not pass to his descendants (Hengstenberg, 'Kingdom of God,' 2:89). - D.

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.
Saul's misconduct supplied the occasion for the announcement of an absolute and eternal truth.


1. Sacrifice is either an atonement for offence, and then, however excellent the remedy, it cannot for its own sake be as acceptable to the Creator as the healthful action which renders the remedy unnecessary.

2. It is the suffering occasioned by transgression, and then it cannot be so pleasant to a parent as the obedience which prevents the suffering. Hence as sacrifice is a remedy for moral disease, it is good, but as obedience is the pulsation of unimpaired health, it is better.

II. SACRIFICE IS A RELATIVE GOOD — OBEDIENCE IS PERSONAL AND THEREFORE BETTER. The idea may be thus expressed: — Sacrifice is required because of the relation of God to other beings than the offerer, but obedience is demanded by the relation of the individual to God. —

III. SACRIFICE IS TEMPORARY, OBEDIENCE ETERNAL. When God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, sacrifice shall be no more needed on earth than in heaven.


1. Such sacrifices only were accepted of old, as God had commanded. Thus they were only valuable as they were related to obedience, and for its sake.

2. The great sacrifice is valuable as an atonement for man's disobedience.

(1)Because of the perfect obedience of the offerer.

(2)Because of the revelation of God it affords.

(3)Because of the cure of man's disobedience it is calculated thus to effect.

(4)Because it thus secures that which is better than sacrifice.

(5)In fine, it is only thus valuable permanently to the obedient.Being made perfect He became the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.

(William Knox.)

This text is a reproof given to one that wore a crown, teaching him, that though he was Israel's sovereign, he was God's subject. In the words we may notice the duty which God requires of men, which is obedience. What they are to obey is the voice of the Lord, whereby He manifests His will: it is His revealed will, whatever way He is pleased to notify it to them. Hence the obedience in the text is called hearkening. The excellency and eminency of this duty. God delights in it. All other things must yield to it, but it to none.

1. The duty which man owes unto God. That is obedience. We are in a state of subjection to God. He is our Superior, and His will we are to obey in all things. He is our King, and we must obey Him as His subjects. He is our Father, and we must show Him all respect, reverence, and affection as His dutiful children. He is our Lord and Master. and we must yield Him the most cheerful and unlimited service, as is our reasonable duty. He is our supreme Lawgiver, and we must receive the law at His mouth, every law and precept, every ordinance that is stamped with His authority, whatever is subscribed with a "Thus saith the Lord," readily obeying it.

2. Of whom the Lord requires this duty. No man can be free from this duty more than he can be a God to himself.

3. The rule of that obedience. It is the will of God. His will is our supreme law. Not the secret will of God; for that which God never revealed to man, cannot be his rule; but the revealed will of God (Deuteronomy 29:29).

4. The properties of this obedience which God requires of man.(1) It is sincere obedience to His will. Hence David says, "I was upright before Him" (Psalm 18:23). Hypocritical obedience may please men, but not God, the searcher of hearts. All obedience without uprightness or sincerity, is a mere counterfeit, an empty pretence, which will be rejected with abhorrence.(2) It must be constant obedience.(3) It must be tender obedience. We have to deal with a jealous God, whom whorish looks will offend (Ezekiel 6:9). We cannot be too nice in obedience.(4) It must be ready obedience, like that of those of whom the Psalmist speaks, "As soon as they hear of Me, they shall obey Me" (Psalm 18:24). God's call and command must drown the voice of carnal ease, and all arguments arising from spare thyself.(5) It must be universal obedience (Psalm 119:6), in "having a respect unto all God's commandments." The whole of the commands of God have the same Divine stamp upon them. They are one golden chain: whoso takes away one link, breaks the chain; if the connection be destroyed, the whole machine falls asunder Whoso makes no conscience of any one known duty, discovers hypocrisy in the rest.(6) It must be absolute obedience, like that of Abraham (Hebrews 11:8).(7) It must be perfect; though now in our fallen state we cannot give any obedience that deserves that epithet. God may and does require of all men in whatsoever state, "Be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." The believer, sensible of his utter incapacity to perform such an obedience to the holy law of God, renounces all his own sinful and imperfect, though sincere obedience, and betakes himself to the complete obedience of his Surety, and presents it as his own to God. which He accepts.

5. On what accounts do we owe this obedience to God. On these principally,(1) Because He is our great and glorious Creator, to whom we owe our life and being.(2) Because He is our chief end, the chief and last end of all being.(3) Because He is the conserving cause of all. As He gave man a being, so He upholds and preserves him therein, by His mighty power.(4) Because of the eminency of His nature, which founds His supreme dominion over us.(5) Because He is our good and gracious Benefactor, from whose bountiful hand all our mercies do flow.(6) Because He is our Governor and supreme Lawgiver. He is a Lawgiver to all, to irrational as well as rational creatures. Does God require from men obedience to His revealed will? The doing of what God does not command can be no acceptable service or obedience to God. Our duty to God is not to be measured by our imaginations, but by the revealed will of God. Nothing but what is commanded of God can lawfully be the object of our duty. Those who never heard the gospel will not be condemned for their not believing it; for the revelation of God's will must go before our actual obligation to it (Romans 2:12). This ought to stir up all who bear the Christian name, to be vigorous and lively in obeying God, particularly the great command of believing in the name of His Son; as considering that whosoever doth not so obey and believe the gospel, shall be damned (Mark 16:16).

(T. Boston.)

That obedience is due to God from all His intelligent creatures, I suppose none will deny. It is the original unchangeable law of creation, which every after discovery served not to undermine, but to support and confirm. It was the religion of man in the primitive state of innocence; and it shall be the religion of heaven, when we shall see our Maker as He is. The very excellence of truth itself lies in its influence on holiness, and the very purpose of every sacred institution is to form our minds to a habit of obedience, and subjection to the will of God. In the meantime, it is of the utmost moment, that, we have clear and just conceptions of the nature and principles of obedience.


1. How easily are people misled into disobedience by their present interest, or carnal inclinational how ready are these to mix themselves in all our actions, and to turn what was intended as an instance of obedience, into an act of impiety and transgression!

2. You may observe how natural it is for people, when challenged for any fault, to lay the blame of it upon others, even when there is little prospect of hiding their own guilt.

3. We may see it is an unusual thing for men to imagine they have been obedient to God even in that very action, by which they have in a remarkable manner shown their disobedience. True obedience is always humble, and sensible of the imperfections attending it. Ostentatious obedience, if it were for no other reason, is an abomination in the sight, of God. How often does it happen that the excuses for sin are the aggravations of it? It is very remarkable, though melancholy to reflect upon, that those excuses for sin which carry in them the most daring profanity, are commonly most stupifying to the conscience. Such is the state of all those who fortify themselves in an evil practice, by embracing loose principles, who, having first given way to unbridled inclination in the breach of God's laws, steel themselves against conviction and repentance, by a denial of His truth.

5. How great is the folly of men who hope to atone for their disobedience by any compensation, but particularly by religious rites!

II. I PROCEED TO SHOW IN WHAT RESPECTS IT IS THAT OBEDIENCE IS OPPOSED AND PREFERRED TO SACRIFICE, OR JUSTLY CALLED BETTER. It is not uncommon to hear this passage produced in order to prove the value of moral above positive precepts. Moral precepts, I suppose you know, are precepts of perpetual and unchangeable obligation, and positive, such as either have not, or do not seem to have, any intrinsic excellence in themselves, but depend upon the immediate and express institution of God. Now, though no doubt, if it is done with proper care, and upon legitimate principles, a distinction may be stated between these different kinds of duties; yet it is plain, that this cannot be the spirit of the passage before us.

1. Obedience is preferred to sacrifices, as they were uncommanded, free, and voluntary. If we attend to the sacrifices under the law, we shall find them of different kinds; particularly, we shall find them distinguished in this respect, that some of them were expressly and positively ordained, and others were left to the goodwill or spontaneous inclination of the offerer. The observation of the Sabbath, of circumcision, of the passover, the daily burnt offering, the annual sacrifice on the great day of expiation, the trespass offering, and many others, were so indispensably necessary, that no opposition was to be presumed or imagined between them and the moral law. Nay, the whole circumstances of these rites were precisely specified, and those who varied anything in the manner of their observation were to he cut off from their people. (Exodus 12:19; Exodus 31:14). I must further observe, that even with respect to voluntary or free-will offerings, though they were left at liberty whether they would offer such at all or not; yet if they did offer, the manner in which it behoved to be conducted, was appointed precisely. Now, nothing can be more plain, than that the sacrifices which Saul and his people had in view to offer, or at least pretended to have had in view, were voluntary or free-will offerings. When you remember this you will see with how great lustier and force the prophet opposes sacrifices of this kind to obeying the voice of the Lord: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" As if he had said, "Can you imagine that God will be as well pleased with gifts of your own devising, as with a strict and punctual execution of the orders which Himself had given; especially when the very sacrifices you would offer to Him, are purchased by the breach of His express command?"

2. Obedience is opposed to sacrifices, as they are false and hypocritical. Even in those sacrifices that were most expressly appointed, and of the most indispensable obligation, there might be an essential defect, from the inward disposition not corresponding to the outward action. Reason, as well as scripture, teacheth us, that in all acts of worship the sincerity of the heart makes the chief ingredient.(1) Our sacrifices may be polluted by inconsistency or unsoundness in the character. This is the case where men are careful in attending upon the institutions of religion, but do not make conscience of keeping the commandments of God in their ordinary conversation.(2) The other kind of hypocrisy is, when men put on religion as a cloak and covering on their wickedness, and, without any inward regard or sense of duty to God, aim only at the praise of men.

3. Obedience is opposed to sacrifices, as they are dead and formal. I am not at this time to mention all the ends which an infinitely wise God intended to serve by the appointment of sacrifices: but everyone must be sensible, that they could be of no avail without taking in the principle from which they were bought, and the temper and disposition of the offerer. There was no doubt very much of outward form in the Mosaic economy; and the ritual practices bore so great bulk in it, that, by way of comparison with the spirituality of the gospel, it is called the law of a carnal commandment. But it would be mistaking it very much to suppose that God was fully satisfied with or desired that His people should rest in the outward form. This is plain from many passages of scripture (Psalm 5:7; Psalm 26:6; Psalm 51:16, 17). In opposition to this, however clear a dictate both of reason and scripture, it seems to have been the disease of ancient times, to imagine that the sacrifices were somehow necessary or useful to their Maker in themselves; and that He was pleased with the possession of the gift, independent of the disposition of the giver. This led both Jews and Gentiles to suppose that the more numerous and costly the victims the greater would be their influence (Micah 6:6). This conduct, so dishonourable to God and so inconsistent with the holiness and purity of His nature, had no sufficient excuse either among Jews or Heathens. But surely it is still more criminal among Christians. The gospel, as a dispensation of clearer light and greater purity is called the ministration of the Spirit. God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

4. In the last place, obedience is opposed to sacrifices, as they are misplaced and unseasonable. In the ancient dispensation, time and place were as much ascertained as any circumstance that belonged to the temple service; and nothing could be more contrary to the spirit of that economy, than taking any liberty with the order which God Himself had established. The same general rule is to be observed at all times. We must attend to the intimations of Providence, and, as far as they can be clearly discerned, discharge those duties to which we are immediately called. Everything is beautiful in its place and season, and is then not only most acceptable to God, but most useful to men It is so far from being any disparagement of sacrifices, that it is their very excellence, to be confined to their time and place. And the maxim in the text will apply with equal propriety to every duty of the moral law. the most excellent of them may be misapplied True religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is, to visit the fatherless and the widow; and yet, if the time of Divine worship be unnecessarily chosen for that purpose, or if too much time be consumed in it by those whose presence cannot be useful, it is a rejected sacrifice.

III. I PROCEED NOW TO MAKE SOME PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT OF WHAT HAS BEEN SAID. From what has been said. you may learn what are the great characters of acceptable obedience; and, I think, they may be reduced to the three following: —

1. It must be an implicit obedience.

2. A second character of true obedience is, that it be self-denied and impartial, that it be not, directed or qualified by our present interest.

3. A third character of obedience is, that it be universal, without any exception. From what hath been said on this subject, you may see, that the true notion of obedience is inconsistent with the notion of merit, as if we could lay our Maker under some sort of obligation. You see how Saul justified himself, and said, "Yea, but I have obeyed the voice of the Lord." But, in the judgment of God, there was no consideration had of what bad been done, but a severe sentence of condemnation upon him for what he had neglected. True obedience is always considered, in this light, as a debt due to God, for the performance of which nothing can be claimed, but for the neglect of which a penalty is incurred.

(T. Witherspoon.)

Homiletic Review.
I. OUR OBEDIENCE MUST BE PROMPT. We begin a holy life with the question, "What wilt thou have me to do?" The moment God answers we should run to do His bidding. "Run" is the word (Psalm 119:32)

II. IT MUST BE EXACT. When Saul said, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord," he meant it as certain loose and careless people count obedience It is not enough, however, for us to do fairly well When God says "Pay!" He means to the uttermost, farthing; when He says "Go to Nineveh," he means Nineveh and nowhere else "Whatsoever He saith onto you, do it."

III. IT SHOULD BE UNQUESTIONING. If ever a man was excusable for "wanting to know," it was Saul when commanded to exterminate Amalek. Was the requirement just? Was it humane? Was it politic? But that was God's affair God must be permitted to justify Himself. There was no uncertainty as to the Voice

IV. OUR OBEDIENCE SHOULD BE CHEERFUL. We make too much of duty and obligation, and too little of the joy and privilege of service Let us come up from the association of mercenaries and galley slaves to the high level of filial devotion. We are sons and daughters of God, brethren of Christ. He was once "sent" upon a painful, toilsome errand; His obedience was prompt, exact, unquestioning, and joyous." "In the volume of the book it is written, 'I rejoice to do Thy will.'" Let the mind that was in Christ; Jesus be also in us.

(Homiletic Review.)

We are all apt be form a false estimate of our character, and to approve ourselves in the face of heaven, and maintain our uprightness in the presence of men. when miserably deficient in our duty. when deeply stained with the spots of guilt and rebellion. Commonly indeed it happens, as in the case before us, that the truth of the matter is made manifest to our fellow creatures; that even they are not often, or not long, deceived in farming a judgment of our character: but however this may be, "shall not God find it out?"

1. If the Creator prescribes a method in which He will be honoured and served, it is not for the creature to substitute any other method of his own. Every religious service derives its value from its accordance with the will of God: all other services will be disowned and rejected. For instance, the Almighty has ordained, that His blessings shall be obtained by prayer: it is not for us to say, that He knows our wants already, better than we can detail them; and that therefore it is useless to pray. The value and efficacy of sacrifices resulted entirely from the appointment of God; and they could not possibly be acceptable, unless as offered in obedience to Him. Had Saul offered thousands of sheep and oxen, not of the spoils of Amalek, but from his own flocks and herds, in an impenitent and self-confident disposition, the Lord would have abhorred them all; how much more then, when the animals had been spared in direct, disobedience to His positive command. But so it was, that the people were always resting on the outward form, and overlooking the thing signified; mindful of the service, but regardless of the heart. And for a plain reason: because the service itself was easy, and satisfied the deluded conscience, and left the offender in quiet possession of the sinful habits in which he delighted: and because the submission of the heart was irksome and painful, and required a discipline, a humiliation, a change of character and of life, which the offender was little disposed to undergo.

2. Without a sincere and humble spirit of subjection, without a holy and obedient heart, all our prayers and all our services are nothing in the sight of God; are founded in hypocrisy; are no better than a mockery of his name. Submission to the authority and will of God must ever be essential to true religion under every dispensation; and few persons there are, who doubt this as a speculative truth. But there is a vast difference between the outward submission of an unrepentant and ungodly heart, and the inward submission of the penitent and the pious! It is the subjection of mind, the surrender of the affections to the will and law of God, which constitutes an acceptable service. Pardon is graciously promised to all who truly repent, and the word of God assures us, that it will be extended to none besides: upon what ground then can the unrepentent sinner presume to ask forgiveness? And how can that man dare to implore of God the grace to repent, who has no intention and no real desire of repenting? He is but adding insult to his sin. How can the wilful sinner who lives, and is yet determined to live, in any course of guilt, really pray for deliverance from the bondage of sin? Does he expect that a miracle will be wrought to deliver him against his will? So far from resolving, he does not even wish to be changed from sin to holiness, from the world to God. In truth, it is not prayer at all; it is but the semblance and pretence of prayer.

3. Let us look well to the root and to the fruit of our sacrifices: see that they are all offered in an humble and obedient spirit, that we feel and desire what we say in the awful presence of a holy God: see that the submission of our lives is consistent with the submission of our persons before Him; that whatsoever we do, we do out of respect for His authority, out of love for His law, and obedience to His command.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

I think that in this verse there is first a voice to professing Christians, and then, secondly, to unconverted persons.

I. WHO HAVE MADE A PROFESSION OF YOUR FAITH IN HIM. Probably, there are some of you who may be living in the neglect of some known duty. It is no new thing for Christians to know their duty, and yet to neglect it. If you are failing to keep the least of one of Christ's commands to his disciples. I pray you be disobedient no longer. It may be that some of you, though you are professed Christians, are living in the prosecution of some evil trade, and your conscience has often said, "Get out of it." You are not in the position that a Christian ought to be in; but then you hope that you will be able to make a little money, and you will retire and do a world of good with it. Ah! God cares nothing for this rams' fat of yours; he asks not for these sacrifices which you intend to make. Possibly, too, there may be some evil habit in which you are indulging, and which you excuse by the reflection, "Well, I am always at the prayer meeting; I am constantly at communion, and I give so much of my substance to the support of the Lord's work." I pray you give up that sin! To obey is better than sacrifice in the matter of caring for the sick and needy of all classes. We rejoice in the number of hospitals which adorn our cities. These are the princely trophies of the power of our holy religion. There are no nobler words in our language than those inscribed on so many walls — "Supported by voluntary contributions." We glory in them. Rome's monuments, Grecian trophies, Egyptia's mighty tombs, and Assyria's huge monoliths, are dwarfed into petty exhibitions of human pride and vanity before the sublime majesty of these exhibitions of a God-given love to our fellow men; but all these homes of mercy and healing become evils to ourselves though they are blessings to the distressed, if we contribute of our wealth to their exchequer and neglect personally to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, and do not, like the Master, go about doing good Give as God has given to you; but remember God acts as well as gives. "Go thou and do likewise." Sacrifice, but also obey.


1. God has given to you in the gospel dispensation a command. It is a command in the obeying of which there is eternal life, and the neglect of which will be and must be your everlasting ruin. That command is this: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

2. Now, this first point being clear, that God has given a command, the second remark is that the most of men, instead of obeying God, want to bring Him sacrifice. They suppose that their own way of salvation is much better than any that the Almighty can have devised, and therefore they offer their fat of rams. This takes different forms, but it is always the same principle. One man says, "Well now, I will give up my pleasures; you shall not discover me in low company; I will give up all the things that my heart calls good, and will not that save us? "No, it will not. When you have made all this sacrifice, all I shall or can say of it is, "To obey is better than sacrifice." "Well, but suppose I begin to attend a place of worship?" Remember therefore that all that you can do in the way of outward religion is nothing but the sacrifice of the fat of rams; and "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." "Yes," says another, "but suppose I punish myself a good deal for all that I have done? I will abstain from this, I will deny myself that, I will mortify myself in this passion, I will give up that evil." Friend, if thou hast any evil give it up; but when thou hast done so do not rely upon that, for this oughtest thou to have done, and not to have left the other undone. God's command is "Believe!"

3. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." And now I have to show that it is so. It is better in itself. It shows that you are more humble. It is really a more holy thing. It is a holier and a better thing to do one's duty than to make duties for one's self and then set about them. But not obeying and not hearkening to the gospel, sinner, you must perish. There is the way of salvation, and thou mush trust Christ or perish; and there is nothing hard in it that thou shouldst perish if thou dost not.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The fact we want to emphasise is the supremacy of obedience. There is nothing said against sacrifice for it is a service of Divine ordination from the earliest times. They are the expressions of the highest conditions of being. Best men live to sacrifice, and what is more they live by sacrifice. Sacrifices were designed to subordinate the material to the moral and to show that the gold and silver and the cattle upon a thousand hills are God's. They further indicate the fact that even a material service may have spiritual ends. But notwithstanding all that can be said for sacrifice, there is "a more excellent way." There is a higher law of life There are other and more commendable ways by which we can attest our loyalty and prove our love, and that is by obedience. Was he not acting within his right in disposing of the spoils, and prisoners of war? Did not other kings exercise this prerogative, and were not the Israelites to be like other nations in having a king? Why then should King Saul be unlike other kings? Why abate his privileges or place restrictions upon his actions? Why deprive him of his prerogatives? How like this is to man who goes forth in the pride of intellect and the boast of lordship saying in effect, "Am I not king? Are not this earth and these heavens all inferior to me? Is it not mine to subdue the earth and control and subordinate to my uses and for my comfort the forces of Nature?" "Yes, man. I admit thy supremacy. I loyally bow to thy kingship. I pay dues to thy lordship. I am at thy service as I am for thy use, but I will not be forced into a blind and unconditional servitude. You must honour me and obey my laws or I refuse to acknowledge thy authority." The commonest facts of life give evidence that man conquers by obedience and rules by submission. He cannot force Nature to do what he may list. The utmost he can do is to direct and utilise her forces. He must first learn obedience, and by obedience he commands those potent elements with which earth, air, fire and water are invested. If the mariner would take his ship across the sea he must observe the law of winds and currents. No arrangement of Nature can be changed. No law can be abrogated. Man investigates, discovers, blends, controls, adapts, subordinates and utilises, not by an imperious authority but by obedience. Things are as they are, and he must submit to them. This is true of human life. The case of a successful Scotchman is apt to our argument. Having risen to a splendid position, he was asked the secret of his rapid advancement; he gave the reply: "by bowing," or by civility, by obedience. Fancied dignity is the sure road to degradation whereas humility leads by an unerring law to exaltation. The principle of the text applies with equal force to spiritual life. It is alone by obedience to the eternal law of moral right and spiritual life that a man can be saved. Obedience to God is the prime position of man. "To obey is better than sacrifice."

1. It is an exhibition of nobler qualities. A fanatic or even a hypocrite may sacrifice but it is only the true man who obeys. Robbers and murderers have presented oblations to the gods and even to the professed servants of the One only God, but vain all such acts in the absence of obedience to the Divine moral code.

2. Obedience is a higher service than sacrifice. A better set of forces are put in motion by obedience. Sacrifices are external, obedience is internal. Sacrifices are part of a carnal ordinance, obedience is of the essence of spirituality. The one looks earthward, the other heavenward. Sacrifices may be an accommodation to a party and jealousy for the honour, of a sect, obedience is loyalty to truth. Sacrifices may have an ear for the praise of man, obedience for the glory of God.

3. Obedience is more akin to the conditions of heaven. Sacrifices can play no part in the services of the celestial temple, while obedience is the secret of heaven's harmony and peace. The true heart is more capacious than the largest band The body is at best but a poor instrument with which to actualise thought and holy purpose. What, we must do is to bring every thought into line with God's will. We must obey Him by first giving Him our heart.

(M. Brokenshire.)

Homiletic Magazine.
I. IT IS A FALSE OBEDIENCE WHEN OBEDIENCE IS REFUSED THE MOMENT THE LAW OF GOD STANDS ALONE. In Soul's onslaught upon Amalek, there was, up to a certain point, a perfect agreement between duty and inclination, God's service and self-interest There was no zeal test of obedience until Amalek had been smitten to the last man, and that man the King. The people of Israel were eager to indulge their ancient enmity against Amalek, but were not willing to exterminate the flocks and herds. Herein lies Soul's condemnation He forsook the path of duty the moment it went forward alone, and other things — inclination, custom, self-interest — did not point the same way There are times when religion goes further than we are inclined to go, requires more than we are disposed to render; parts company with our inclinations, and tastes, and purposes, and habits. The test of obedience is then. We must not suppose that we are serving God when we attend religious services, perform religious duties, keep the Divine law only so long and so far as inclination, interest, custom point the same way.

II. IT IS A FALSE OBEDIENCE WHICH IS REGARDED AS JUSTIFYING OR EXCUSING DISOBEDIENCE IN CERTAIN MATTERS AND IN OCCASIONAL INSTANCES. Many claim for themselves what has been justly termed a dispensing power. On the ground of their general good conduct, general attention to religious duties, general obedience to the Divine law, they hold themselves excused, or warranted in occasional departures.

III. IT IS A FALSE OBEDIENCE WHEN DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD IN ANY FORM AND UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES IS REGARDED AS A TRIFLING THING. It seemed a light matter to Saul to act as he did But we can easily see that his slight disobedience involved great principles.

1. It assailed and dishonoured the character of God. To spare Agag was to charge God with partiality, was to give to His decree as iniquitous character.

2. It degraded the whole transaction. When Israel and Saul went forth to battle they were invested with the awful dignity of executing a Divine judgment. But Saul's conduct would have made it simply a vulgar marauding expedition.

3. It involved a degradation of religion God is regarded as One who might overlook the disobedience if only He is made a sharer in the spoil.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

I. THE PROPHET'S ASSERTION, "To obey is better than sacrifice." The sense in which be here uses the word "better" is obvious. He means to say that it, is more pleasing and agreeable to the will of God. The word sacrifice, in the text, may be understood as comprising the whole of the Jewish Ritual, or that prescribed form of ceremonial observances, consisting of offerings, purifications, and solemnities of different kinds, to which they wore required strictly add circumstantially to adhere. Let us next enquire into the meaning of the term obedience, as it is here used. Obedience in general signifies compliance with the revealed will of God. But this compliance may be two fold, either outward or inward From this explanation, then, of the terms employed, we may now see the meaning of the prophet's assertion, when he declared that "to obey is better than sacrifice." He meant to assert that "an inward and habitual disposition of heart to fear and obey God is far more pleasing in His sight than the most correct and scrupulous attention to the positive institutions of religion, where this disposition is wanting." That such is the meaning of this passage appears more certain from the several assertions to the same effect which are scattered throughout the Scriptures. What does the Lord declare by His prophet Hosea? "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offering." Attend also to the following passage from the prophet Micah: "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?"


1. That obedience of which he speaks, that inward submission of the heart to God, that habitual disposition of the soul to fear and serve Him, is the one grand requisite in religion. That man has most religion who has most piety; who in his soul most constantly realises the presence, most humbly bows to the will, most sincerely desires the favour, and most devoutly longs for the glory of God. And hence it is that the fear of God, as comprehending all these constituent parts of true piety, is so frequently used in Scripture for the whole of religion.

2. Another reason was this: The end of sacrifice itself was but to promote and secure obedience. It is true that the greater part of these institutions were of a typical nature, and had a typical meaning. This was their immediate design; but their ultimate object in all this design was to lead men to holiness and to teach them to worship God in spirit and in truth. And now let us apply it to our own case, and see how far we are concerned in the conclusions to which this discussion has led. In the first place, then, let us remember that true religion under every dispensation is the same. The internal and spiritual part of religion is the same now as it has always been. There is as great a propensity among many who are called Christians, unduly to appreciate and exalt the external and ceremonial part of religion, to the neglect and injury of the internal and spiritual part of it as there ever was among the people of Israel. I will produce some few instances in proof and illustration of this remark. Some, like Saul of old, act as if they thought that an attention to the positive institutions of religion would excuse, or even justify the disobedient and unhumbled state of their heart. Again, there are others who act like those Pharisees of old, whom our Lord condemned for their hypocrisy and iniquity; who "paid tithe of mint, anise, and cumin, but omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith." They are mere formalists in religion. Further, there are still other persons, who regard and use the positive institutions of religion with a superstitious regard. They think that the very attendance on them communicates a portion of sanctity to the soul, and secures an interest in the blessings and privileges of the Gospel. These are some of the ways in which persons unduly appreciate and exalt the external and ceremonial part of religion, to the prejudice of real spiritual Christianity. I would wish you to go from the performance of these outward duties with your affections more weaned from the world, and more set on things above; with your faith strengthened, your hops increased, your love inflamed, your desires after spiritual things enlarged, and more ardent.

(E. Cooper.)

Homiletic Magazine.
The supremacy of obedience in religion. Nothing can justify its absence, can make up for failures in it.

1. The moral element in religion, to which obedience belongs, is in the Scriptures exalted high above the ceremonial of which sacrifice is a part.

2. Obedience is of the essence and spirit of religion, whereas sacrifice is one of its forms. Our religious forms and services draw their meaning and value from the spirit of obedience in which they are rendered.

3. Obedience is itself an end in religion. whereas sacrifice is simply the means to that end. To train His people in obedience, to set, up and enthrone this great principle in their natures, God instituted the whole round of sacrifice and service in the old dispensation.

4. Obedience is continuous and eternal, whereas sacrifice is intermittent, and may cease.Apply this principle to two cases:

1. To those who are willing to serve God, but only in their own way. Religious service is a matter of personal assertion. It is far easier to indulge our own impulses and fulfil our own energy of will in methods of our own, than to work where and as God has appointed, in daily self-denial.

2. To those who imagine that they can cover moral failures by religious gifts and services, who act as though the faults of daily life could be covered by large gifts to religion, and diligent attention to its forms. God will never accept sacrifice in the place of obedience. The sacrifice of the cross draws its value and merit from the perfect obedience, the complete submission of the Incarnate Son.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

One of the strongest proofs of a sound religion is to be thankful for any heights which it is possible to scale; but to be much more thankful for the continuous valley in which human duty is best discharged. In all true religions, especially in those like the one in which you and I believe, there are at times inducements to spiritual rapture and spiritual depression. Sometimes these aspects are the main ones, but, as Samuel says to the old king, "To obey is better than sacrifice; and hearkening to God than the fat of rams." All through Christ's life, however deep any man's devotion, He said it was not those who in an enthusiastic ecstatic passionate manner, say, "Lord, Lord, but those who do the will of the Father in heaven," who were acceptable. He did not mean by this to rebuke only the hypocrite, but those whose religion consisted of rapture, enthusiasm, and ecstatics. There is in a religion corresponding to these homely, commonplace affairs a principle higher than prayer; deeper than feeling; more admirable than rapture — the ordinary unvarying principle of obeying. Unfortunately, a great deal of religion means far more importance to confessions of religion than it does to the great downright common sense of honest, unchanging, unchangeable religion. Too much of our religion has been experimental; too much rapture, and too much depression. Read the 119th Psalm, that great lyric of obedience, one of the greatest things that man ever wrote. Never were the two songs of faith and obedience so sweetly mixed together. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet." "Teach me Thy statutes." "Order my footsteps." There is as much of poetry and the practical in that one psalm as in all other compositions. It came from the true soul of a great man. This obedience, or as we call it, duty, is independent of all feeling. Am I secure tomorrow of the emotion which I feel today? All things conspire with me and against me. There are times when the soul is barren, days when the old familiar passages of the poets will not stir you, days of the ordinary and commonplace, days when the common things of life seem to sink below the common, and seem offensive in their minuteness, when there seems very little in life, when good is felt to be very far off. At these times is there nothing for me to do? Yes! for here comes the great solemn cry — "obey!" Never mind whether it is plain ground or not. "To obey is better than sacrifice." If obedience springs from habit, it may not be lovable, but it is useful, and it is always good. Unconscious obedience is good, the perfectness of a man's habit shows the depth of his original teaching, though there are times when habit sets itself up at the expense of thought, still it is like capital, and not to be despised. Habit is more than effort, the ease with which a man does a thing without thinking shows well how he learnt his lesson. It is comparatively independent of thought; it may exist upon a vow; it may exist for years upon a promise. The soldier who is once enlisted is not constantly thinking of the foundations of his obedience; the dress he wears, the sign upon the banner, the name borne by him will even assist him. To do the will of God and keep His commandments — it is the height of true religion, it is the basis of true religion. The greatest enthusiasts do not throw it aside; the biggest rationalists, with all their ribaldries, are in favour of it; the Romish Church, with all its pomps, believes in the commandments. We do not say that a man cannot be obedient, and at the same time rapturous; we do not say it is not possible to have both sacrifice and obedience; we do not say that a man cannot have rapture and prayer, and keep the commandments — but "obedience is better than sacrifice." The obedient man is most unlikely to trust in himself. He who learns obedience will seldom trust in it. The most obedient man is the one who says, "I am as unprofitable servant." When men get wise they will rind that obedience is not only safety, but that it has a beauty of its own. Its ready presence under all circumstances, its infusion into all things, its continuance, when faith is gone, hope is low, prayer is impossible, trust is broken, when God seems for a time out of sight, when immortality is a dream, when friends are faithless, when the heart is sad, is not that noble which is not driven by things like these? Is not that the grace of graces which stays under these circumstances? Those who know where true beauty lies love flowers. Not your big exotics of foreign bloom which have to be put in glass houses — but the green grass of old England that knows no time, that the frost cannot kill, which bears the leaf and still is there, flowering by the wayside; which resists all pressure, defies all storms, always in season, never in bloom. That is obedience; and if you do not see its beauty you will get wiser perhaps as you get older, and learn, at last, its constant, unchanging, unvarying, homely, humble, and yet truly beauteous aspect that renders it the greatest of graces, and the noblest of duties; better than sacrifice, deeper than prayer, loftier than rapture, always in season. Underlying the emotion which belongs to all creeds, possible to all peoples, obedience will never do any harm, if it does no good. If it will not save men, it will not kill them. But it will do good. "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Better to do the will of God than to be courteous, ecstatic, devotional, or enthusiastic.

(G. Dawson, M. A.)

In these words are contained a lesson which Saul had never learnt. He served God and appeared zealous in His cause, so far as the way of doing this suited his own pleasure and purposes; "all that was vile and refuse" of the goods of the Amalekites, "that he destroyed utterly;" but whenever self had to be denied, and God's will made the rule of action instead of his own, then he rebelled. Even in the apparently religious act of worshipping God, after the severe rebuke which Samuel inflicted on him, his words are, "Honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God," his own honour seems to have been that which prompted him to worship and not sorrow for his sin. In fact, Saul never really worshipped God at all, he worshipped self, and he never learnt this great and important truth, that obedience to God is the only thing pleasing in His eyes, and that whatever a man may do from motives of selfishness, yea, though he fight God's battles and advance His religion, it is all displeasing in His sight, "who seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." The subject, then, which is brought before us by the text is this, that simple obedience to God's commands is the only thing which is really pleasing in His sight. You must observe that Saul was not an open rebel. And part of the command he certainly had performed; in fact he had performed it just so far as it required no self-denial. And so may Saul stand to us as a type of those who profess to be Christians, and act in a measure as Christians, and who nevertheless follow their own ways, just as though they were under no Christian vows at all. Let us look at one or two examples of great and holy men in Scripture, and see how the example of obedience was set by them. Remember Abraham, and how he was proved and found faithful. Moses was ordered by God to go and appear in His name before Pharaoh, and though it was a dangerous mission, and he felt himself unfitted for the work, yet he obeyed. The holy Apostles also were simply called by Christ, and commanded to follow Him, and they obeyed. But why should I quote other examples, when we have that of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we read that He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." You may observe also that Abraham and Moses, whom I have quoted as two eminent examples of obedience, are two of those whom the Apostle has mentioned in his catalogue of men of faith. In fact, faith and obedience are necessary parts of each other; there can be no obedience without faith, and faith without obedience is dead And it is easy to see that Saul was a man without faith. The duty of obedience is put in a very high place by the text, when it tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. You will observe that Saul made God's service the excuse for breaking His commands: to make offerings to God was no more than it was his duty to do, but then it was not to be done at the expense of a still higher duty: no sacrifice, however costly, could possibly make amends for breaking God's law in one single point. And has not this been so from the beginning? When Adam end Eve were placed in the garden of Eden they were not placed there without a law: the command given them was simple indeed, but still it was a command, by keeping of which only they could stand; had Adam offered never so many sacrifices, had called never so much on the name of the Lord, yet if he eat of the forbidden tree he was guilty. In speaking of obedience to God's laws I have not, of course, so much in view the great moral laws. No one would fancy that he might murder or steal; but obedience to God is something much more than this. It is not an occasional act of obedience which we are called upon to do, it is a constant battle against ourselves, and against the evil nature within us, and a constant striving to root out all desires and thoughts which are contrary to the will of God. Perhaps I am presenting here the sterner face of religion; nevertheless, though it be not so pleasant to think of what we owe to God, as to speak of what He has done for us, yet it is for our good to keep in mind the vows and obligations which are upon us, and to remember that our Christian profession does mean something, and that to be a soldier of Christ is not merely a matter of words, but something very real and substantive indeed.

(H. Goodwin, M. A.)

Great and glorious is sacrifice; final and abiding its effects. On that sacrifice all access to God depends. By faith in that sacrifice does every sinner in every age approach God. What can we conceive greater, better, more honoured, more glorious? God has given it us to trust to: He has given it us also to imitate. Let sacrifice be our rule of life: sacrifice for God and for man; sacrifice for love: to spend and to be spent, as He spent and was spent, who was our Sacrifice. Let our whole life be a sacrifice; rendered up to Him with whose precious blood we ere bought. Too much we cannot think of, trust to, realise in our hearts and lives, that his sacrifice. And yet when we have meditated on it all we can, when we have cast ourselves in humble trust on its efficacy, when we have magnified it in our esteem, and striven to live it out in our lives — even then there is one thing better, one thing greater, one thing more glorious — one thing before which even the lustre of the Redeemer's sacrifice pales: before which all other sacrifice is worthless and not to be mentioned. And that more glorious thing is — OBEDIENCE. The Lord's sacrifice was but part of His obedience. "Being found in fashion as a man," from whom obedience was due, "He become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Listen to his own prophetic words: "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not: then said I, lo I come, to do thy will, O God." That is, "sacrifice and offering do not fulfil, do not exhaust Thy holy will: it is not suffering, it is not expenditure of blood, but it is the calm and willing submission to Thee, the ruling life after thy way, the direction of thought, word, and deed, body, soul, and spirit, affection and energies, in the line of thy blessed will — this it is which includes sacrifice — this which, more than that sacrifice, because of wider extent, and fuller capacity, pleases and glorifies Thee." And this the Redeemer came to do, and amply fulfilled. It is to obedience that Bethlehem owes all its carols, Genesareth all its miracles, Calvary all its glories, Olivet all its triumph. His miracles, His teachings, His lovings: none of these reaches over the length and breadth and depth and height of His glorification of the Father: but His obedience does: in this one word all is compromised: His death, as its noblest example. His obedience was greater than His death, for it included it: more glorious than his death, for it gave it all its virtue for propitiation, and all its power to save sinners. His death is past and gone by. "He dieth no more." But His obedience abides forever. "And when all things shall have been put under Him, then shall the Son Himself also be mede subject to Him who puts all things under Him, that God may be all in all." Truly, then, His obedience is His one character, His glory of glories. Let us come down now from the propitiation of the Redeemer as part of His perfect obedience, to our own little circle of duties, appointed for us as His were for Him. "To obey is better than sacrifice," is in some little danger of being forgotten among us, or at all events not remembered as it should be. And I will tell you in what particular way. Religion, among us, has taken a certain fixed place and standing: has been worked, so to speak, into the fabric of society. Its words and phrases, and certain conventional duties corresponding to them, have gained the freedom of the world's citizenship, and are no longer the peculiar badge which they once were. Certain points of religious morality are made much of, and properly, by all who would be thought religious, even in the ordinary respectable sense of the word. We live, there can be no doubt of it, in days of great religious stir; in days of great sacrifice, and like. wise of great opportunity of appearance of sacrifice at very little cost: in days when, only to give you one instance of that which I mean, a rich man, sitting in his library, may without ever putting forth a hand to actual charitable work pour by a few strokes of his pen his thousands along the various channels of public and private beneficence. And there is some danger, there is much danger, lest we should mistake all this sacrifice at so cheap a rate, all this doing good made easy, for the patient faith, the lowly obedience, the blessed and blessing beneficence of the Christian life. Is there not, then, here, while sacrifice is enjoined, truth in doctrine rigorously maintained, party opinion and party limits inflexibly observed, and yet the very plainest rules of Christian conduct and Christian self-denial publicly violated — is there not and must there not be a forgetting of obedience in comparison of sacrifice? When those who would not for any earthly consideration overstep some prescribed line of observance, are for pleasure and the display of person almost daily overstepping the sobriety of the Christian life and the fair limits of Christian example, surely we may say that we are losing obedience in our care for sacrifice. All the sacrifice for which we are called on, should be part, of, should spring out of, our personal life with God Our profession should revolve round our practice, not our practice round our profession. Our obedience should not be confined to things convenient and times convenient, but being the fruit of love shed abroad in our hearts, should extend over all things and all times.

(H. Alford, B. D.)

Homiletic Magazine.

1. Obedience. Obedience to God becomes the best educator of man's moral faculties. And obedience will prompt and rightly estimate material sacrifice.

2. In such material sacrifice as is the pure and simple correspondence of an obedient heart. Material bulk is not necessarily moral wealth. Material things are hardly wealth at all in this relation. Truth has no mechanical measurement. Love is worthier than the fat of rams.

3. All true sacrifice, then, is moral in ire essence and beginning. The spirit of obedience will prompt the acceptable deed.

II. SAUL'S FATAL DISREGARD OF GOD'S COMMAND. Note several particulars: — He did not seriously realise the circumstances of the case. He forgot who Amalek was, and what he had done in the past to Israel. The prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:20) had doubtless never really impressed him. The success of the sword had made him forget the word.

1. A man in such a state of wilful inattention is most liable to disobey. From scant attention will spring moral obliqueness He has hardly reflected what obedience demands. He is filled more with the spirit of selfish conceit than as anxious endeavour to do God's will.

2. Disobedience is loss of God's favour. "Ill-gotten gains breed weary pains, and one wrong act a life-long fact. The wrong step of a king will ruin bring."

III. SAMUEL'S IMPASSIONED REBUKE. This rebuke was thus aflame for several reasons,

1. Because specific direction had been given, and reasons for the attack.

2. Because from the first Samuel himself had ever desired to listen unto God; but Saul was not seriously attentive.

3. Because of the flagrant disobedience of Saul.

4. Because of Saul's untruthfulness.

5. Because of his feeble attempt to evade both the questioning of Samuel and the inevitable issue which he knew must ensue. Obedience is honour; disobedience disgrace. And obedience is the devotion of the heart, without which material sacrifices, however costly, are worthless.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

Consider some of the lessons of instruction which we may derive from the narrative.

1. Learn, first, that whenever God's commands are plain we are not to question or alter them so as to suit our inclinations, but implicitly to obey them. Have we no Sauls among God's professing people at this day — persons who perform some duties, and neglect others equally imperative upon them? Is our obedience thus partial? Are there some sins in which we live continually, some duties which we constantly neglect? Think not that the discharge of one duty will be any excuse for the neglect of another; nay, rather be assured that this itself proves your heart not to be right with God.

2. Learn from this subject that if we would have our sins forgiven, we must be deeply sensible of the evil of them, and confess them heartily unto God. Such was far from being the case with Saul. Hear him represent his own cause, and you can scarcely find anything wrong, even in those transactions in which you are sure there must be great blame.

3. Learn, again, from the narrative to be solicitous for the honour that cometh from God, and not for that of men. We see that Saul, when convicted by Samuel of having so imperfectly executed the commission God had given him, is far more anxious that he should pay him respect before the elders and the people than that be should pray, to God for him that his sin might be pardoned. And such is the case with formalists in general: they are anxiously sensitive to the opinion of their fellow creatures; comparatively careless about the estimation in which they may be held by the great Ruler of heaven and earth.

4. Learn. lastly, from this account, that, though Almighty God bear with much long-suffering the conduct of sinners, He will at length execute righteous judgment; and that be forgets neither the injuries nor the benefits done to his people. The Amalekites had unjustly opposed Israel on their departure out of Egypt: their descendants imitated the conduct of their fathers, and now God determined their destruction. "It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)

(J. Grantham.)

Obedience to the will of God is the essence of all worship. Divine worship is not left to the unaided reason of man. It is an institution and appointment of God.

1. Worship is unacceptable when the form is used for the spirit. How much of this spiritless worship pollutes our sanctuaries! How much of empty form is in our professed devotion! Is it a prayer? "It is all title page without contents." Is it praise? Is it only music without the heart? A soulless instrument would be as expressive.

2. Worship is unacceptable when the right form is accompanied with a wrong life. Saul intended to perform a great religious service to the Lord with the gains of his successful warfare. If the worshipper is living in wilful transgression of God's Word, his exercises of devotion are no service of God.

3. The disobedience of the heart is the only acceptable worship. "To obey is better than sacrifice." The heart must act in accordance with the Divine will. The motive must be right. "God," says an old divine, "weighs not the affections of His people to Him by their actions, so much as their actions by their affections." When Abraham offered up his son it was the submission of his soul to the word from heaven that pleased God. Every part of Divine worship must be in accordance with the will of God. He has revealed His word as our directory. The test of worship is the Scripture. Whatever rites are inconsistent with that word are to be repudiated. The voice of the Lord hath spoken, and it sanctions no sacrifice now since Christ became our propitiation. The voice of the Lord has spoken, and it commands that nothing be added to the revelation of God.

(R. Steel.)

We need to have the laws of God presented to us in severality, but also in their essence and sum. This old Hebrew judge soars above the confusion and superstition of his age, and anticipates some of the loftiest disclosures of revelation. Spiritual discernment — the instinct of the Divine in us — anticipates and interprets experience. How simple and direct religious duty appears when so presented! But "flesh and blood" did not reveal this truth to Samuel.

I. OBEDIENCE TO GOD IS THE TRUTH OF SACRIFICE. The ceremonial law was not to be divorced from the moral, they were mutually explicative and helpful. This is "reasonable service."

1. The principle common to both. This was found in surrender to God. The sacrifice was an acknowledgment that all that a man has is God's; and as representing this "all," of which it was but a small part, it was a valid and acceptable offering, analogous to a "peppercorn rent," or the fanciful services exacted of crown-landlords, sinecurists, etc., in feudal times.

2. Consequent identifications (verse 23). There is nothing corresponding to "as" in the Hebrew. It is a simple, bold equation: "For the sin of witchcraft is rebellion, and idols and teraphim is stubbornness." A great gain in such analogies; the outward ritual is shown to be accompanied by a spiritual attitude, of which it is the outcome; and as such it ceases to be trifling. The lustful man is a worshipper of "nothing," i.e., idols, as the term used in the Hebrew implies; the disobedient is an idolater of self. A similar gain to science was realised when the "correlation of physical forces" was discovered, and men spoke of "heat as a mode of motion," etc.

3. The spiritual expression of this principle is superior to the ceremonial. Besides being constant and self-evident, it is more immediately associated with our life. As involving will in its offering, it involves that which is most essential to our personality. The will has been called "the inner man." It more directly and consciously contains in it our self-hood. Yet both are imperfect. The spiritual worshipper is conscious that his obedience is not complete; that he himself is incapable of the sacrifice of which he nevertheless can conceive. So his gaze is drawn to Calvary and concentrated there. In Christ the ideal of sacrifice, and yet, not more than that which God requires, is presented. By appropriating that, identifying ourselves with it, we realise "the obedience of faith."

II. OBEDIENCE TO GOD IS THE SOURCE OF REAL AUTHORITY OVER MEN. "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath rejected thee from being king." All true kingship and efficient government is rooted in God. The ruler who ignores or defies the principles of morality signs his own death warrant. The secret of the "unstable equilibrium" of the governments of the world lies in their failure to recognise this. The true leaders of men are those who in the first instance obey conscience. A moral principle is in the end mightier than a parliament. Writers, public leaders, etc., would do well to lay to heart the fate of Saul. Had he denied "self," he would have kept his throne.

(St. John A. Frere, M. A.)

Saul's conduct is a type of human nature in manifesting —

1. A disinclination to render a full and complete obedience to God's expressed will.

2. A proneness to render that to God which He does not require, and withholding that which He demands.

3. In the excuses he makes for his disobedience. The paramount importance of obedience will appear from the following remarks: —



1. Punishment will certainly follow sin, as pain and suffering follow an infringement of the material laws of the universe.

2. The protracting of the punishment is no proof of its abandonment.

3. The final punishment of the disobedient will be eternal in its effect. Saul's posterity lost the throne of Israel forever.

III. IN ORDER TO ATONE FOR THE GUILT OF MEN WHO HAVE INFRINGED THE LAW OF GOD, THE GREATEST SACRIFICE HAS BEEN OFFERED. All the sacrifices under the old dispensation were to illustrate and honour law. Christ appeared in our nature to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

(T. D. Jones.)

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