Sacrifice Interpreted
1 Samuel 15:22
And Samuel said, Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold…

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams.

WEB: Samuel said, "Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

Of the Duty Which God Requireth of Man
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