The Importance of Obedience

“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. 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” (vv. 22–23).  – 1 Samuel 15:10–35

Human beings are naturally religious, and part of that religious impulse involves following religious rituals. In most of the world’s religions, central importance is placed on the proper following of ritual while less attention is devoted to right belief…..

Orthopraxy—rightly following regulations and rituals—tends to take precedence over orthodoxy—right beliefs and theology. Biblical Christianity stands out as the exception. Various regulations and rituals have been important in church history, but Christian theology tends to focus more on getting our beliefs right than on enforcing adherence to a set of religious rituals.

Yet, God’s people have sometimes elevated external conformity over heart-motivated belief and obedience. King Saul committed that error when he disobeyed God’s command to annihilate the Amalekites and their livestock (1 Sam. 15:1–9). He preserved the Amalekite king, Agag, and several of the best Amalekite animals. And when Samuel came to confront Saul for his disobedience, Saul explained that he spared the animals so as to make the best sacrifice to the Lord (vv. 10–16). Saul was so focused on the external letter of the law—giving the best animal for sacrifices—that he violated the Lord’s explicit will for dealing with the Amalekites. For this blatant disobedience, God rejected him as Israel’s king, pledging to give the throne to another (vv. 17–31).  View article →