Thoughtful Thursday: True Obedience

True Obedience is true freedom.png

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God deserves our very best – not because He’s picky, but because He is worthy.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Samuel 13:12

I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt obligated to offer the burnt offering.”

1 Samuel 15:8,9,19-21

“He captured King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but he executed all Agag’s people with the sword. 9 However, Saul and the army spared Agag, along with the best of the flock, the cattle, the fatlings, and the lambs, as well as everything else that was of value. They were not willing to slaughter them. But they did slaughter everything that was despised and worthless.” 19 “Why haven’t you obeyed the LORD? Instead you have greedily rushed upon the plunder! You have done what is wrong in the LORD’s estimation. 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the LORD! I went on the campaign the LORD sent me on. I brought back King Agag of the Amalekites after exterminating the Amalekites. But the army took from the plunder some of the sheep and cattle – the best of what was to be slaughtered – to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Obedience – that ugly word our flesh recoils at. It seems old fashioned. Uptight. Legalistic. Or at least our rebellious culture tells us. But God’s design of authority is intended to be loving and kind, because He sees the dangers of stepping outside the pleasant boundaries He has placed for us.

Saul was doing all the right things. At least from the outside it appeared so. He sought the LORD’s favor and offered a burnt offering. Except his motivation had some problems – first, he felt obligated. Not feeling the love on that attitude. It also smacks of a manipulative kind of obedience – he had to do it and did it to get what he wanted – the favor of God. The only problem is, God sees what is going on in the inside.

God gave a command. Very clear and simple. Exterminate the Amalekites – I know, it sounds cruel, but they were a wicked people and God knew they would turn the hearts of His people. Here we see another problem with Saul’s response. Whether or not Saul understood the “why” to God’s command, he should have fully obeyed, but instead the word tells us that he was “not willing” to slaughter the animals. His will overrode God’s command. Sounds pretty awful, yet we can be guilty of the same thing.

Rationalizing the grey areas away when the Holy Spirit convicts us is no less of an obedience issue than Saul’s. In the name of freedom we can redefine what God has said, yet we are shackling ourselves to the chains of compromise instead. Turns out partial obedience is not obedience at all.

Samuel later said it was the motivation of greed that was a stumbling block, as well. Saul made it appear pious by saying he spared the sheep so he could sacrifice them to God, but half truths don’t stand to well before a Holy God. You just can’t fool Him. He will not be mocked.

Fear also cropped up as a valid reason why it was ok to twist God’s word. Didn’t God see the vast army? Surely He would not expect obedience to such a command, would He? Excuses, excuses. Mercy – I understand it, because my flesh likes to excuse itself, as well. Fear points to a lack of trust in the God Who called us in the first place.

Pride was Saul’s downfall, as well, and yet another aspect of Saul’s response that hindered Him from simple obedience. Samuel even finds Saul building a monument to himself. Every time we obey on our terms it leads to big trouble. It is prideful to think that we know better than the Omniscient One, and God knows fully the consequences of trying to accomplish something in the flesh instead of according to His perfect way.

Lastly, Saul pulled the famous “blame game” and scapegoated the army. They were the ones who kept the sheep and items of value. Clever. But the one in charge is responsible for those under his command.

Much like the attitude of Cain, whose offering was not what God required nor his best, we need to guard ourselves from thinking it is okay to define what is acceptable to God on our terms. He is an unchanging Holy God Who deserves our very best – not because He’s picky, but because He is worthy. Worthy of us delighting to obey the One Who created us in the first place.

Lord, please forgive us when we forget Your expectations or try to do things our way. Help us to live lives worthy of how awesome You are and to do things Your way. You know best.

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