Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

Certain phrases appear from time to time in Christian conversation which sound good to the ear but really contradict what is our true relationship to our Creator. One such phrase dates back over 30 years in memory to an adult Bible Study guide we had in church. “Obedience is Better Than Sacrifice.” It was a teaching on Christian behaviour which made some very good points. However, from where did this phrase come? Was this merely a catchy title thought up by the publisher? No it comes from a verse in the Bible:

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, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.

Stop the press! Was not sacrifice ordered by God? Was this not how the older testament people of God remembered their sin? So how can one say that obedience is better than sacrifice? The answer lies in taking scotch tape and sticking the verse back into the context out of which it is taken. In this we see that God instructed King Saul and the army to utterly destroy the Amalekites including all their livestock. What the people did however, is to keep the choicest of sheep as spoils or war. When called on this the excuse was made that these were kept to sacrifice to the Lord.

Regrettably this verse grabbing and dragging kicking, screaming and bloody has been used to whack Christians over the head with in order to raise concern about his or her good deeds. It is taught to them that of course they are justified by grace through faith but just like an earthly father will appreciate a son or daughter more if he or she obeys in a greater fashion the same with our Heavenly Father. So if you want God to love you more then you better work harder, serve on more committees, teach more Sunday School classes etc. Poppycock! Our Heavenly Father is totally unlike our earthly, finite and sinful fathers. While it is true a Christian will want to do good deeds more and more as time goes on our Father beholds us in Jesus alone and therefore could not be pleased with us no matter how much we do.

Isaiah 60:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Our Father can only admire perfection. Half hearted or even 99% hearted efforts will not suffice. There is no way for a sinner to do a total selfless work it cannot be done. Don’t even try to cipher what percentage of motivation is out of fear of punishment or hope of reward and how much out of love for Jesus. God knew we could not do this selfless work. His law tells us we cannot meet its demands. He supplied himself to do the doing for us. And had himself nailed to the cross to pay for our self centeredness. It took the selfless obedience of Jesus to please God. God calls only what he does is good as in the creation account.

So in loving kindness he clothes us with the righteousness of Jesus and whatever we do in fulfilling our vocation, where he has located us, is pleasing to him. When we feed our children we please our Father in Heaven. When we arrive at work and do our work as unto him we please our Father in Heaven. What a wonderful peace is available when we with grateful hearts serve our family, friends and neighbours in the peace that we are free from worry whether it is good enough. We are free from the law of sin and condemnation. We can do whatever presents itself to be done. What Christ did for us sinners, for you, is good enough!

Praise to you O Christ! †

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