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I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8, AMP)

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Chosen by God
Published on 05-15-2014 , 4:55 PM

What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22a, NLT
 
The prophet Samuel had given King Saul specific instructions: the Israelites were to be an instrument of punishment to the Amalekites. Now we, who are followers of a loving Father and a self-sacrificing Son, read this passage with distaste. Some say, “My God would not order the slaughter of innocents!”
 
My God, on the other hand, has an intellect and thought-patterns exponentially higher than anything I can comprehend; I have absolutely no chance of ever understanding His reasoning with my finite human mind. We must be cautious of any attempt to put God in a box, especially when doing so requires us to jettison passages of Scripture.
 
In this particular Biblical event, God’s instructions to Saul were clear: destroy everyone and every animal in the Amalekite territory. It may help when reading this passage to recall that this was a different time and place than our own. Countries, cities, and tribes protected themselves and expanded via force of arms. Human rights and justice for all were not concepts known, much less practiced, in those days. In such a time and place, God passed judgment on the Amalekite people and required Israel to carry out His decree.
 
Being a product of his time, Saul had no problem with the mission he was given. He listened thoughtfully to the detailed instructions of God that were passed on to him by Samuel and nodded his understanding. Saul did not voice any questions or bring up any concerns; he simply agreed to do what God wanted of him as the leader of the army of Israel.
 
Saul and the army went out to execute the plan and they succeeded. The Amalekite army was trounced. The Amalekite territory was sacked. The Amalekite people were killed. Well, not all of the people; the king was spared. After all, people in power take care of their own whenever possible. But the Israelites digressed even further from God’s instructions. While the army destroyed many of the Amalekites’ possessions, per their instructions, the best of the herds and flocks became prizes of war.
 
As the victorious army returned home, it met up with Samuel. Upon reaching the prophet’s side, Saul greeted him with a smile and the claim that he and his men had completed their mission and “carried out the Lord’s command.” When Samuel asked Saul about all the sheep, goats, and cattle that accompanied the army, the king explained they had been confiscated for the army to make a sacrifice to the Lord – kind of a thank-you gift for God’s help in trouncing their enemies.
 
To Saul’s surprise, Samuel was not pleased with his explanation. Instead of joining in with the celebration, Samuel told Saul he has disobeyed God’s instructions. Well, mighty King Saul was having none of that! The Amalekites were gone, which is exactly what God wanted. He and his men got the job done and they deserve a little something for their effort. But not to worry, God will get His piece of the action. Some of the plunder would be sacrificed to thank and appease Him. In this way Saul could rationalize his lack of obedience as a “good thing,” for is it not good to worship and thank God?
 
All too often we need to hear Samuel’s response to Saul: God wants obedience more than sacrifice. More times than I like to admit, I am King Saul who comes up with a way to improve on God’s instructions. Sometimes this involves a modification that makes me more comfortable. Other times I want compensation to make the disagreeable task more palatable. And always I say, “But God, I am doing what you told me to do!” – Just as Saul put forth that claim to Samuel.
 
But God is not buying it when I sell it any more than He and Samuel accepted Saul’s excuses all those many centuries before. This is the same God who told Samuel in the subsequent chapter, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7b, NLT)
 
An obedient, loving heart is what God prefers over a smart mind or an attractive appearance. And that is a great thing, because few of us are extremely smart or handsome or talented.  And even those who can make such claims have no more value to God than those of us who have none of those benefits.
 
God does not want our human efforts – no matter how successful those efforts may appear to be; what He wants of us is obedience. The good news for all of us, especially we who are ordinary, is that no special skills are required. Every human being can choose to love and obey God.
 
Will we miss the mark? Will we fail to fully obey? Certainly! But the Lord knows our hearts, so He knows when we are making an honest attempt or when, like King Saul, we are going through the motions so we can do what we really want to do and get what we always intended to get. I thank God for His patience with me as I learn this lesson.