Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

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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.
1 Samuel 15:22

Saul is instructed by God, through Samuel, to utterly exterminate the Amalekites.1 Saul obeys, and is successful in his overthrow of the tribes, but decides to spare their king, Agag, along with the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good.2 It is for this transgression that God decides he made a mistake with Saul, and Samuel is tasked with bearing the bad news that a new king will be chosen. From Saul's perspective he had saved the best of the livestock to offer as sacrifice to the Lord,3 so this must have seemed shockingly unfair, but it is also hinted that Saul and his men kept other spoils of war, and kept the king alive as some sort of war trophy, to show their own greatness. Whichever way it is viewed the bottom line is that Saul did not do as commanded, and his disobedience was purely for self-gain and self-glory.

Samuel rails against Saul's promised show of piety just as Jesus does against the Pharisees at a much later time. God does not want loud showmanship, but quiet obedience, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Modern-day TV evangelists, and the founders of mega-churches are drawn into the same sin that beset Saul, believing it is better to be seen to be faithful (while sometimes practicing the opposite) than to actually humble oneself before God, quietly and privately. God just wants us to hearken, to hear, like Elijah did, the still, small voice.3 Amidst the din of modern-day living this becomes harder and harder, but still we must strive, because it is within that stillness we find redemption.

1 The Amalekites were the tribes descended from Jacob's brother Esau, and had given the Israelites trouble from before they even crossed the Jordon, see Numbers 14:41-45
2 1 Samuel 15:9
3 1 Kings 19:12