Obedience or Sacrifice: Relationship or Religion

Obedience or sacrifice? Relationship or religion? Two pivotal questions we should be asking ourselves regularly. Heart checks, if you will.

Dearest Reader,

After reading through 1Samuel, chapter fifteen several days ago, two questions nagged my soul.

  • Is it obedience or sacrifice?
  • Is it relationship or religion?

Two-thirds into the text, these words glared at my heart:

“Then Samuel said: ‘Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? 

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.'”

1Samuel 15: The Background

In 1Samuel, chapter 15, Samuel gives Saul specific instructions from the Lord concerning the Amalekites. Saul was to gather his troops, attack the Amalekites and destroy every living thing. Leaving nothing.

Saul disobeyed God by allowing King Agag to live. He also permitted the best sheep, cattle, goats, the young rams, and choice animals to live. Verse nine of 1Samuel 15 tells us, “Saul and his men were not willing to kill them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.”

The Lord tells Samuel that Saul had not carried out his instructions.

Samuel goes to Saul and questions him; “Why do I hear animals?”

Saul replies, “I spared the best to offer a sacrifice to the Lord YOUR (emphasis mine) God.”

“Then Samuel said: ‘Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? 

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.'”

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Because you have rejected the Lord; the Lord has rejected you as king.”

Saul was disobedient, and it cost him his kingship and the crown of Isreal.

What does this mean for you and me? 

When you are obedient, you are trusting God with your circumstances.

Sacrifice over obedience is controlling the details and negotiating with God.

Sacrifice is controlling your circumstances. Holding on to control is not trusting God.

  • Sacrifice over obedience = Religion over Relationship
  • Checking off the boxes
  • Self-importance and prideful
  • Arrogant

When we trust God, we have the confidence to obey.

  • Trust = Obedience
  • Obedience = Trust

Trust and obey go hand in hand. To have one, you must have the other. One without the other changes everything.

Our Response

Our response must be a heart check. Am I, are you making sacrifices to the Lord or are we obeying the Lord?

God desires our obedience; he longs to have a relationship with us, not religion.

I confess I have been on both sides of the fence. I have checked off the boxes, made the sacrifice, at the end of the day felt as if I had done the right thing.

However, in the sacrifice I missed God. I longed for something that felt unattainable; a relationship with a Holy God. I wanted communion in the garden with Jesus.

Lord, I pray that we would desire obedience over sacrifice, relationship over religion, letting go of control and trusting You. Let our disobedience not cost us our inheritance in the Kingdom. Amen. 

Redefining the Wilderness

Your Wilderness Guide,


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I’m blessed to serve you in this place, to guide you through your wilderness as I journey through mine. I picture you across the table, hands wrapped tightly around your cup, sharing life, and laughter, and tears. As I share with you, my daily struggles, I long to hear what yours may be. You can do that by commenting below or reaching out to me at tlmashburn@yahoo.com. 

PS: My first book, Mornings In The Word is available now. Order your copy today.

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