22 So 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 heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NKJV).
The Lord of hosts had commanded king Saul to execute His judgment against the Amalekites by utterly destroying them (1 Sam. 15:2-3). Instead, Saul and the people spared their king and the choice animals, being “unwilling to utterly destroy them” (1 Sam. 15:9). When confronted by Samuel about this clear violation of God’s word, Saul was confident he had “performed the commandment of the Lord,” making an excuse the people spared the animals for a sacrifice to the Lord (1 Sam. 15:13-15). But Saul was wrong. God’s prophet spoke of God’s displeasure and condemnation of this disobedience. Saul had led the people in stubborn rebellion. Because he had rejected the word of the Lord, God rejected him as king of Israel (1 Sam. 15:22-23). There is an obvious lesson for us; The end does not justify the means. Like Saul, we have no right to change the command of God and rationalize our alteration with a “good deed” we put in its place. Living by faith is about trusting God’s commands are correct and following them with devoted allegiance. “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8). To obey God is better than offering sacrifices He has not commanded.
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, NKJV)
In today’s verse, the bishop (overseer or elder, Titus 1:5, 7) is charged with having unwavering devotion to the word of God he has learned. While several reasons for why he must be “holding fast the faithful word” may be cited from other passages of Scripture, Paul gives a defining reason here which explains part of his work as a bishop. His steadfast devotion to the word of God enables him to use its sound teaching to exhort and to convict those whose lives and teachings are contrary to divine truth. To exhort means to implore a person, to call near, to beseech (Strong’s). To convict means to “convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove” (Ibid). The overseer does not demand or force “gainsayers” (KJV) to stop their rebellion because of his position as overseer or because of the force of his personal character. Their rebellion is against the truth. Therefore, he uses the force and power of the “sound doctrine” of the “faithful word” to exhort and to convict those who contradict (defiantly reject) the will of God. Undoubtedly, this work of an overseer is meant to build our faith upon the word of God and not upon the force of the will, wisdom, or personality of the overseer.
9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them. (Ezekiel 6:9–10, NKJV)
Israel was unfaithful to God by committing adultery with idols. The Lord was crushed by their adulterous heart as their eyes pursued harlotry. Clearly, the rebellion of His people grieves the Lord (Psalm 78:40-42). So, He understands the pain caused when a spouse is unfaithful. He knows the crushing grief of a child rebelling against parental rule and God’s will. Experiencing such pain causes some to compromise God’s will to avoid the emotional trauma of such rejection. But, a temporary “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a winning spiritual strategy (Jeremiah 6:14-16). Though crushed, God punished Israel for her sins while leaving a remnant to escape and reclaim their faith (Ezekiel 6:1-8). Our sin crushes the heart of God, but He will not abandon truth to win us back. Instead He calls on us to repent and to return to faithfulness, warning us of eternal punishment if we persist in our sin. May we quickly sorrow over what our sin does to the heart of God and to the hearts of our loved ones, and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isaiah 30:8–10, NKJV)
God wanted there to be no doubt as to why Israel would come under the penalty of His judgment and be fragmented as a nation (Isaiah 30:12-14; Jeremiah 30:11). The prophet’s inscription of God’s word has left an indelible explanation that instructs us today. Like the rebellion of lying children who refuse to obey their parents, Israel rebelliously rejected and opposed God’s servants the prophets (Jeremiah 7:23-27). They rebelled at His word and called for smooth teachings instead of the right things of God. They were willing to be deceived by sin and error. Their rebellion was their downfall. Do not argue against the word of God. Do not call for smooth teachings that feel good but deny the truth (God’s word). One who refuses the truth of God is in rebellion against God. That is a most unenviable, most repulsive, place to be. If that is where you are, leave your rebellion and go back to your heavenly Father. He is merciful, and ready to forgive (Luke 15:11-24).
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isaiah 30:8–11, NKJV)
The rebellion of Jerusalem was reaching a climax in the days of Isaiah. God told Isaiah to announce their spiritual condition without ambiguity. They were rebellious liars who refused to listen to God’s word. They preferred “smooth things” – false messages that soothed their ears yet deceived their hearts. Therefore, they were on a path away from the Holy One of Israel — and they liked it that way! This still happens today. Better to hear and accept the stinging rebuke of truth that leads to repentance, correction and divine mercy, instead of rebelliously refusing to listen to God’s word and by doing so, push God out of your life.