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.
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king. (1 Samuel 12:23–25, NKJV)
Israel had demanded a king to be like the nations around her. With stern warnings against their hard hearts and disobedience to God’s law, Samuel anointed Saul to be king of Israel at God’s direction. The prophet would continue to do his work even though many were abandoning God and His law. In verse 23 Samuel reminds us we cannot allow the sins of others to lead us into sin and its carelessness toward our spiritual duty. Like Samuel, we must continue to pray and teach God’s will. As hearers of God’s word, we must fear Him and serve Him in truth with hearts given fully to Him (verse 24). The great things God has done for us compels our earnest, faithful service. Samuel’s warning in verse 25 remains relevant today. If we disobey God and persist in wickedness we will be punished. Israel was punished for her sins. When God’s people do wickedly and refuse to repent, punishment from God is just and sure (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
God no longer speaks to us directly like He did to the boy Samuel. But rest assured, God has spoken to us “by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). Young Samuel sets an example of readiness before God, both to listen to what He said and to be His servant. To be a servant of God you must listen to God’s word. You will need a humble, willing heart to listen to God’s word with an ear to obey Him. To be a servant of God means not only hearing what His word says, but also doing what He says. Jesus rebuked people who called His “Lord, Lord” while refusing to do the things He said (Lk. 6:46). Let us follow Samuel’s example and listen to God’s word by reading the Scriptures. And then, like Samuel, be God’s servant by doing what His word says (Matt. 7:21).