To obey is better than sacrifice
The prophet Samuel under inspiration of the Holy Spirit rebuked King Saul who violated God’s command that stated that all people and animals of the enemy should be destroyed (1 Samuel 15:3). But instead of destroying them, Saul spared the the animals and offered them as sacrifices to God. Therefore, Samuel said to the king, “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” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Saul had made an appearance of great faithfulness to God, as he offered up the animals as sacrifice to God. But his piety was not true. A religious service performed in direct violation to God’s command put the king beyond the help that the Lord was so ready to offer him.
Obedience a test of faith
God commanded the people not to depart from His requirements when He declared, “Ye shall not do . . . every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes;” but ye shall “observe and hear all these words which I command thee” (Deuteronomy 12:8, 28). Man doesn’t always know what is good for him. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The sacrificial offerings were in themselves of no value in the sight of God. They were only designed to show the offeror’s repentance, faith, and to promise future obedience to the law of God. Without repentance, faith, and an obedient heart, the offerings were worthless. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). Disobedience originated with Satan, and all rebellion against God is directly due to satanic influence. Those who are under the devil’s spell will see only the supposed benefits to be gained by disobedience.
Righteousness rather than ritualism
To God, obedience is the essence of true religion. Without it, religion becomes unacceptable (Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11–17; 2 Timothy 3:1–5). The sacrifices that are acceptable to God are the sacrifices of righteousness (Psalms 4:5), offered in a humble spirit with the right purpose. Religion built only on outward ceremonies is not approved by God. Throughout the ages, the Lord sent many prophets to re-echo that what He desires is obedience rather than sacrifice, righteousness rather than ritualism (Psalms 40:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Isaiah 1:11; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21–24; Micah 6:6–8; etc.).
Today, many are following a similar path to that of King Saul. While they refuse to obey some requirement of the Lord, they continue in offering God their worship. The Lord doesn’t accept their service. No matter how zealous people may be in performing their religious services, God cannot accept them if they persist in breaking even one of His commands (James 2:10, 11).
In His service,