Archive for November 1st, 2011
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much 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. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23 NASB
Is better than – You probably don’t bring sacrifices to the Lord these days. Since there is no Temple in Jerusalem, there is no place to fulfill the sacrificial requirements. Don’t be duped into thinking that because Yeshua died on the cross there is no need to make sacrifices. He filled up one of the requirements but not all of the requirements. Of course, the one He did fill up is a critically important one (the sacrifice for the guilt of intentional sin), but if the Temple still stood, and if we were in Israel, we would still bring sacrifices for other ritual impurities. And when He returns and the Kingdom is established on earth, you will once again see the smoke rising from the Temple mount.
But in the meanwhile – “it is better to obey.” Samuel’s declaration of the priority of obedience does not dismiss the sacrifices. It only points out that sacrifice without obedience is insufficient. Samuel doesn’t say sacrifice is unnecessary. He only says that obedience is better. Sacrifice is a symbol of obedience. Therefore, obedience must be lodged in the heart of the one who brings the sacrifice. Ritual without relationship is a funeral, not a wedding. But a wedding has both vows and an altar.
The Hebrew text is literally, “Behold, obeying than sacrifice (is) better,” so the translation in English doesn’t quite fit the word-for-word Hebrew. The phrase “is better than” is really an interpretation of the word tov (as an adjective, not as the verb “to be good”). It means “good, well-pleasing, useful, proper, convenient, morally correct” or “fruitful” depending on the context. You might try reading the verse with each of these various meanings in order to grasp the full range of Samuel’s declaration. It’s also important to note that the proper action is continuous (“obeying”), not simply a repetitive ritual.
How can we apply Samuel’s analysis when there is no possibility for sacrifice today? Fortunately, obedience is readily available at any point and anywhere. There is no limitation on obedience as there is on sacrifice. That means if we desire to offer our gratitude to God today, we can still fulfill Samuel’s exhortation. We can obey and by obeying, we can fulfill the requirement of sacrifice in the absence of the Temple.
Of course, this has another interesting implication. When Samuel said that obedience was better than sacrifice, what did he assume about obedience? Did he suppose that obedience was an undefined principle of love for others or an attitude of putting God first? Hardly! Samuel had specific instructions in mind. To obey Torah is better than sacrifice. It is impossible to imagine that Samuel, a prophet of God, could have assumed anything else. Torah is God’s requirement for good living. Samuel doesn’t mean obedience to some “good person” moralism. He means doing what God instructs us to do. Today we cannot offer sacrifices, but nothing prevents us from being obedient. So here’s the question: Are you following Samuel’s advice or have you decided that since you cannot offer sacrifices you don’t need to obey either?
Topical Index: obedience, sacrifice, tov, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Torah