Obedience is Better than Sacrifice?

This often quoted and more often misused passage is from 1 Samuel 15:22. I’ve heard it for most of my church life. It’s never been my favorite, but until recently I’ve never given much thought to why. But the recent sting of its use, led me to consider my feelings. I realize now that it’s not the passage I don’t like, it’s how it’s being used. In fact, now that I’ve looked at it in it’s historical context, I find it’s use more disturbing.

Actually, I love the way the prophet Samual uses it historically. Israel’s failing first King, Saul, has been given very specific instructions ahead of battle with Amalek. He is told not to spare anyone or anything. Yet the passage makes clear that Saul was unwilling to destroy the best of the livestock. When confronted by Samuel, he blames the people, and insists that they only spared the best in order to sacrifice to the Lord. That’s when Samuel utters the famous phrase. He uses the statement to expose the folly of Saul’s excuse. We use it to try to get disobedient people to obey, but Samuel used it to get the disobedient King to realize or admit the folly of his disobedience.

Within the redemptive story of God’s grace the answer to man’s disobedience is not to get a disobedient mankind to be obedient. The great struggle is to get the disobedient to realize they are disobedient. And yet, the brokenness of that realization leads us to the mercy seat of God. And in His great mercy we find a better sacrifice; better than the best of Amalek. We find the lamb of God who dies once for all time.

Yes, there was a time when to be obedient was better than repetitive sacrifices. For it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. But now, by one offering, Jesus has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. So let’s not encourage the disobedient in their feeble attempts at obedience. Samuel was talking about the blood of bulls and goats. But the blood of Christ is better, and we are all disobedient.

Not in the Box

My walk with Christ has left me feeling a bit odd, even amongst a peculiar people. It’s as if the body of Christ is swaying joyfully to the music and I’m unrhythmically searching for the beat. So many of my brother’s in the ministry get in and quickly find a groove. After 10 years, mine still eludes me. My convictions keep me in the body but out pof the flow.

I think others notice too. I hear them struggling to find the words to describe me. Though I’m really not trying to be, I hear repeatedly that my preaching is “deep.” I don’t think it’s always intended to be a complement and I don’t find it flattering.

What confuses me is that few in the body tell me that I’m wrong. In fact, most agree and even encourage me. They simply don’t join me. Although they don’t often say it aloud, they don’t think what I believe works. Its not in rhythm.

What are these things that keep me out of rhythm. Well, here is a short list.

1. I believe that people should be equipped on Sunday mornings through the regular preaching of the word. Sunday morning preaching should be weighty enough to equip.

2. I believe the essential task of preaching is to communicate the author’s intended meaning. To do this, his subject must be my subject. And what he says about it I must also say.

3. A steady dose of topical preaching will not provide a foundation upon which to build an understanding of the faith. The great story of God redeeming all creation for His glory is reduced to our individual struggles and triumphs.

4. We do not trust God enough to teach the righteousness of God is by faith apart from the works of the law. It sounds to much to us like encouraging lawlessness. So, whom the Son has set free is not free indeed.

5. Jesus became a curse for us so that we can never be cursed with a curse, even if we do not tithe. The Church must live by faith too. This we may fear the most.

6. The greatest witness to the power of the Gospel in this culture is an intentionally multiethnic church where people love each other. In this culture, we do most everything together, except worship, and it undermines the truth of the Gospel. But homogeneous church is just easier.

7. Because there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one body of Christ, our faith must be historic and not personal. My relationship with the Lord can be intimate but it cannot be Him and me alone. When I became a believer, I became a member of the body.

You may see now why many don’t believe these things will work. The failure of my church plant is further prove that they may be right. So I continued to struggle with my oddness. But to just sway along would be to do harm to my conscience. Today, however, I believe I have clarity about where I stand. I still feel I’m an oddity, but I understand better. It hit me like a thunderbolt, when I heard it said that to invoke real change you have to think outside the box. That’s when it dawned on me.

I’m just not in the box.