'Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice' Verse Meaning


Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice’? It’s a popular saying within Christian communities, and it is mostly used to encourage better decision making that is more in line with Christian values when faced with dicey situations.

It is a simple phrase that shows God’s preference for obeying him rather than bringing sacrifices to Him. Most people however do not understand such preference by God. Why would He choose obedience over sacrifice?

This is not to question His principle, but to gain insight and understand why he has placed Obedience over Sacrifice. And just as Obedience is better than sacrifice, to obey can be harder to do than sacrificing at times.

Lets however take an indepth look into this subject. This article would give you a good understanding of the origin of the phrase “obedience is better than sacrifice”, why obedience is so important to God, and how to practice obedience as a Christian in these days.

Biblical Context of 1 Samuel 15:22

The phrase obedience is better than sacrifice originated from 1 Samuel 15:22 which says;

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

(1 Samuel 15:22 NLT)

God had specifically instructed Saul, the first king of Israel, to destroy the Amalekites. No man, woman, child, prince, princess, or animal was to be spared. This nation had been utterly corrupted by sin, hence, God decided to destroy the whole race even down to their animals.

But Saul upon questioning, revealed that he spared King Agag, the king of Amalekites, and the best of all the animals to sacrifice to God.

But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

(1 Samuel 15:20‭-‬21 NLT)

Even with a clear instruction from God, Saul thought it wise to reserve some animals for a supposed sacrifice to God. He was not instructed to sacrifice the best animal from Amakek to God. That sacrifice could not replace heartfelt obedience solely based on trusting in the will of God at the time.

Definition and the Differences between Obedience and Sacrifice

The Oxford dictionary definition of obedience is the “compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority”.

Obedience in Christianity refers to the act of obeying the command, order, request, or law of God, the One we worship. It refers to the process of acknowledging His will and submitting to it even when you want to do the opposite. To obey Him, you need to trust and have resolute confidence in His character and His word. This means you need to have faith in God. Hence, disobedience means the absence of faith in Him and as Scripture says, “…it is impossible to please God without faith…” (Hebrews 11:6)

This brief explanation shows how fundamental obedience is in the Christian faith. It goes beyond obeying the 10 commandments. It involves trusting God wholeheartedly because a time will come when God will demand something crucial of you to do, and in that moment, you will have to trust him fully.

This leads to the definition of sacrifice. Sacrifice refers to an act of giving up something valued for the same something else regarded as more important or worthy. Throughout the Bible, you can see several examples of people giving sacrifices to God as an act of worship or for the atonement of sin.

The ultimate example of sacrifice in the Bible, however, is Jesus’ death on the cross.  He gave himself (as something of value), to bridge the gap between God and man (something of more value or importance).  But even his sacrifice was an act of obedience to God.

“He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:8 NLT.)

Obeying God demanded the sacrifice of his life on the cross. In this scenario, you can see that Jesus wouldn’t have sacrificed if he didn’t trust God enough to obey. Abraham also attempted to sacrifice his only son as a form of obedience to God’s specific instruction. As seen in these bible characters from scripture, obedience leads to sacrifice. So where do we draw the line?

The truth is that obedience is a form of sacrifice. Obedience demands that you give yourself, choices, and things you place in high value to God. The sacrifice that involves giving yourself to Him is what He holds dear to His heart because it involves solid faith.

Sacrifice, in its literal sense, only refers to giving up material things. These material things are of little to no value compared to our being. That is why Samuel had to highlight the relative importance of obedience when Saul chose to sacrifice material things instead of obeying God.

Why is Obedience so Important to God?

There are several reasons why Obedience is important to God. Here are a few of them;

  • Obedience is important to God because it involves giving yourself to Him. It shows that you believe in Him and trust Him without reservations.
  • It is a way to get closer to Him.
  • By doing what God says, you can align with his will and work out the plan He has for your life. Living in His will can single handedly transform your life.
  • Obedience distinguishes you as a committed Child of God. It enables you to work out your salvation in Christ.

In What Ways Can Believers Be Disobedient?

Believers can express disobedience in different ways. And sometimes disobedience can be very hard to identify in our day to day lives.

  • Partial Obedience: In the case of Saul, he did everything he was asked to do with the exception of killing the King and the best animal in the land of Amalek. That, to Saul, was obedience. But God regarded it as disobedience. A half filled cup is also a half-empty cup. God regards partial obedience as total disobedience to Him. Irrespective of how you choose to see it, your obedience must be complete.
  • Disobedience as a result of Ignorance: Some believers are not just aware of the right thing to do or when God is asking them to do it. This is why studying the Bible and listening to the Spirit of God within us remains essential. To obey God, you have to know what He is requesting from you. God speaks  through His word and His spirit. So to hear from him clearly, you need to constantly be in alignment with his spirit and also pull out needed time to study the Bible.
  • Outright Disobedience: This happens when you know what God is asking you to do, but choose not to do it. In a more practical sense, when you know what’s right and wrong in the eyes of God, and you choose to do wrong.

How Can Believers Practice Obedience?

To become a person of obedience, you must first of all know what God is saying to you per time. Obedience is love translated into action, and for a believer, this is how we show God love. “If you love me, keep my commands.”(John 14:15)

There are 4 simple ways you can make yourself become even more susceptible to obeying God.

  • Read the Bible to understand the principles and commandments of God. As you read, apply the instruction to your daily life. For instance, if God says don’t lie, make efforts in your daily life not to lie. Obedience can be as simple as that.
  • Pray and ask God for the grace to obey him.
  • Also, ensure that you remain sensitive to the will of the spirit. This will help you pick up His specific instructions and follow them accordingly.

If you disobey, don’t hesitate to go back to God and ask Him for mercy. He is always waiting for you to fall back into his arms. Instead of beating yourself up, have a pure intention and reciprocate your intention with your action. This will ensure that you always obey God’s will.

Final Thoughts

As a parent, if you were asked to choose between getting beautiful gifts from your child or your child’s obedience to your instructions, which would you pick? Obedience, of course! Best believe you have good reasons for choosing that.

You’d want your child to grow in wisdom and avoid the consequences that might stem from doing the wrong thing. This is exactly what God wants for us. God loves us too much to let us face the consequences of doing the wrong things. This is why He places obedience over sacrifice. Obedience is not doing any good to God but rather it was put in place to do good to us, to develop us, to preserve our souls till that final day.