What is the first thing that comes to your head when you hear the phrase “obedience is better than sacrifice”?
We often think we should do all kinds of things to be accepted by God. The truth is, we cannot do anything to be accepted by God. Jesus already gave the ultimate sacrifice: Himself.
God does not need another sacrifice; our obedience is enough. Our obedience is better than sacrifices.
What is a sacrifice?
A sacrifice is giving up something valued for the sake of our faith. Obedience is our dutiful or submissive compliance; this means surrendering our will to God. Though God accepts both, He is more interested in our obedience than in our sacrifices.
We could sacrifice all that we want -money, time, effort, talents, gifts etc.- but it wouldn’t touch God’s heart in the same way as our obedience does.
God is interested in our hearts more than anything. He looks at the motives behind our sacrifices.
Where can I find the phrase “Obedience is better than sacrifice” in the Bible?
In I Samuel 15:12-31, we find a discussion between the prophet Samuel and king Saul.
Samuel confronted King Saul with his sin of not obeying God’s instructions. Instead of admitting his mistake, king Saul tried to reason and defended himself (sounds very human!).
King Saul tried to hide behind the sacrifices he gave to God. He thought the sacrifice would cover up for his disobedience.
A sacrifice like that is like trying to give God a bribe. It is exactly then that Samuel steps in and says:
“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.” I Samuel 15:22 (NLT).
This verse comes as a question, but it includes the answer. Samuel wanted king Saul to take a step back and think about what he had done and whether it pleased God.
Saul, however, was not ready to do that. He was more concerned about the outward motives than the inward ones. Saul wanted to be acknowledged by the surrounding people, more than he wanted acknowledgement from God.
What is the meaning behind 1 Samuel 15:22?
The answer Samuel gave to Saul –obedience is better than sacrifices– clearly shows where God’s heart is. God’s need is in our obedience, not in our sacrifices. He doesn’t need sacrifices because the earth and everything in it belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1).
King David understood this very well: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.” Psalm 51:16 (NLT).
All that God wants from us is obedience, not our sacrifice in whatever form.
Even if we sacrifice much of our time to serve in God’s house, but don’t do it with an obedient heart, it will not please God. Frequently, God shows in His Word that obedience is better than sacrifices. For instance:
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (NLT).
“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3.
The verse in 1 Samuel 15 states just how important our attitudes and motivations are to God. He values our obedience more than our sacrifices. Why?
Why is obedience so important to God?
God created heaven and earth, and all in it belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1). If He would need anything, He could easily take it. He is the supplier and creator of everything.
“I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
Obedience is so important to God because He looks first for a heart that is truly seeking to follow Him. With our obedience, we show our faith and trust in God, and that is what God is looking for.
Psalm 50 shows that when thankfulness is our sacrifice (thankfulness expresses the attitude of our heart) and we keep our vows (out of obedience to God), He will hear us when we call. He will rescue us when we are in trouble.
And then He expects us to show gratefulness to Him by giving Him the glory for delivering us. That gives us another opportunity to show our obedience: by being grateful and giving Him the glory.
As we can see, obedience is the key to our success; obedience is the sure and promised way to unlock blessings for our lives.
Do we have anything to give to God as a sacrifice?
Let’s consider another side of giving sacrifices. What do we have that we can offer to God? Money, time, energy, efforts, service, talents, gifts, etc., can we offer any of these to God?
Well, we can surrender them to Him, but we cannot give it to Him as a sacrifice. Because all that we have is His, He gave it to us (James 1:17; Romans 11:35). So, when we bring a sacrifice, we are literally giving back to Him that which He first gave us.
Money? He gave us the power and wisdom to accumulate wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). Our time? He gave life to us, the air to breathe, and lungs and a heart. Our energy, efforts, and service? He gave us the capability. Our talents and gifts? He is the one who gave them to us.
There is nothing we have that God didn’t give us. So how could we give Him anything other than our heart and our obedience?
If we have obedient hearts, then we can give Him back everything that He first gave to us. And then we can do it with the right attitude, without boasting and contempt.
God loves our obedience more than he loves our sacrifices. So much more that He rewards it.
Rewards for being obedient
Being obedient comes with rewards:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalms 19:7-11 (NKJV).
Verse 11 in the NLT version says:
“They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.”
Rewards, or favor from the Lord, are often the results of our obedience to him. Not always though, God’s grace surpasses our obedience, He can show mercy and grace whenever and to whoever He wants.
Whether we decide to obey God depends on our love relationship with Him and how we honor and prize His wisdom.
Jesus is our big example in everything, and He was an example of an obedient Son who trusted His heavenly Father in everything. He understood that obedience is better than sacrifices. Shouldn’t we do the same?
God’s access to rewards for us is unlimited. He can reward us in so many ways for our obedience; some are:
- Wellbeing for us and our children (Deuteronomy 5:29).
- Gladness (Nehemiah 8:17).
- A close relationship with God (Psalm 25:14).
- Great peace (Psalm 119:165).
- Long life (Proverbs 3:1-2).
- Protection (Ecclesiastes 8:5).
- Answered prayers (1 John 3:22).
- Abiding in God (1 John 3:24).
Prayers for obedience- praying out the truth that obedience is better than sacrifice!
As you pray to God about these Bible verses, let us help with some example prayers. As you meditate on “obedience is better than sacrifice”, pray out any of the prayers below that speak best to you.
Want to save these prayers for later? Download the PDF of the prayers below here!
Prayer for forgiveness of my disobedience
We can live in disobedience out of ignorance or because of our stubbornness. In either case, we can repent and bring our disobedience to God in prayer.
Prayer for forgiveness of disobedience because of ignorance:
Father, I am sorry that I have sinned against you by disobeying your commands. I thought I lived well, but now I realize that I have been ignorant of Your truth. I don’t want to live in disobedience, Lord, you know that. Forgive me and make me pure. Wash me and cleanse my heart and mind of my disobedience.
If there are any consequences of my disobedience, Lord channel them in the right direction. Don’t let me pay for it. Help me, Lord, not to fall into this trap again. Thank You for letting me know I was wrong. Teach me Your ways so that I may not sin against You. Amen.
Prayer for forgiveness of disobedience because of stubbornness:
Lord, forgive me for my disobedience. I am sorry, I knew what to do, but I didn’t do it. I regret my actions. I thought it was my sacrifice you wanted while you were rather interested in my heart. Forgive me for my insensitivity, I have hurt You. Forgive me of my selfishness, Lord, and heal me of my stubborn attitude.
I surrender my will to You. Teach me Your ways, Lord, and don’t hold my mistake against me. I plead on the blood of Jesus. He died for me so that I don’t have to die. Wash me, Lord, from my iniquity. And help me not to do it again. Amen.
Prayers for obedience of my will
Father, let me understand how to be truly obedient to You in everything I am, do, and think. Let my heart be full of You, my actions pure, my words pleasing to You, and my thoughts to reflect on your goodness.
Grant me an obedient heart, Lord, that I may not sin against You. Let me thoroughly understand that obedience is better than sacrifices; no matter how nice and costly those sacrifices are.
After all, I cannot give You anything that You did not first give to me. Thank You for all that You have given me. I will use it for your glory and the benefit of others.
Teach me to do Your will, Lord. I cannot do it by myself. I want to obey You and do Your will. Help me. I pray with Jesus and in His name, ‘let Your will be done, not mine.’
“Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (NLT). Amen.
Prayer for obedience of my heart
Lord, I don’t want to sin against You. Help me tune my heart into Your everlasting ways. Holy Spirit, speak to my heart and bring God’s commandments to mind every time I want to do something that would offend You. Tune my heart, Oh Lord!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
And please Lord, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NLT).
Prayer for loved ones to receive an obedient heart
Father, I bring my family and loved ones to You. They don’t know You, even though You know them by name. I pray You will touch their hearts of stone and replace it with hearts of flesh, hearts of obedience.
Let them come to understand that You alone are Lord and are worthy to be praised. Pour Your obedience into their hearts and open the eyes of their understanding. Let them see You for Who You truly are.
Teach them that obedience is better than sacrifices, and that nothing is of more worth than that. The rules and traditions of men cannot please You. Write that in their hearts, Lord.
It is written that the heart of the king is like water streams in Your hands; You turn it wherever You wish. Now, Lord, take the heart of my loved ones and channel it into obedience, obedience to You and Your Word. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The importance of our heart’s attitude can never be underestimated. God values our obedience so much that He would neglect our sacrifices if they were not given with an obedient heart that is truly seeking to follow Him.
With our obedience, we show our love for God and our faith and trust in Him. If from then on, we would give a sacrifice, it will be pleasing in His eyes.
We shouldn’t forget, however, that there is nothing we have that we can give to Him, because it already belongs to Him.
Now, Lord, we come to You with our obedient hearts. Help us remember that obedience is better than sacrifices because we cannot do it by ourselves. We rely on You, Your grace, and Your directions.
Holy Spirit, breathe Your life into our hearts, so we may obey God’s will.
We love You, Lord, and express our gratitude to You with everything we have. Based on Your Word, grant us the rewards that come with obedience. We receive them with a grateful heart.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Christel Owoo is a Confidence Coach, Mentor, Women’s Ministry Leader, Author, Wife, and Mom. She writes about Bible Study, Christian Living, and Personal Growth on her website, through guest blogs, devotionals, books, and in Christian magazines.
Her ministry is to help Christian women live confidently and victoriously in Christ, to the fullest of their God-given potential. Christel’s books speak of life-changing encounters and second chances when you follow, obey, and apply the Word of God.