Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Lily Jang (in corroboration with Pastor Ryun) who attends Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. Lily, a graduate of Emory University and teacher by profession, spent a year in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, from 2011-12.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
A Lesson in Obedience
1 Samuel 15:22-3
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Many of us, millennials in particular, too easily pull ourselves toward achieving a performance-based faith. It seems King Saul was too, since he was concerned more about actions to gain the approval of his soldiers (1 Sam. 15:24) rather than obeying God. Saul was oblivious to what God wants from us: our obedience, not performance.
I learned an important lesson on obedience in July of 2016 when I took a step of faith to move down to Philadelphia from Boston. It was a decision that scared me in many ways—a step that had been in the making for years. But when I finally made the plunge, I learned two things. First, as I struggled with doubt, I learned that obedience wasn’t about having all my ducks in a row: having a safety plan, having job or financial security in Philadelphia to justify obedience, and putting hope in prophetic words I was given or what I thought I had heard from the Lord. Rather, I learned that obedience in faith was about trusting and leaning into God’s character, that He is good and that He loves me.
Second, I learned that we have the freedom to obey God’s commands out of joy and love.
The beginning walk of my faith was characterized by reluctant and obligatory obedience, and it was no different when it came to moving to Philadelphia. However, God was not content to have me drag my feet wherever He called me to go; He desired to show me a better way. My reluctant obedience had conceived questions of doubt that arose out of deep sadness and fear. In the midst of this, I desperately asked the Lord for confirmation: “If You want me to go to Philly, can You just give me a ‘yes’?” What He gave me instead was a simple question: “Will you love me?”
In 1 Samuel 15:22, we catch a glimpse of the depth of love that is involved in obedience—a foreshadowing to come of the depth of love that is exemplified through the perfect obedience of Christ, obedience that was willful and joyful. Saul’s offering of sacrifice didn’t suffice, partly because it was never meant to; but through the ultimate and fulfilling sacrifice of Christ’s obedience, we are freed to obey as in His example, to obey in joy as an expression of our love for Him.
Prayer: Father, I praise and worship You this morning. I thank You for the marvelous plan You have for my life (Eph. 2:10). Please help me to obey You whenever You nudge me towards a direction that I would rather not take. Help me to trust in your goodness and character. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 24
Lunch Break Study
(Prepared by P. Ryun)
Read 1 Samuel 13:11-13b: Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you . . .”
1 Samuel 15:20-1, 24: And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
Questions to Consider
- Described here are two separate occasions in which Saul seemingly did good things (that is, he performed well), yet ultimately he disobeyed God. What happened?
- What factor led King Saul to disobey God?
- What other factors often prompt us to disobey God? Has God been telling you to do something that you would rather not do? What is keeping you from obeying Him?
- In 1 Samuel 13, Saul, a Benjamite, sacrificed a burnt offering to God (not to some idol) before combating the Philistines. In doing so, he disobeyed God’s mandate that only the family of Aaron could offer sacrifices (Num. 3:2). In 1 Samuel 15, even though God commanded Saul to wipe out the entire Amalekite population and animals, he kept the king and best of the animals.
- In the first instance, Saul’s disobedience stemmed from his fear that Israel would lose the battle against the Philistines if more soldiers ran away out of fear (1 Sam. 13:6-7). In the second incidence, Saul disobeyed because he cared more about what his soldiers thought of him as their leader than what God thought of him as His servant.
- One flip side of fear behind our disobedience is our excessive love of the security and predictability of our present lifestyle. And what keeps us from obeying God in our relationships (e.g., forgiveness) is almost always pride and self-justification.
Did you know that there is a symbiotic relationship between obedience and suffering? Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although [Jesus] was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.” Are you going through difficult situations at the moment? Pray about how that experience can lead to obeying the Lord more fully from here on out. Give it a thought, and a prayer.