1 Samuel 15:1-23
King Saul was given the task of taking care of some unfinished business: completely annihilating the Amalekites. Early in Israel’s history the Amalekites had cruelly slaughtered many of Israel’s weak and unarmed, so God vowed to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25.17-19).
Samuel’s instructions to “totally destroy all that belongs to them” (1 Samuel 15.3) may seem harsh, but this was God’s fulfillment of justice on a people who inflicted incredible injustice on his people. Saul’s job was simple and clear: don’t leave anything or anyone behind.
Saul successfully began his mission by defeating the Amalekites. But somewhere in the course of his conquest he suffered a change of heart—he thought it might be a good idea to spare the best of the livestock and the Amalekite King, Agag. His excuse for this change of heart: he wanted to use the livestock for sacrifices (1 Samuel 15.15).
Samuel’s rebuke is powerful: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15.22b). In other words: God wants your obedient heart more than he wants religious activity.
Living for God [religious activity] without having a relationship with God is a dangerous reality we can easily fall prey to. Attending church services, giving gifts of gratitude, and serving are all good things, but God doesn’t need our sacrifices. God really wants our hearts! In fact, other passages in Scripture point to the fact that God disdains our religious activity when our hearts are far from him (Hosea 6.6; Matthew 9.13).
True worship starts in the heart. Consider the ways you may have elevated your religious activity above simply giving God your whole heart. Ask God to strip away any pretenses of a religious activity and to help you grow in real relationship with him.