a post by Jesse Pickett
When is worship unacceptable? Among other instances, our worship must certainly be unacceptable when the motive behind it is to try to win approval from God, or to rectify some blatant act of sinfulness. Such was the case of deposed Saul. When the command was clearly given to exterminate all of the Amelekites, and all of their livestock, Saul refused. To make matters worse, when the prophet of God confronted him, he tried to mask his covetousness with piety; “the best of the sheep and oxen were spared in order to offer a sacrifice to the Lord your God” (vs. 15).
The omniscient God who sees everything (El-roi) was not fooled by this cloak of righteousness, and neither was his prophet. How deeply is the works religion inbred in us all, just as it was in our first parents after the fall, when they sewed fig leaves together in order to hide the shame of their nakedness before the penetrating gaze of a Holy God?
Saul, in grave error, thought that offering a sacrifice of worship would win him acquittal and acceptance with the great Judge of all. We are not unlike him! I, myself, regularly find that when I sin, my first response is to begin to don the robes of “spirituality”. How frequently do we all, when we sense the approaching consequences of our sin, begin to look for a sheep to sacrifice: Promises and oaths burst forth from our mouths like a good-ole Houston oil gusher from a well! “Lord, I promise, ill never do that again,” or “ please ill go to church every service” and a thousand other bargains are laid on the table at the “spiritual mediation” proceedings between ourselves and God.
The Lord is not as interested in our burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as He is our obedience from the heart, and he certainly will not be bargained with. Instead of disobeying, and then trying to worship our way out of the consequences for our sin, why don’t we just obey the first time? “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord.”
May God be thanked that One did obey the first time, and He obeyed perfectly! But for the obedience of Christ, of whom Saul serves a striking contrast (anti-type you might say) the kingdom of God would have been torn from me without any hope of recovering it, just as it was from Saul! “For obedience is better than sacrifice.” Having disobeyed so profoundly, any subsequent attempt at sacrifice (far from being accepted) is nothing but an affront to the holiness of God when coming from my own hands.
The glory of the gospel is the lovely marriage of perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice (theologically referred to as the ACTIVE and PASSIVE obedience of Christ respectively) found uniquely in Jesus Christ. HE OBEYED WHERE I DISOBEYED AND WAS SACRIFICED FOR MY DISOBEDIENCE. Is that not the best news you have ever heard? Our worship is acceptable, and our obedience empowered only when we do it on the basis of Christ obedience and sacrifice on our behalf.