Behold! Obedience

Behold! Obedience

Behold! Obedience.

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another. And maybe some words are: Amen. Hallelujah. Blessed. Abba. Come. The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

Behold! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Usually the word Behold is enough to make the reader stop and listen. But when the words that follow Behold are repeated as much as 15 times in Scripture, we know that a central theme of the Faith is being unpacked. God has gone on record a number of times that he hates worship that is not accompanied by obedience. He delights in submissive hearts that engage in genuine worship. The point of His sacrificial system in the Old Covenant was to train the people to stay close to God in righteousness and obedience, not to merely go through the motions of worship as an end in itself. If someone was content to offer a sacrifice on the altar and chose not to intend to follow him in a meaningful relationship, that person was sacrificing in vain. Engaging in religious feasts and festivals never impressed the Lord God if, when doing so, one has a rebellious heart. The Lord told His Chosen People time and again that He is more pleased with those who show mercy and display justice than with those who miss the whole point of godly sacrifice. Knowledge of God was preferred over offerings of sacrifice at the altar. Loving God with all you have within you and loving your neighbor as yourself come before any system of sacrifice or religious laws. The writer of Ecclesiastes states that anyone who doesn’t draw near to the House of God to listen to God is merely offering “the sacrifice of fools.”

Worship is hollow if a sincere relationship with God is not pursued as well. If we are not genuinely devoted to God, religious displays are meaningless. Making yourself look holy is an empty gesture if done without an obedient heart. Instead of the old system that resulted in death for all those animals, believers are now called to be a part of the new system of Christ that results in life and resurrection. So believers are called to become a living sacrifice that reveals a submissive spirit and an obedient heart. Become a living sacrifice that lives into the life of Christ, showing mercy, doing justice, and walking humbly with your God. Become a living sacrifice that lays it all on the line for God, your desires, your ego, your self-indulgence, even your future. The true sacrifice that God delights in is a broken spirit and a repentant heart. What is true, genuine worship? Offering yourself body and soul as a living sacrifice which lets justice roll down like a mighty flood and a righteousness that flows like an endless stream. God takes no delight in aids to worship if the worshippers don’t care to do his will in their daily life. Worship in the fullness of sacred liturgy and holy ritual by submitting your whole self to God and His purposes on earth. Otherwise, you are only offering the sacrifice of fools. Behold! Take note! This is important!

The following Scriptures all state the importance of this theme of obedience preferred over sacrifice: Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Romans 12:1; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Proverbs 21:3;Psalm 40:6-8;Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:13; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Matthew 5:24, 9:13, and 12:7; Mark 12:33; and of course the verse that started this central belief in Scripture, 1 Samuel 15:22.