Behold, to Obey Is Better

By A. A. Meeks, Sr.

When God’s people were on their way from Egypt to Canaan, some of the people fell behind the rest of the company. These stragglers were attacked by an army of Amalekites. This cowardly attack was displeasing to God, and the Israelites were told that at the proper time they were to “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Deut. 25:17-19).

Over four hundred years after Israel occupied Canaan, they decided they wanted a king to rule them. Samuel, God’s judge and prophet, was sent to anoint a man to serve in that position. Saul was the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul, a tall, handsome, humble man, was chosen by God to be Israel’s first king.

After Saul had been king for awhile, God sent him to destroy the Amalekites. He was told to destroy all that they had and to kill them all (1 Sam. 15:3). Saul gathered his army, which consisted of one hundred ten thousand men, and set out to do what God had told him. They killed all the people but Agag, the king. They killed all the cattle and sheep except the very best. Those, along with Agag, they brought back to Israel (1 Sam. 15:9).

When Samuel caught up with Saul at Gilgal, Saul said, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13). Samuel asked, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (15:14). In order to excuse himself for not doing all the Lord had commanded, Saul blamed the people for bringing Agag and the livestock back. He said they were to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord. Then Samuel said, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (15:22). Then Samuel told Saul that God had rejected him from being king of Israel.

There are two important lessons to be learned from this event:

1. God expects people to obey Him. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). See Heb 5:8-9, and Eccl. 12:13-14. When God commands us to help the poor (James 1:27), we must help the poor. When He tells us to love one another (John 13:34), we must love one another. Etc.

2. Partial obedience is not really obedience at all. Saul killed all the Amalekites but one, and most of the cattle and sheep, but God said he had not obeyed. When God tells us to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16), just believing is not doing all that God said. When we are told to “repent” and “be baptized” (Acts 2:38), repenting is not all of God’s command. In each of the references above, baptism is a part of God’s command. Failure to be baptized is like Saul’s failure to kill Agag. We must do all that the Lord commands, not just a part.

Behold! To obey is better.