1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
We view obedience as such a nasty word. We require it of children, so once we reach adulthood we feel vindicated in stomping our foot and saying “Nobody is going to tell me what to do anymore!”. Sometimes we disobey God with the best of intentions. We think we are pleasing Him with our efforts. That thru service to Him, sacrifice in our lives and giving to others we’ll be bringing pleasure to the Lord. Other times it’s more blatant – like the king of Israel in chapter 15 of Samuel. He knew what God had commanded him to do, but in his own pride, thought he knew better. The spoils of war were not the offering God asked for, but Saul thought they would be a good enough replacement for the obedience he would not give to the Lord. Many times I bring my own version of “the fat of rams” to God as an example of how much I love Him – when all He’s asked of me is to hear His voice and obey it. God doesn’t ask for showy gifts or lives lived in utter sacrifice and deprivation. All He wants is for us to be His kids. To know Him and follow His guidance in our lives.
Parenting is such an amazing example of God in my life. I thought I knew what a relationship with my heavenly father was all about…until I had kids. Pretty much every day the Lord uses my rugrats to teach me more about how He loves me. To show me the friendship He wants to build with me. Obedience is a much different animal when I’m the one laying down the law. My kids frequently question the “why” behind rules. They want to know that they can trust me, that I’m not just making up hoops for them to jump thru for my own kicks. And while I’m imperfect as a person and as a parent, the guidelines for our home and my children’s lives do have purpose and meaning. Holding my hand when we’re in a parking lot is to protect them from crazy drivers who don’t pay attention and go too fast. My son feels this rule hampers his happiness. It is a cruel restraint on his desire to run wildly, enjoying the freedom of a wide open space. But the rule is there to keep him safe. What is obvious to me as an adult is way beyond the grasp of a two-year old. The gap of understanding between my children and me is exponentially smaller than the one separating me from the creator of the universe.
So, when God uses His “mom voice” to tell me to stop, or go, or come back and wait for a little while – how should I respond? This verse reminded me today that my first action should be obedience. I’m ok with my kids asking what the reason is, as long as they have obeyed me first. I’m much less inclined to give a reasonable answer to the “why” if it’s shouted over a shoulder as my children are running in a parking lot. Which is how I live my life sometimes. Running. Doing my own thing, and expecting God to come catch me if He wants to talk. I know God doesn’t have a problem with questions. I ask them of Him all the time. But just like some kids don’t think “to make you grow big and strong” is an adequate reason for eating broccoli, I need to be prepared for the fact that I may not understand some of God’s answers to those questions. There are going to be issues in life that I just don’t get the full explanation on. God sometimes asks me to be obedient regardless of what I think a better plan would be. Ultimately, I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. That He is really smarter than I am, sees more of the context of my life than I ever will – and has my best interest at heart. Even when He’s using His “mom voice” to tell me no.