devos from the hill

The Difference Between Obedience and Sacrifice

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“And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22, ESV

There is a difference between obedience and sacrifice.

In 1 Samuel 15, we read that King Saul did not obey God’s command (through His prophet, Samuel) to follow a specific battle plan. This was not the first time Saul failed to obey. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul offered an unlawful sacrifice to God. He knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he did it anyway. And now in verse 22 of chapter 15, Samuel spells it out for Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

The time, place and manner of a sacrifice can be usually be determined ahead of time, and often by us. A sacrifice can often be a matter of our own choice and will. This is rarely, if ever, true of obedience. Sacrifice can be a matter of our initiative. Obedience is always a matter of our response to God’s initiative. Obedience may require sacrifice, but Saul’s sacrifice was not an act of obedience.

BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is the 6-month SEAL training course held at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, CA. SEAL candidates start with five weeks of “Indoctrination” and “Pre-Training”, then go through the 3 phases of BUD/S. The 1st phase is the toughest, consisting of 8 weeks of Basic Conditioning that peaks with a grueling segment called “Hell Week” where candidates are tested to their limits. 

Navy Seals

Navy Seals

Sheer fatigue and sleep deprivation will cause every candidate to question his core values, motivations, limits, and everything he’s made of and stands for. About 75% will drop out. Throughout this time of testing, candidates experience a practice known as “wet and sandy.” When the CO (commanding officer) gives the order to get wet and sandy, candidates are required to stop whatever they’re doing to run to the frigid Pacific ocean and jump in. And when they emerge, they must roll on the beach until they are covered with sand. Then they resume the previous activity or move on to the next activity, whether it is studying, working, sleeping or eating . . . while still wet and sandy.

The practice of getting wet and sandy not only requires toughness, it requires submission.  SEAL candidates do not choose the moment that they rush into the cold water and then roll in the sand. They must submit whenever they are given the command. Choosing your moment may involve sacrifice, but submitting your will to the one in authority . . . that is obedience!

A Seal must put the mission above himself. That is also what a Christian should do. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24.

How’s your obedience? Sacrifice is often a matter of what we do for God. Obedience is more about what God does through us when, yielding ourselves to His will, we become a pliable instrument in His hand.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to {go.”}. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!”  – JOHN 21:18-19.

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