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Hearken!!!

1 Samuel 15:22-23 KJV - And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams.  (23)  For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king. [Emphasis added are mine]

What a hard, harsh word this was for King Saul. Spoken to him by the man who just recently anointed him as the first king of Israel - the prophet Samuel. But what a tremendous nugget of truth, that is just as applicable today, as it was to Saul so many years ago.

The Lord delights greatly in the obedience of His people to His word. Far greater than any bloody sacrifice that could ever be given. The greatest sacrifice that anyone can give is of oneself in obeying God rather than man – even if that man is himself.

Notice that in the very same breath, it is said that the disobedience of Saul is seen in the Lord’s eyes as rebellion – the sin of witchcraft. It truly is the sin of idolatry (of self over God) because it is the stubborn refusal to “shâma‛”, which is the Hebrew word for “hear and obey”, His word. It was the sheer rejection of the word of the Lord that had been heard which resulted in Saul being rejected by the Lord.

To say the least, disobedience to the commandments of the Lord is not a light issue with Him. You could lose your salvation, just as Saul lost his throne.

Saul was not ignorant of the command of the Lord.

Samuel gave Saul EXPLICIT commands to be followed. He said to him, “…Now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember [that] which Amalek did to Israel , how he laid [wait] for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt .  Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (I Sam. 15:1-3).

There was no doubt as to what actions the Lord had commanded of Saul. He was to spare no one. He was to utterly destroy every man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel and ass. Nothing was to be left alive.

Unfortunately we read that Saul only obeyed in part, if you can accept partial disobedience as obedience. The root of Saul's disobedience was a hidden hard heart toward the word of the Lord.

I Samuel 15:9 KJV - But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all [that was] good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing [that was] vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

Some might look at this and say, “Well, he simply kept the best of everything. That’s a good idea. Why throw out the baby with the bath water? He showed mercy to Agag, the king. Isn’t that a good thing? He destroyed everything that was vile and a waste. What’s wrong with that? He seems to be making wise and rational decisions in the time of war. Taking the good spoils and doing away with the bad. That’s the smart thing to do.”

BUT this is how God interpreted this act, “…for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments” (I Sam. 15:11 ). God simply said, “Saul rejected me.” And what we read from verse 15 is that God interpreted these acts as rebellion against Him (as the sin of witchcraft and idolatry). God was upset because Saul utterly rejected His word. To reject the word of God is to reject God Himself (John 1:1).

Saul was not executing good ideas and wise decisions. It was not wise to show mercy to Agag, and “keep the baby and throw out the bath water”. Saul was, in no uncertain terms, in disobedience to Almighty God. He was downright defiant in the eyes of God and therefore rejected by God.

Saul is a “type” of a believer in the kingdom, that eventually lost His salvation.

“What?!”, you say. “That’s not possible. You can’t lose your salvation.” Well, let’s look at what Jude said, as a reminder to us of this very subject, and see another “type” in the Old Covenant.

Jude 1:5 KJV - I will therefore put you in remembrance (I’ll remind you), though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. [Emphasis added are mine]  

Millions of people came out of Egypt and were “saved”. Yet later we see that the Lord destroyed most of them. In other words, He “saved” them and delivered them out of Egypt because of their obedience to His commands, but because they did NOT continue in faith (trust and obedience) they were later destroyed. And yes, this is exactly what can happen to us if we do not continue in faith – trust and obedience from the heart (Rom. 6:17 ) – to His word. A heart must remain soft and malleable in the hands of the word to be conformed into His image.

1 Corinthians 10:1-12 KJV - (1)  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  (2)  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  (3)  And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  (4)  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  (5)  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  (6)  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  (7)  Neither be ye idolaters, as [were] some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.  (8)  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.  (9)  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  (10)  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  (11)  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  (12)  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

The wilderness story is an example to us to admonish us to continue steadfast in the faith and endure to the end because if we don’t, we won’t reach the promised land. We could fall from His grace. The Israelites were, as a “type”, baptized in water by passing through the Red Sea . As a “type”, they were baptized in the Spirit by the leading of the cloud by day and fire by night. They were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea, like we need to be baptized into Jesus in water and by the Spirit today.

They did repent and obey for the means of immediate deliverance from circumstances by placing the blood of the lamb on their door posts, but they did NOT continue in this fashion when they entered the wilderness to obtain the promised land, their rest. Some today have entered in the kingdom by water and Spirit, but many because they will not continue in the same fashion of trust and obedience will not enter into their appointed rest.

Hebrews 10:26-27 KJV - For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  (27)  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. [Emphasis added are mine]

After the Israelites received the knowledge of the truth (and experienced it) they continued to willfully sin against God. They became idolaters by indulging in selfish, fleshly desires and would rather please themselves than please God.

They committed sexual immorality. They tempted God by coming against Moses and God at every turn.  Then lastly, according to I Corinthians 10, they complained against God, which is probably the greatest act of unbelief anyone can make. Their reward for their faithlessness was that they did not enter into their appointed rest, the Promised Land.

Why?

They would not believe God enough to continue obeying Him and this excerpt of scriptures was given for us an example, to not walk by their example. The sad fact is that many of us only have a measure of obedience. Some reach a bridge that they simply will not cross, a line that they just simply will not go any further because their is a root of unbelief that they have not allowed to be uprooted. This decision has cost many a men the ultimate prize.

Looking back at Saul’s story when he was confronted, we see he wasn’t even sincerely repentant.

1 Samuel 15:19-21 KJV - Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?  (20)  And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  (21)  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. [Emphasis added are mine]

We see here that his own words condemned him. Did he repent and admit his wrong-doing? No. He said, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord…” but in the next sentence he takes no responsibility for taking the spoils of war. He takes full responsibility for destroying the Amalekites and bringing Agag as a POW, but he says, “The people took of the spoil.”

Verse 9, of these scriptures, tell us differently than what Saul admitted. They tells us “Saul and the people” spared Agag and kept the best of the animals. They indulged their own fleshly desires, above the word of the Lord. They certainly were not ignorant of what they were commanded to do.

By reading the rest of this story we can see that no matter how much Saul tried to admit “true” repentance, the Lord saw his heart differently. The Lord did not repent of His rejection of Saul. Saul’s supposed repentance in the concluding verses of chapter 15 was truly insincere because he simply wanted his sin to be hidden from the people and he wanted the prophet to be by his side to ensure the people remain behind him.

Some of us are in the same position as Saul was and don’t realize it. We are continually trying to justify ourselves before God saying, “But we did this and we did that in your name.” But the reality is we have not obeyed the whole counsel of the Lord and therefore, like Saul, are in disobedience and rebellion before God because we have clearly heard a word from the Lord and have chosen to not obey.

There is no such thing as partial obedience to explicit commandments. It is simply disobedience.

Let us look at this subject through the eyes of another prophet, Malachi.

God is shown in the book of Malachi as having a dialogue with His people (specifically “His priests”) through the prophet Malachi.

He addresses these sins in particular:

  1. questioning His love (1:2),

  2. dishonoring Him (1:6),

  3. offering impure sacrifices (1:7,8,13),

  4. not laying to heart His commandment (2:1,2),

  5. knowing the law but not keeping it, therefore, becoming stumbling blocks unto the people rather than being messenger of integrity of the law (2:7,8),

  6. worshipping strange gods and/by marrying outside the faith ( 2:10 ,11),

  7. putting away (divorcing) wives ( 2:14 -16),

  8. telling those that do evil that they are good in the sight of the Lord ( 2:17 ),

  9. cheating hired servants of their wages and oppressing the widow, the fatherless, and turning aside strangers from fearing Him (3:5),

  10. robbing God in tithes and offerings (3:8),

  11. and speaking lies by saying it is vain to serve God and keep His ordinances, causing people to not trust the word of the Lord (3:14).

What a disgusting laundry list of filthy rags, wouldn't you agree?. Did you notice a common element in everyone one of these sins?

Let’s address them one at a time.

Number one (questioning his love):

The Lord reminds them that He chose Jacob because He loved Him and they were sons of Jacob. All His actions toward them demonstrated His love for them in that He chose them first above all the nations of the earth.

Number two (dishonoring Him):

How does a servant honor his master? How does a son honor his father? By obeying what they tell them to do and not do. The opposite is equally true. A servant and a son dishonor their master or father by disobeying.

Number three (offering impure sacrifices):  

Sacrifices were commanded to be given voluntarily without blemish (Lev. 1, 3, 7).

Number four (not laying to heart His commandment):

They were commanded many times previously in different fashions to bind to their hearts with truth, mercy, and His commandments (Deut. 11:18 ; Pro. 3:3; 6:21 ; 7:3).

Number five (knowing the law but not keeping it, therefore, becoming stumbling blocks unto the people rather than being messengers of the integrity of the law):

He contrasted the priests with the man Levi - in whom the law of truth was in his mouth, in whom iniquity was not found in his lips. He was found walking with the Lord in peace and equity, and turning many away from sin (Mal. 2:6).

 Number six (worshipping strange gods and/by marrying outside the faith):

God specifically commanded them not to make marriages with other nations because it would cause them to serve other gods. (Deut. 7:2-4)

Number seven (putting away (divorcing) wives):

God hates divorce and from the beginning it was not meant to be (Mal. 2:16 ; Matt. 19:8).

Number eight (telling those that do evil that they are good in the sight of the Lord):

Judgment upon them that call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20 ).

Number nine (cheating hired servants of their wages and oppressing the widow, the fatherless, and turning aside strangers from fearing Him):

God commanded them not to oppress the stranger or each other. (Ex. 22:21 ; Lev. 25:17)

Number ten (robbing God in tithes and offerings):

They were commanded to tithe of the land, of the seed of the land, of the fruit of the tree, of the herd and the flock because it was holy to the Lord (Lev. 27:30,32)

Number eleven (speaking lies by saying it is vain to serve God and keep His ordinances, causing people to not trust the word of the Lord):

They caused many to stumble because they questioned His word, His integrity, His honor, and His faithfulness. They spoke a false word of ill of Him. Proverbs says we will not stumble if we hear and receive (obey) His sayings (His word) (Proverbs).

The common element of all of these sins is that they are disobedient acts to afore-given commands. These are nothing but demonstrations of rebellion, witchcraft, idolatry (of self) – the fruit of faithlessness from His people.

Today, we are not required to slaughter animals to offer up sacrifices. Yet we are nevertheless, required to offer up sacrifices. However, our sacrifices are not to be cheap (costing us little), impure (without purity of heart), weak and sick (defective) sacrifices.

Cursed is the man that offers a sacrifice that is corrupt unto the Lord (Mal. 1:14 ).

Our sacrifices are always to be the very best of us:

Psalms 51:17 KJV - The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

He will never despise a broken, contrite, repentant heart seeking after Him. This is probably the most dear, most priceless, and most precious gift we could ever offer unto Him.

Mark 12:33 KJV - And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love [his] neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

We are required to sacrifice our desires and in turn love Him alone with all our heart, understanding, soul, strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love others as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:1).

Hebrews 13:15-16 KJV - By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name.  (16)  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

We are to offer Him the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, giving thanks to Jesus as the fruit of our lips. Not forgetting to do good to others and sharing what we have with them in fellowship.

Romans 12:1 KJV - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

Our bodies are to be presented as living sacrifices, which is our only reasonable service of gratitude toward God. It’s only reasonable to think that if He gave His life for us as demonstration of His undying love for us, then our only equitable reimbursement is to give our lives unequivocally to Him.

Our sacrifices to God should be valuable to us, priceless to us, precious to us, dear to us, cherished of us, treasured of us.

Many hold money as their treasure. That is expected of them (“sell all that thou hast” Matt: 19:21-22).

Many hold family with idol cherishment. That is expected of them (“He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me” Matt: 10:35-37).

Many hold dead loved ones as truly dear. That is expected of them (“let the dead bury the dead” Matt. 8:21 -22).

Many hold time as their precious commodity in life. That is expected of them too (“redeeming the time” Eph. 5:16 ; Col. 4:5).

Nothing but the best of us is expected of us. Nothing and no one, but Jesus is to be seated on the throne of our hearts. And if there is anything or anyone that is seated on the throne where it should not be, it will be required of them to sacrifice it on the altar of the Lord. If there are idols surrounding the throne they must be voluntarily torn down. He will not share His glory with anyone (Is. 48:11).

But any and all sacrifices must be done according to the word of the Lord - in obedience to His statutes and ordinances.

Let us continue this train of thought in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 8:1-6 KJV - All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.  (2)  And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, [and] to prove thee, to know what [was] in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.  (3)  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every [word] that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.  (4)  Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.  (5)  Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, [so] the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.  (6)  Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. [Emphasis added are mine]

Deuteronomy was written for the generation that was to enter into the Promised Land. The former generation had finally passed away and God thought it necessary, and rightly so, to repeat and expound to the latter generation the importance of the law, rather more importantly, their obedience to the law. Really the law can be interpreted simply as His word.

In this reference, we see that God led them in the wilderness to humble them and prove them, to know what was in their hearts – a spirit of obedience or a spirit of disobedience.

He purposely hungered them so that He could feed them with manna from heaven, which is symbolic of the word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. These words are what man shall live by.

What a revelation! He wanted them to realize that the very Word of God itself fed them and made fat their bones. The word of God sustained them and kept them from disease and infirmities. He kept their feet from swelling in all of the forty years journey in the wilderness. Even their clothing was kept and sustained. It did not wear down.

His very Word gave them sustenance whenever they lacked. When they found themselves hungered, He fed them by His Word. When they found themselves thirsty, He gave them drink according to His Word.

The revelation is that we should live by hearing and obeying every Word that proceeds out of His mouth daily, day after day, week after week, year after year, even unto 40 years and beyond.

His Word is everything that we need. We need to feed upon His Word every day for that day. Don’t allow ourselves to desire what we had in times past. Don’t worry about what the future has in store, but be fed in the present for all our present needs.

In His Word, we can satisfy our hunger and our thirst. When we need to be sustained, it is found in His Word. When we need to be healed, it is found in His Word. When we need deliverance, it is found in His Word. When we need salvation, it is found in His Word. When we need wisdom, it is found in His Word. Revelation is found in His Word. Knowledge and understanding is found in His Word (Prov. 2:6).

Jesus is the very Word of God (Rev. 19:13).

He is the answer!!!

But He will not be the answer for you without communion, intimacy, or relationship with Him. There must be a partaking of one another. He says He will sup with us AND us with him (Rev. 3:20.). We eat from His words and He will eat from ours. In other words there must be a dialogue, a give and take in sharing of oneself with Him as He shares of Himself to us. He shares of Himself by the very words that He speaks.

Many times were too busy to exchange. All we have is just enough time for us to dump on Him all of our problems, but more than enough time to get lost in the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of our riches, and the lust for other things, instead of lusting for the very Word of God – Jesus in prayer.

Think how you share of yourself with another. You must share yourself with another by some form of communication. Usually that communication is done most effectively by exchanging words, not through a monologue between two people.

Jesus hears and is moved by those of a broken, contrite, transparent heart of tremendous need.

Psalms 34:18 KJV - The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

However, after the shaking and quaking of walls coming down within ourself, crying out to the Lord, many times the deliverance we had hoped for is not attained. Out of our impatience, we would rather build up our walls of self-defense and self-survival again. We can’t wait. We’re so accustomed to our comfort zones that we have no faith to step out on the water. We’re so full of fear we remain paralyzed in our situation and wonder where is God when we need Him.

The key to our healing, the key to our deliverance, the key to our salvation that opens the door for Jesus to run amok in our life, to repair the breach and restore the path, is our obedience. However, there is a pre-requisite to your obedience.

When we came into the kingdom, we must have come in the through the blood, the water, and the Spirit (John 3). Jesus' blood (sacrifice on Calvary ) made available the opportunity for all men to be born again. It made available the opportunity for all men to be saved, cleansed, and forgiven of their sins. But not all men are saved.

Why is that?

Titus 2:11 KJV - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, [Emphasis added are mine]

1 Timothy 2:4 KJV - Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

If salvation has appeared to all men and it truly is His desire and intention that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, then why aren’t all men saved?

1 Timothy 4:10 KJV - For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

God is the Saviour of all men, but chiefly to those that believe. Believing, contrary to today’s definition, is not a mental acceptance of the truth and saying, “I agree.” It is a small element, but biblically not the all encompassing definition.

Romans 5:18 KJV - Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Acts 17:31 KJV - Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

There is no question that when the Son of man was lifted up, He made Himself the doorway. By the very act of His self-sacrifice on the cross, He began to draw all men to Him. And since God resurrected the man Jesus Christ all men are assured of this free gift of eternal life. But even though God did the work through the man Jesus Christ, it is incumbent upon us to respond. Responding requires and active decision on your part not only to believe, but to obey. But to respond appropriately there is a pre-requisite.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 KJV - (8)  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 4:17 KJV - For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

All men are required to obey in order to obtain the salvation that our God has made available to us.

Acts 17:30 KJV - And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

He is commanding all men, upon learning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to repent. In order to obtain the salvation of our God and see the salvation of our God we must do exactly as He requires of us in response to His gospel.

Acts 2:37 -38 KJV - Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  (38)  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

When we came into covenant with the Lord we HEARD the gospel of Jesus Christ and responded. If we responded appropriately, we should have done as Peter the apostle commanded the Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles of his day: repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter spoke the word of the Lord and listeners needed to HEAR and OBEY. Three thousand people did and were added to the kingdom.

For us to receive healing, deliverance, provision, safety and security, promises, blessings, etc., it is absolutely necessary that we hear the voice of our Lord Jesus and obey, just as we did our present salvation. The scriptures attest to this from Old Covenant to New Covenant. Look at all the “if – then” statements in scripture. If you do or don’t do this, He will do or not do that. He is blessing or cursing based on our response to His word.

The pre-requisite to responding and obeying the word of God is hearing the voice of God. We could not have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ had we not heard it. We cannot attain our healing, our deliverance, our provision, our safety and security, our promises and blessings until we hear the Word of God to obtain it.

He’s not interested in what you decide to sacrifice from your life. He is interested in you hearing His voice and responding with obedience. Then, if when you hear His voice and He requests a sacrifice of some kind, then you must respond with the obedient sacrifice.

All too often, we are trying to appease God by picking and choosing what we will sacrifice, before and without listening for His voice. These sacrifices are filled with the stench of unrighteousness because they are based on our will and not His. It is our self-effort instead of our yielded-ness to the leading of His Spirit.

Obedience is greater than sacrifice!!!

But for you to be obedient you have to hear the voice of the Lord. Hearken!

You have to stop thinking about what you need to give, what you need to give up, and do the hardest thing you will ever do in your life: Get on your knees, pray, and seek the Lord to hear Him.

Get in the word of God and listen as He speaks to you through the black letters amidst the white pages. Not just the red letters. Not just the black letters, but the whole.

And hearken to the “still small voice”…

...then trust Him and obey.

© copyright 2003 Jesus M. Ruiz