1 Samuel 15:16-23
Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” He replied, “Speak.”
Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But from the spoil the people took sheep and cattle, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21, 23
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
“What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.”
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
It is difficult not to cringe a little when we read the psalm, “you hate discipline and cast my words behind you…” We would like to think that if we were in Saul's place, we would have done differently but we also all know that there are times when we resist the Holy Spirit in some way or go after our own will rather than seek the Will of God.
When we attempt to make ourselves follow a discipline, even if it is not spiritual, like exercise or proper diet, we find that our flesh will not like it. Our flesh puts up a fight when we try to eat just one potato chip or make time to work out. It also rebels against our efforts to be kind and patient in all things, to yield, let someone else talk and to listen to them. We want to be good and put others first but we struggle. And the scripture makes it clear that God looks at our relationship with Him in terms of our active participation in obeying Him. But first, we need to know His Will for us.
Saul knew God’s Will but he didn’t obey him. Samuel, who listened to God, had to speak to Saul and give him the message that he had lost his kingship because of it.
We can read scripture, pray and listen to God, but if we do not ultimately conquer the flesh, we will not have the strength to obey God. The best way to draw closer to God and strengthen our spirit over our flesh is through fasting. Every saint who encountered Jesus fasted to separate themselves from the world and add power to their prayers. The more we unite ourselves to God, the more we are effective for His Kingdom.
Jesus told his disciples that he had food to eat that they knew not: to do the Will of the Father. We can have this strengthening food when we fast from self-love and from pleasures to build up our spiritual muscles in service to God.
Prayer, Heavenly Father, there is so much disobedience today as people reject Your laws and follow their own Will. Bring us back to You and begin with me. May I seek to know Your Will and follow it daily. May I never become a stumbling block to anyone who needs me to help them find the way to You. Amen