Obeying God

by Dennis Stackhouse

On one occasion King Saul had been given a direct command from God to utterly destroy Amalek, including men and women, children and infants, as well as all the livestock (I Samuel 15:3).  However, Saul and the people spared Agag, the king of Amalek, along with the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs and all that was good (I Samuel 15:9).  In other words, Saul did not do as he was told, he disobeyed.  Because of his disobedience, the prophet Samuel confronted him and said in I Samuel 15:22: "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."  These were very sobering words for King Saul, and they should be for every one of us as well.

As we consider obedience toward God for just a moment, it should be recognized that a great deal of time could be spent exploring the subject.  However, let's limit our thoughts to a few of the passages found in the New Testament.  In John 3:36 we read this: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."  Simply believing in Jesus is not enough; we must express obedience as well.  If we do not obey, if we do not put our belief into action, God's wrath is all we have to look forward to.  The Jewish council brought Peter and the apostles before them after they had been arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus.  Even though they had been warned on more than one occasion not to do so, notice their answer in Acts 5:29: "But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'"  Peter and the apostles responded simply and were precisely right; obeying God is more important than obeying men.

As the apostle Paul was discussing the end times when all people will be judged, he clearly identifies those who are disobedient in II Thessalonians 1:8-9: "Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."  Do we think our disobedience is a small thing?  Not so according to this verse; it carries eternal consequences.  For those who fail to obey the gospel there will be eternal destruction awaiting them.  In reference to Jesus, the Hebrews writer said "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9).  Notice that Jesus is the source of eternal salvation for all those who "obey Him."  This clearly tells us that disobedience is a dead end road.

King Saul was rejected from being king over Israel because of his disobedience (I Samuel 15:26).  In the case of those today who disobey God, the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels, will be their final abode (Matthew 25:41).  The words of I Samuel 15:22 are just as critical in our day as they were in King Saul's day: "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."