St. John's Lutheran Church

Week of Pentecost 8 – Thursday Devotion

Readings:  1 Samuel 15:10-35 and Acts 24:24-25:12

1 Samuel 15:22-23:  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.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”

Acts 25: 10-12:  But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried.  To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well.  If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.  But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them.  I appeal to Caesar.”  Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

 

“The Sacrifice Acceptable to God”

Over the course of these several chapters of both 1 Samuel and Acts we have followed the lives of King Saul and the Apostle Paul.  Saul had his challenges as king of Israel; Paul had his challenges as a soldier of the cross.  

Saul’s difficulty lies in what he believes a king should do.  A king gives out orders, but he’s also human.  He wants the affirmation and affection of people.  Sure, the Amalekites were opponents of Israel.  God said it was time to do away with them, devoting everything they had to total destruction, just as God told Joshua to do to the city of Jericho.  Yes, every man, woman, child, infant, flock, herd, camel, and donkey—all devoted to destruction.

But what does Saul do?  Like Achan who hid gold and silver and a cloak under his tent, Saul spares the life of the king and allows the people to ‘plunder’ the best of the flock and herd with the idea that they could find a suitable animal for a sacrifice to God.  After all, He does accept these kinds of animal sacrifices, doesn’t He?

When Samuel confronts Saul after hearing the bleating of sheep which isn’t the usual order of things, Saul defends his actions, much like Adam whom God confronts after his sin in the Garden of Eden.  Saul might say in defense:  “I followed your orders, mostly.  I did devote most of it to destruction.  As king I would desire to bring the king of the Amalekites to justice, so here he is.  And those people YOU gave me?  They wanted the animals for what they thought was a noble purpose, and I agreed.”

Wrong answer, Saul!  God wanted all of that devoted to destruction.  “To obey is better than sacrifice.”  Psalm 40:6 echoes this instruction:  “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but you have given me an open ear…”  That open ear is given to hear the Word of the Lord gladly and hold it sacred (Third Commandment Explanation).   

The Apostle Paul, as soldier of the cross, and who knew the Torah, Prophets, and the Wisdom of Scripture, would take God’s Words and instructions to heart.  His goal is to preach the Gospel, and that he does!  Led by God’s will to go to Rome, Paul seizes this opportunity before Felix and appeals to Caesar.  His passage now will be safe, and God’s purpose for Paul’s life will continue to unfold.

Saul learns that God desires obedience over the ritualistic performance of a sacrifice.  Sadly, we seem to do the same thing, going through the motions when the heart is far away.  We are tempted to ‘check off’ our devotion time with God, to say that we ‘get it done’ so that we can involve ourselves with other (personal) things.  

God desires that we bring to total destruction the sin and disobedience in our lives.  We confess those times when our worship has faltered.  In true faith, we offer the acceptable sacrifice to God.  We appeal to God, and to God we come with humble and contrite hearts and with open ears to hear and receive His gracious forgiveness.

 

Let us pray:   Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning.  Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (The Collect for the Word)

Our Father…

The grace of the Lord + Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.  Amen.  

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