“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)
It is in this history lesson about Israel and their King that we find our promise. Given in today’s verse the promise is timeless in its application. King Saul, the first king of Israel in the time of Samuel the prophet/judge, also became the first king rejected by God for his disobedience to God’s command. The King heard and knew what God wanted of him – “Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.”(1 Samuel 15:18). But Saul saw and wanted some of the banned spoils from the battle. He helped himself and Samuel had to confront him. Trying, as we often do to rationalize our actions, Saul claimed with some excuse of how his disobedience was purposed to offer sacrifices to God. The lesson is clear and a promise from God of what he desires above all else – our obedience. God wants and even commands that we not just hear but listen and obey Him in all things. It is not easy and we need God’s help in order to do it. First we listen, then we do what is obedience. God is our sovereign and He blesses faithful obedience.
“And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. … She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” Mark 14:5b-6, 8 (ESV)
Context is important. Jesus near the end of his ministry on earth. He knows the ultimate purpose of His coming to earth as a human being is to be a sacrifice. He will be betrayed by his own, turned over to be executed by Roman crucifixion. He visits friends in Bethany. Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. Martha is being the perfect host. Mary overcome with sadness and by her love for Jesus. Perhaps she understands better than others what Jesus is facing. Mary takes very expensive perfumed ointment and anoints Jesus by pouring it on His head. Some, led by Judas were indignant, put-out by Mary’s action. They thought it was wasteful of Mary to do this. “They scolded her.” But Jesus, knowing why she was doing this defended her actions. He saw it as an expression of love and devotion to Him in light of His approaching death as well as a messianic acclamation. Showing comfort or aid to some out of love for our Lord Jesus brings Him honor and glory. We can trust that God knows our motivations⸺selfish and unselfish⸺He is pleased with our loving sacrifices when they are for His name’s sake.
“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:26-27 (ESV)
What happens to us when we die? Does anyone know? This is a question that concerns many people. We know there is a destination for all. We know Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life that will get us to God. With the truth we have in these verses, the realities of what is to come in our after-life, come into focus. We humans are sinful creatures. We were born in that state and we all are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. That is a promise we need to take very seriously. Have we believed in the only way to God? If not our destination is eternal death. If yes, we trust in the fact that Christ was sacrificed once to take away our sins and the sins of all who believe. We can notice the word “once” and what it tells us. It emphasizes the finality and the singleness of Christ’s sacrificial work. The law that Christ came to fulfill stood in contrast as the Levite Priests repeated their sacrifices over and over. We also note the promise that, the “once”-sacrifice of Christ compares with the “once”-death of each person.
“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)
Each one of us who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior have a sacrifice we can offer up to God. During the days before Christmas we hear about the angels who sang praises to God when Jesus was born. We know that angels do sing praises to God in heaven and the Bible urges us to sing His praises too. That is the message of our verse today. The reason the angels keep singing praises to God is because they know how great and wonderful He is. The more we know about our Lord, the more we will want to praise Him. Let’s be careful during these days of activity before Christmas that we do not let the lights and the beauty of decorations distract us and cause us to forget God’s greatness and His love for us. As we sing carols of praise and thanksgiving, let’s be sure to remember to really praise our God with all our hearts. It is a wonderful time of the years to continually offer our sacrifices. Let’s make our time of truly praising and thanking God for His wonderful gift of Jesus and eternal life.
“ Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. … To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:15 & 17 (NASB)
The psalmist recalls how he faced certain death and God acted to save him. God extended his life of service. He vowed to acknowledge the Lord and to pay his vows in the temple. Psalm 116 is a personal song of thanksgiving for deliverance from impending death. While physical death is imminent in respect to the span of all time, we do not dwell on the thought so much. Until we become aware that it is looming. If we have not yet been in that situation we all likely know someone who has or is. The psalmist wrote this song because when he experienced the nearness of death, he cried for help, God pulled him out of danger of death. So, he promises to let all people know how thankful he is. His words of praise to God and the giving of a proper thanksgiving sacrifice are done publicly. Like he stood on the steps leading into the Temple and affirmed his thanks to God to all. We know God cares about each of us, even when physical death comes our way. Our promise is that our life, the life of every believer, is precious to God.