Have you heard any internal mooing lately? You know, the kind of utterances that are founded on fiction and rationalization, but because you’ve stated them so long, they must be fact?
If we’re human, there’s not one among us that can righteously say we have no sacred cows tromping through our thoughts, leaving muddy hoof prints on our hearts. Dear old Saul was the quintessential model of how to kind of obey the Lord’s command while thoroughly disobeying the Lord’s command.
In I Samuel 15, the LORD Almighty gave a specific message to Saul through the prophet Samuel. Intent on justice because Israel had been attacked by the Amalekites on their freedom trek out of Egypt, the Lord gave strict instructions to ‘attack and totally destroy everything that belongs to them.’ A hard word, but surely God didn’t really mean it! Or so Saul thought and the stampede began.
You see, the best of the cattle, sheep, calves and lambs – ‘everything that was good’ verse 9 says – was spared by Saul and his army. Don’t forget the enemy king Agag, either! He was taken alive (against orders) while all his people were totally destroyed with the sword. Saul and his men just could not bring themselves to destroy completely the best and the good as instructed, so they sorta kinda obeyed by totally destroying everything that was despised and weak. Good enough, right?
Oh my. Saul had made a huge mistake. The Word says in Luke 6:45 “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” In the aftermath of the battle, Saul opened his mouth and promptly inserted both feet when he greeted Samuel with a hearty “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.” Really.
Had Saul thought (hmm, another lesson here) about the Lord’s command and his subsequent actions, he had no need to say anything because that herd of bovine was mooing in Samuel’s ears. He might be an aging prophet, but he wasn’t deaf. He knew what the Lord had instructed and Saul had stepped right into the evidence. All of a sudden, those cows didn’t smell so sweet.
The story continues (it’s worth reading, check it out) with Saul muddying up the truth by swearing the best were spared to sacrifice to the Lord. At that, Samuel replied with that nitty gritty of Old Testament proclamations from God’s heart to Samuel’s mouth: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (verse 22) In other words, who’s in charge?
Now that I’ve gone to meddling, let me tell you a secret. Holding tightly on to something about which the Lord has instructed otherwise (either through the Word; prayer – Him talking, us listening; our conscience, or as He frequently does, through those in relationship with us), is a recipe for cow pies and the Lord’s displeasure. His is a righteous love desirous of conforming us to His standard of righteousness. Therefore, He doesn’t take lightly the placing of our sacred cows above His commandments.
Saul suffered the consequences for rationalizing his disobedience. No one escapes the consequences of their actions. I could say a whole lot more from personal experience…but that’s another story. What I can tell you is this…it really is far better to obey than to spend only God knows how long traipsing back from the cow pasture.
Short-term obedience will gain for you and me the long-term reward of a continually cleansed heart that is made soft and pliable. A heart that can be counted upon by the Lord to do as He instructs. The kind of heart that will engage in the battle and put to death all the sacred bovine that would threaten the full victory God intends.
You know that heart…the one He’s told us to guard. Our wellspring of Life.
Moo-ving in His direction,
©2010 Nancy C. Bentz – Author’s permission granted to forward this devotional piece in its entirety, including this copyright line. For more devotionals, to leave a comment, or to subscribe to this blog, visit https://shammahsfield.com