There is no doubt that obedience is better than sacrifice. The sole reason for the rejection of Saul from kingship was his disobedience. Prophet Samuel’s words were sharp to the core. ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying 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’ (1 Sam 15: 22-23).
What greater loss can befall a king than losing his crown? And Saul lost it for disobedience! ‘If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land’ (Isa 1:19) was God’s promise and it is still open. Disobedience will deprive us of everything good that God has prepared for his children. Disobedience will dethrone us from the lofty heights of a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Pet 2:9) and the exalted status of a ‘chosen race, a holy nation, and God’s own people’ (1 Pet 2:9).
But what should we obey? Or whom should we obey?
Samuel and all prophets say to obey Lord the God. Jesus taught the same thing and his apostles too exhorted us to obey what God says. ‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me’ (Jn 14:21). The only way to glory is also obedience. God highly exalted Jesus and gave him the name that is above every name because Jesus became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:9). Obedience is such a great virtue that its rejection will make one unable to enter the promised rest of God. ‘And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient?’ (Heb 3:18). Whom did the Israelites disobey; Moses or Lord the God? Certainly their rebellion was against Lord the God.
Obedience is neither to prophets nor to apostles. It should be to Almighty God, and to him alone. Of course, we obey our leaders, authorities, and elders. It is because they relay the words of God. Be it in the Church, society, or family obedience is primarily towards God and God alone. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches; ‘Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order (CCC 2256). The Church quotes the words of the apostles to support this teaching. ’We must obey God rather than any human authority’ (Acts 5:29). Peter and John silenced the religious leaders who tried to prevent them from preaching the gospel, by asking a counter question; ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge’ (Acts 4:19). Jesus himself once condemned this corrupt religious leadership saying; ‘In vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines. You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition…. You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition’ (Mk 7:7-9).
As Christians our obedience is and should be to God alone. When persons in authority, be it in family, society, country or Church instruct us to do something that goes against the commandments of God we are not bound to obey them. Those who disobey the eternal laws given by the Lord through the Scriptures will be ‘found fighting against God’ (Acts 5:39). The tragedy of our generation is that they lost the wisdom of Gamaliel at this crucial time. We are ‘always ready to be instructed’ (2 Tim 3:7) and as a result ‘fail to arrive at a knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). We ignore the commandments of God and trust in human reason. This will deprive us of divine grace, the most essential gift in life.
When we come across legislations and declarations glorifying abortion and homosexual activities, remember that a time has come when ‘people will not put up with sound doctrine’ (2 Tim 4:3). ‘They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires’ (2 Tim 4:3) even if their teaching is against what God said.
It should not surprise us because all these events were foretold for the end times. These days are given to us as ‘an opportunity to testify’ (Lk 21:13). What should sustain us in these times is the eternal promise of our lord Jesus Christ; ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven’ (Mt 10:32). May the Good God give us the grace to remain in true faith and resist the false teachings coming from all sides.