If only the sheep had been quiet that day. The victory celebration might have continued on just fine without any problems. But those sheep had to be unsettled, bothered and bleating. Even the cows caused commotion that day. Saul tried to ignore it, but Samuel heard it loud and clear. If those noisy animals could have talked, their voices would have been shouting out one announcement: Saul has disobeyed!
But Samuel already knew that Saul had not obeyed. God had spoken to him the night before, telling Samuel how sorry He was to have given Saul the kingship of Israel. When Samuel heard this from the Lord, he too was distressed. In fact, he talked with God all night about it. He “prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night” (I Samuel 15:11-12, The MSG). When morning came, Samuel made his way to the royal real estate where Saul had just finished offering a worship sacrifice to God using one of those noisy sheep. I wonder if the noisiest sheep got picked first…
After Saul is confronted with his disobedience, he responds by expressing that a few sheep and cows are really not a big deal. God is making a mountain out of a molehill over his saving of a few choice animals and, oh-by the way, the king too. God is just being a little too unreasonable this time. He should know that keeping the loot after battle is the way to do things these days. But God is not impressed, nor is Samuel. With words that cut right to the heart, Samuel points out that sacrifices, empty rituals, and religious productions are not what God wants. He wants listeners. He wants obedience, plain and simple.
Saul responds with a trite “slap me on the hand and let’s move on” approach. He does not grasp the seriousness of the sin. But Samuel does. The Scriptures do not tell us what happened to the noisy sheep and cows, but Samuel did the dirty work of getting rid of the king. After dragging Agag out of his captivity chamber, Samuel took a sword and cut him down in the presence of God. Then Samuel went home, grieving deeply over Saul but never seeing him again.
Do you ever have noisy sheep in your life? No, this is not a farming question. Instead, consider those times when we disobey God just a little bit and we brush it under the proverbial rug, thinking it’s no big deal. Or we don’t listen to God and charge ahead on our own agenda, thinking somehow life will all work out. But we hear this disturbing noise in the background of our conscience, a little bleating voice from our sin that reminds us it is still there, or a little mooing from that willful part of our soul that pricks us with our disobedience. Sometimes we mistakenly think that no one else can hear or see our disobedience, when in reality the bleating and mooing is even louder for everyone else than it is for us.
My prayer today is that I will not ignore the noise of sin in my life or think that disobedience of any kind is acceptable to God. The greatest act of worship I can give to God is a listening, obedient heart, cleaning out every sin and presenting a pure conscience before Him. For to obey is truly better than sacrifice.