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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible


King Saul

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Lesson 4: King Saul – Misunderstood The Meaning Of Worship


1 Samuel 15:15-35.

Misunderstood The Meaning Of Worship

It is very easy to confuse emotionalism with worship. It is also very easy to replace worship with tradition and religiosity. Going through the motions cuts no ice with God. As was once said – it is amazing what can be done in the Church without the power or Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Saul ignorantly thought he understood God. It is one of the first fruits of pride. God had given Saul an awesome victory over one of their fiercest, most vitriolic and tenacious enemies. He had undoubtedly been overwhelmed by the spoils they had ‘inherited’. So Saul and his men, instead of carrying out God’s command to the letter, decided on a trade-off. They would destroy all the weak and poor but keep the best for themselves – or as Saul put it – for a mega sacrifice to God.

Whether the sacrifice Saul spoke of was a knee-jerk reaction to being ‘found out’ by Samuel or was indeed the intended climax of the disobedience is of little consequence. Let us assume that it was indeed what Saul had in mind – the decision and action were flawed.

Saul knew God liked sacrifices – true. God had established sacrifices under the Law of Moses – true. In the Law there were many different sacrifices for different reasons, however, there was none in support of disobedience. The fact that God likes sacrifices – even demanded sacrifices – should not be confused with the fact that God also demands obedience.

The two are not set off in opposition but rather in harmony. Sacrifices flow out of obedience. The Levitical Sacrifices, as we call them, all pointed forward to the Supreme Sacrifice. That Supreme Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Who, though being God, became Man so that He might die on a Cross and thereby secure our forgiveness. Forgiveness for our selfishness, our sin, our disobedience and our rebellion against God – Our Holy and Righteous Heavenly Father.

The Supreme Sacrifice was offered as and at the zenith of supreme obedience. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ asked if God could save the world any other way. The answer was a shout of silence. Knowing there was no other way, Jesus went in total submitted obedience to the Cross, and thereby won for us our forgiveness, freedom and eternal life.

There in the Garden, obedience was fulfilled. Jesus had re-established worship as a way of life, rather than a ritual or tradition. He was the supreme example of Someone who worshipped God in Spirit and in Truth.

We cannot worship God by just raising our hands in the air and singing our hearts out. Yes, that is a great and wonderful experience – but if it is not flowing from a life surrendered to the will and purposes of God, it is nothing more than an empty show.

God is still seeking worshippers. He is still seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth everyday of their lives through radical unhindered obedience.

King Saul would say to us today...

Obedience is greater than sacrifice. True worship is a lifestyle found in people who follow God whole-heartedly.


Father, please make my Christianity authentic Christianity. Make it ever flow from my open, honest and obedient relationship with You. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Additional readings

John 4:1-26; Romans 12:1-8; Psalm 96.


How can we truly worship God?

Why do we worship God in ‘spirit and truth’?

What does a lifestyle of worship look like?

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Sold Out For Jesus and Ring of Truth – daily devotionals by John White
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