I have recently been pondering the passage in 1 Samuel 15 where the prophet Samuel says the following to King Saul:
I have heard so many times in the church that obedience is better than sacrifice based on this text and many will then point to to account of Abraham’s obedience in being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was willing to obey which was apparently more important than the sacrifice that he was going to offer.
This teaching usually translates into application where Christians must place obedience to God as paramount over and above any sacrifice that God may be calling us to. This interpretation of the 1 Samuel 15 passage above assumes that obedience and sacrifice are at odds with each other. Upon further review of 1 Samuel 15, a sacrifice offered would have actually be an act of disobedience by not utterly destroying the Amalekites. So in this passage sacrifice = disobedience. So not only is obedience better than sacrifice in this passage but obedience is the opposite of sacrifice because the sacrifice offered used animals that God commanded the Israelites to destroy.
So please don’t downplay the importance of sacrifice. Obedience and true sacrifice should not be at odds with one another. They should be congruent in most cases because God would not call us to sacrifice something that would result in disobedience to Him. Don’t minimize sacrifice. We are called to sacrifice. Don’t minimize obedience either. We are called to both. Let us obey and sacrifice.
Let me add that our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world know this first hand. They know that being obedient to God and his commands involves sacrifice. Following Christ comes with a great cost to them. They obey and sacrifice — sacrifice freedom, jobs, family, and sometimes their very life.