But Samuel replied:1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Through the prophet Samuel, God had instructed King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. But Saul opted to leave their king alive as well as the best of the livestock. When Samuel confronted him with his disobedience, Saul claimed that the livestock he had spared were to be used for sacrifices to God. But Samuel was not amused and this verse is a part of his response to Saul.
Today we generally do not offer burnt offerings or sacrifices. But in Saul’s day, they were at the heart of public worship. What Samuel rebukes Saul for is focusing on the outward forms of worship while neglecting matters of the heart. God would much rather I serve him with an obedient heart than all of the outward ritual that I might go through.
And what was true for Saul is just as true for me today. It is easy to substitute outward forms of worship for the heartfelt obedience that should accompany salvation. But God is more interested in what is inside me than in what I show the world. To obey is better than sitting in a pew on Sunday, singing songs, and tossing some money into the offering plate. If I am not living in obedience to him, then I am wasting my time with the rituals of worship.