“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” – 1 Samuel 15:22-23
There are times in scripture where so much information and revelation is packed into such a small concentration of words, that it’s easy to miss the relevance of one point for the other. The above mentioned verses fall into this category. In only two verses we see God’s heart on obedience, the spirit behind both rebellion and stubbornness, how God views them, and the very real and dire consequences of disobedience to God’s voice.
First lets look at God’s heart on obedience. These verses make a very interesting point that obedience is better than sacrifice, though sometimes obedience may seem like sacrifice, the truth is that for us, most of the hardships we go through are a result of us ignoring God’s voice warning us of how to avoid them. Remember that in Old Testament times, the sacrifices where used as a covering for sin, that one might be able to ask forgiveness. So while sacrifice allowed for a forgiving of sin, in a certain sense, obedience helps to prevents sin all together, not only for you but also for those watching and following you. Therefore, obedience is better then sacrifice in the eyes of God, and He clearly honors it more. No where is this more clearly displayed then in the story of Samson and Delilah. Though Samson eventually humbled himself, repented, and sacrificed his very life in the end to defeat the Philistines, it would have surely been better had he simply been obedient to Gods words, warnings, and commandments from the start. His rebellion cost him everything. His blessings, his calling, his anointing, and eventually his very life.
Now let us look closely at the phrase “for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft”. Does God really look so strongly on the sin of rebellion as to compare it to witchcraft, and if so (as this verse implies) then why? To answer that we need to first look at the word “rebellion”. There are times when we are tricked by the enemy and we make an honest mistake, yes we sinned but God knows we didn’t mean to and our hearts intent was to follow Him but we were deceived. Once we realize our mistake we must repent and turn away from that sin less we fall into rebellion. You see there are times when we all disobey God, the differentiating factor here is whether that disobedience was intentional or unintentional. If God has made Himself clear to you and you willingly choose to disobey, then you are in rebellion. Likewise, if you did not know at the time the wrong was done but He has since given you opportunity to know the truth through correction, confirmation, and conviction, yet in your pride, you have chosen not to submit and repent, but rather cling to that wrong, then you are in rebellion. Think of a parent correcting a child, if they have done wrong you are going to be more lenient and understanding in correcting them for accidental mistakes then if they are willfully disobeying your direct commandments to them, or if they refuse to submit to your correction. When they do this you say “they are being rebellious children” and it usually provokes the parent to anger and a more harsh course of correction.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17
Ok, so we understand why God hates rebellion but why would He compare it to witchcraft? The word used here in the original Hebrew was “qecem” and can mean either witchcraft or divination. Either would apply because what God is really trying to say here is that, at it’s root, rebellion is nothing more then willfully choosing to be led of an other spirit. It’s choosing the do the will and the work of the enemy in direct opposition to that of God’s. This point is ever further clarified as it goes on to say that stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. What is stubbornness, but refusing correction and repentance, what is iniquity, but sin and wickedness, and what is idolatry, but choosing to give your service, obedience, and allegiance to an other god? Is it starting to make since now? Looking at it from a spiritual point of view, which is God’s point of view, we can begin to see the severity of the sin of rebellion the way God sees it.
The last sentence in this passage addresses the consequences of rebellion and stubbornness against God’s word and instructions. I find this statement to be so heartbreaking, as we see God withdraw Himself from Saul with the words; “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” There are dire consequences to rejecting the Word of The Lord. Just like Samson it cost Saul everything, his blessings, his calling, his anointing, and eventually his very life. God can only use those whom He can trust to hear His voice, but simply hearing is not enough. We must listen and we must obey, humbling ourselves before Him in true repentance when we have messed up and ever seeking and receiving not only His instructions but also His corrections. This is required that in doing so, we would be able to walk in total obedience to His will, rather then to find ourselves serving an other spirit and through pride choose to continue doing so. Stubbornness will cause you to lose more than you ever could’ve hoped to gain. God does not tolerate rebellion, which simplified, is willful disobedience to the voice of God, therefore causing you to willfully follow another voice that is not of God.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” – Romans 6:16
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21