1 Samuel: Obedience Better Than Sacrifice

Sermon & Small Group Resources

This is the fifth sermon in our series on 1 Samuel ‘In Search of a King’. Preacher: The Rev’d Adam Lowe. Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 13-15.

Download the Small Group Questions, Going Deeper, and Sermon Transcript (PDF).

Next Steps this Week

BIBLE READING: 1 Samuel 15:10-25

Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.

Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’S instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

“Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?”

“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

  But Samuel replied:

“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.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,

and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,

he has rejected you as king.”

   Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’S command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.”


Download in PDF format.

CONNECT: If you had to summarise what you’ve learned so far from 1 Samuel, for someone who isn’t yet a Christian, what would you say?

WARM-UP Question

  1. What do you think are the most dangerous temptations for a Christian leader?

  2. What really was wrong with the people asking for a king ‘such as the other nations have’? 

  3. What was the determining factor that would provide the potential for this situation to be ‘good’?

READ 1 Samuel 15:1-6

  1. Who was it that made Saul king? Why is it so imperative (for Saul) to be reminded of this fact?

  2. How do you respond to the command in verse 3? Why are judgment and mercy both important?

  3. How is God the only one truly qualified to be judge? How can we trust in him?

READ 1 Samuel 15:7-23

  1. Does Saul do what he was commanded to? How is he obedient? How is he disobedient?

  2. Who does Saul blame? How does he try to ‘reframe’ his disobedience? Is this acceptable?

  3. Do you think when it comes to our disobedience (and sin) that we’re ever in danger of blaming others or trying to ‘reframe’ it so that we appear to be justified in our actions? Can you think of an example?

  4. Why do Saul’s excuses fail to fool God? What does this mean for us?

  5. In what way is obedience better than sacrifice? Do you think that you’re ever in danger of trying to bargain with God instead of just doing what he has commanded?

  6. What is idolatry? How is ‘rebellion’ (or disobedience) as bad as idolatry?

READ 1 Samuel 15:24-28

  1. Who is the earthly king pointed to as one ‘better’ than Saul? What makes him better?

  2. Who is the ultimate king pointed to as one ‘better’? Spend some time as a group naming the various ways in which Jesus is the ultimate king and better than all others.

  3. Why do we so desperately need a king like Jesus? How does Saul point to this need?

APPLY: Is there one area of your life in which you are not taking Jesus’ commands seriously? Confess it and ask for God’s help to change.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for our ultimate King, Jesus. We thank you that he is the only one who can save us and who is worthy of our worship. Please help us, in the power of your Spirit, to live lives that increasingly submit to Jesus’ authority. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


On Your Frontline This Week: How has God used ordinary ways to work in the life of the one person you are praying to become a disciple? Give thanks!

Audio and Video 

Key Resource

  • 1 Samuel For You” by Tim Chester is an excellent introduction to 1 Samuel that will be suitable for people reading at a range of levels. The guide includes helpful discussion of the content of 1 Samuel, along with plenty of practical and devotional application. Watch an introduction to the book by Tim Chester. 

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