Acceptable Obedience

By Larry Ray Hafley

Acceptable obedience in the sight of the Lord is not the mere mechanical performance of certain duties. God is interested in the heart that prompts the service; whereas man assumes that doing “what God says” is all that is important. The failure to see obedience as the Lord conceives it leads to vain and void sacrifice. Obedience is more than doing; it involves and includes more than physical activity.

In Israel

When God brought His people from beneath the power of Pharoah and the sting of the taskmasters whip, He did not immediately command specific, external duty. “Just do this and this, and it will repay me for having delivered you from Egypt.” This was not Gods way, and through Jeremiah He warned and reminded His people that it was not. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jer. 7:21-23).

Isaiah wrote of a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters” (Isa. 1: 4-6). Like Sodom, they hid not their sin, rather they were proud of it; they declared it (Isa. 3:9)! Yet in all the muck and mire of wickedness, they ceased not to offer a “multitude” of sacrifices, therefore, God reproved them thusly:

“Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:10-15).

Saul learned this lesson from Samuel and Amalek. He did not “utterly destroy” Amalek as God directed, but spared some “to sacrifice unto~the Lord” (I Sam. 15). From the lips of Samuel, there echoed the fundamental principle of acceptable service unto God. “Hath the Lord as greatdelight 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” (I Sam. 15:22). In like fashion, the Psalmist said, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:16, 17).

In Jesus Day

The Pharisees of Jesus day were meticulous moralists who scrupulously paid tithes and observed minute, detailed traditions. As far as the eye could detect, they were righteous unto men. But our Lord knew their hearts and openly revealed and rebuked their hypocrisy and iniquity. The difference between their profession and their actual condition is the difference between mans views of acceptable obedience as opposed to Gods. The divergent concept is enunciated by our Lord in Luke 16:15, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”


God did not need the bulls and goats of sacrifice. The point and purpose of animal offerings was not to supply Gods lack, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine and the fullness thereof” (Psa. 50:10-12). Likewise, God does not need our contribution, our dimes and dollars. Fort Knox and the world are His! We are the needy ones. We need to learn obedience, to offer our hearts on the altar of crucified flesh. When we are awakened, quickened, and challenged in this respect, our spirits will be justified, our activities sanctified, and our God glorified.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 30, pp. 7-8
June 1, 1972