Why Obedience is Better Than Sacrifice
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Monday, September 17, 2012

 

 

 

We could think of the Akedah—the binding of Isaac—as a story of a human sacrifice that got called off.

That would be a superficial view. Let’s go deeper, to understand a story of faith-filled obedience.

What God desires, even more than sacrifice, is faith filled through obedience.

Sacrifice is a test that may take you by surprise.

You could respond with denial or hysteria or waffling.

Trust keeps walking out a relationship with the Holy One.

Obedience gives shape and substance to faith.

Faith-filled obedience to spiritual authority releases the power of God our Father into our lives

—just as it did for Abraham on the mountain, and for Yeshua in the garden. V’eemru? (And let us say?)

In Beresheet (Genesis) 22:1–2, the story of the Akedah begins: Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.

 

When God spoke to Abraham, how did the old man reply? “Here I am!  Hineni!”

It was a response of a man ready and eager to hear what God has to say.
Hiney also means “Behold!” and “ni” means “I” or “me”. “Behold, me.”  Or “I am ready!”

In this story, Abraham says, “Hineni!” three times—in verse 1, God spoke, Abraham said, “Hineni!” 

In verse 7, when they were going up the mountain, Isaac said, “My Father!” Abraham said, “Hineni!”

Then Isaac asked his father, “Behold (Hiney—Isaac was paying attention, too!), the fire and the wood. “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide Himself the lamb.” Both father & son were paying attention, to each other, to God: ready to obey. Are you paying attention?

In verse 11, when the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven “Abraham, Abraham!”

What did Abraham say? “Hineni!”

It’s a good thing old Abe was paying attention! He was listening carefully for what God would say.

When God says, “Shema!” He means it—he really wants us to hear, to pay attention, to listen.

Are you paying attention? Are you noticing? Are you ready to respond?

I’m telling you, once you get to know God and His still, small voice speaking into your soul, there really is nothing better. It’s a pearl without price! O my people, pay attention! Be ready to say, “Hineni!”

 

When Abraham says “Hineni,” he is not just saying: “Present.” He’s saying: Here I am, Your servant, ready to do Your will. There’s nothing more important, or more meaningful, to me, then your voice.

So, when Abraham heard what God commanded, whatever else he might have thought about it (and there’s been plenty of speculation about what else he might have thought about it), one thing is clear:

Abraham was ready and willing to trust and obey.

He got ready and set off the next morning with Isaac to make the sacrifice.

At the last moment, a voice from heaven called it off.

The moral of the story is that what God desires, even more than sacrifice, is faith-filled obedience.

Abraham certainly had faith to hear God.

He fulfilled His faith by going up that mountain with the son He loved.

Trust and obey: trust and obedience go hand in hand. V’eemru?

That’s when God Abraham truly was His friend. How many of you want to be God’s friend?

In 1 Samuel 15:22, after Samuel saw the Saul had compromised on obeying God’s instructions, then tried to impress God by offering sacrifices, Samuel said:  “Does ADONAI take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what ADONAI says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams.” Ouch!

God wasn’t impressed. Samuel went on to say Saul was guilty of rebellion and idolatry and that since Samuel had effective rejected the word of God, God and rejected Saul as king.  Double ouch!

Yet it’s something God says many times in Scripture. 

Micah 6:7–8 says, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
God isn’t impressed by a big show of sacrifices offered superficially; He is interested in our hearts.

Does anyone catch the allusions to the Akedah? “Shall I offer my firstborn…?”

What does HaShem want from us? He wants you to have relationship with Him, one like Abraham’s, walking humbly with your God. When you have the kind of relationship where you are willing to say, “Hineni,” then you will also want to act justly and to love mercy—because that’s how God is, too.

V’eemru? Of course, sometimes we slip up; we stumble. That’s when God is there to help you back up.

 In Ps. 51:16–17, David confesses, “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it. You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit—a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

David had really blown it, with flagrant and tragic sins. Yet God still loved him, because David had a broken and contrite heart.

When I look at myself, I see my own struggles with my flesh. I’m sure God sees them, too.

Yet, sometimes to my amazement, Abba is willing to forgive all my shortcomings, atone for all my sins,

Because what He really loves is a heart broken and contrite before Him, and willing to do His will.

David goes on to offer sacrifices—sacrifices offered as an expression of your will and devotion to God —these are indeed a sweet and fragrant aroma to Him.

 

Sometimes the specific things that God asks (or commands, actually) will take us by surprise.

There have been many stories about Abraham’s reaction to God’s command.

The Bible leaves out those tantalizing details—that’s part of why Genesis is a genius of story telling!

Abraham doesn’t say a word, yet surely, Abraham must have been surprised.

Lord! Isaac is my son—the supernatural son that You promised me, to inherit the covenant!

Sacrifice is a test that may take you by surprise. How many of you have ever been surprised by God?

You could respond with denial—nah, that wasn’t God, He wouldn’t say that to me.

Or you could respond with hysteria—oy, oy, oy, no, no, no!

Or you could respond with waffling—oh, maybe, let me think about that, I’ll get back to you.

Don’t call me; I’ll call you. Maybe…. Or you could respond with trust and obedience.

I remember, when the Spirit of God said to me, “Suppose I call you into full time ministry.”

That was a little over 20 years ago, when I just recently gotten tenure as a college professor, and we had started a little monthly fellowship in our new house. I remember responding, “What did you say?”
And then arguing that would be a really bad idea, and proceeding to list many reasons why, just like Moshe at the burning bush. I had trained to be a college professor, not a minister or a rabbi! Etc., etc.

God was patient with me, and a few months alter sent spiritual mama Carol Ann to tell me:
“You are called as a pastor! Accept the call!” After she repeating it a couple of times, I humbly said, Yes, Lord. That’s all He wanted then. After that, it was walking it out with Him, one step at time.

I remember, when the Lord first made it clear we moving from Bethlehem to Allentown—first the congregation, then my own household. Things seemed to be going well enough at First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, within walking distance of the house I had built (as the Lord had directed me).

How many of you like change? Well, if you’re going to walk with the Lord, you might want to accept that He may want to make a few changes in your life. V’eemru?

Can you handle that? Can you trust God? Do you want to be like Abraham, whom God called his friend?

We may not always fully understand what God is doing at the time—God didn’t explain to Abraham why he should take his son, his one and only son, whom you love… and offer him as a burnt offering.

That would have spoiled the surprise! Sometimes obedience requires that we just trust Him. V’eemru?

Obedience gives shape and substance to faith. 

In our Bible study this past Thursday night, we talked about, looking at Revelation 2:10, why the Lord would say “the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction.”

I mean, why would the Lord let the Devil test believers? Can someone at the Bible study answer?

Yes, the purpose of testing is to draw out and strengthen our faith. V’eemru? Can you handle that?

In the gospels, Yeshua was constantly challenging his disciples to walk out their faith.
Get out of your boat, and follow me! Yes, go for it, get out of the boat, and walk on the water, with me!

[s] Jacob 2:19-23, makes this point forcefully: “You believe that God is one. You do well.” So Jacob commends people for believing the Shema. “The demons also believe—and shudder!”

God isn’t interested in people who believe concepts; He wants people who act on what they believe.

“But do you want to know, you empty person, that faith without works is dead?” Faith without action, trust without obedience, is empty and shapeless—like the cosmos before God commanded light and life.

Jacob goes on to illustrate this point with the Akedah.  “Wasn’t Abraham our father proved righteous by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” V’eemru? His obedience proved his faith.

How many of you would like faith to move mountains (or heal the sick or just hear God)? Prove it!

 “You see that faith worked together with his works, and by the works his faith was made complete.”

How many of you see that faith and works, trust and obedience work together, hand in hand?
Hand in hand—that how the Spirit of God wants to walk with His friend, who has complete faith.

V’eemru? 2:23 The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”—and he was called God’s friend.” Jacob references Isaiah 41:8.

Nearly a thousand years after Abraham died, God is still calling Abraham “my friend.” Awesome!
Oh, to be called a friend of God, or a friend of Yeshua! How many of you would like some of that?

 

Faith-filled obedience demonstrates our willingness to honor God’s authority, so that God our Father can release His power into our lives.  Saul’s problem wasn’t just that he didn’t exactly obey God.
He also wouldn’t wait for Samuel to come and make the sacrifice.

You see, Saul was the king, but Samuel was the priest—the kohen to whom God had delegated authority to make sacrifices in Israel. Whenever a king usurped that authority, it was trouble for that king!

King Uzziah tried it—and got tza’arat—supernatural and wretched skin disease—for his trouble!

Pride is bad enough, usurping spiritual authority is worse. Anyone remember what happened to Miriam?

If you’re not willing to trust God enough to obey His authority, your faith is weaker than you think,
and you open yourself up to a spirit of rebellion and witchcraft. Brothers and sisters, don’t go there! [s]

If I hadn’t been willing to listen to my spiritual mama, when she gave me the prophetic word to accept the call, well, it wouldn’t have been good for me with God, let alone my relationship with Carol Ann. 

Because I have been willing to trust Dan Juster (even though he’s mortal and not perfect, yet), because I am willing to do what Dan asks me (such as chair the Tikkun conference oversight committee), Dan’s trust for me has grown, and my trust for Him as grown, and my faith walk with the Lord is strengthened.

Honoring and obeying authority releases God’s power in our lives—but you have to trust Him—
as well as the people to whom He has delegated spiritual authority. V’eemru?

In Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion said to Yeshua, “Just give a command and let my servant recover. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Amen, I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith!”

This centurion understood how authority works—it works when people trust and obey.

When soldiers obey their commander, the army works; it is coordinated and fulfills its purpose.

Shouldn’t the same be true in the armies of God?

Among the hosts of heaven resists, nobody resists God’s will. How are we doing on earth?

If Yeshua is our commander-in-chief, are you willing to obey Him?

If you struggle to trust and obey, remember, the broken and contrite in heart he will not despise,

Then, when He comes calling, Shema! Listen, trust and obey. V’eemru?

 

When Abraham recognized Melchizedek, King of Salem, he recognized his authority, and make sacrifices to him.  Abraham was a man under authority.

I want to be a man under God’s authority. Lone rangers wind up alone.

That’s why, for example, when it comes to discerning whether or when to congregation should move, the question for me is not whether we have outgrown this place (we haven’t) or whether we can patch things up with leaders of our host congregations again (indeed we have), it’s only: what is God’s will?

Are we willing to walk just by sight, but by faith?

When three different people with prophetic ministry confirm each other, independently, I am willing
to listen, pray, and look for the Lord to open a door of faith? V’eemru?

Of course, knowing how to walk out God’s will requires wisdom, patience and good counsel.

So, the counsel our zakenim team has been getting is to take one step at a time, with faith. V’eemru?

 

[s] No one understood, trusted and obeyed God our Father better than Yeshua.

When Yeshua said (John 14:31), “I do exactly as the Father commanded Me,” He truly meant it.

Even the Messiah needed to pray, to trust, and to obey the Father.

In the garden he pressed into prayer, so hard that he sweated blood, crying out (Matthew 26:39),
 “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Because of His supreme love for the Father, and for humanity, He was willing to make the sacrifice.

With Yeshua, it could never be superficial; it had to be a total sacrifice, spirit, soul and body.

Only His perfect sacrifice could make atonement for all the sins of the world—not even the righteousness of Abraham and the willingness of his one and only son could accomplish that.

Only the perfect sacrifice of God’s only only and only son, whom He loved, could.

With Yeshua, it was never a question of avoiding the cup of suffering on the cross.

Rather, it was only a question of confirming the Father’s will—Yeshua to make absolutely sure that

this cup was indeed His Father’s will, and not just his own willingness.

Once it was confirmed in Spirit, Yeshua was ready, with faith-filled strength, to obey.

And that obedience made all the difference. V’eemru?