"Stop!" 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; make war on 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 voice of 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."
1 Samuel 15:16-23
Even when Saul was "busted" with the truth, he tried to reason with Samuel. The Lord had told Saul (through Samuel), "Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys" (1 Samuel 15:3). The people had become so wicked that every living creature was to be put to death. But Saul disobeyed. The Lord was guiding Saul in truth, but he wasn't willing to obey fully.
God didn't want sacrifice; He wanted obedience. How does that apply to us thousands of years removed from Saul?
God's not so interested in what we do for Him. He's terribly concerned about the inner man, about what goes on inside you that no one else knows about. The sacrifice for your sins (and mine) has already been paid. That's the beauty of it all. That's grace, or as many have stated: God's Riches at Christ's Expense.
Keith Green used to sing these words: "My son, My son, why are you striving? You can't add one thing to what's been done." He's right. We need to drill that into our heads often.