The Signs of the Times


September 14, 1882

Obedience Better Than Sacrifice


“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.” These words of reproof, addressed to the king of Israel by Samuel the prophet, contain a lesson that should be pondered by the people of God in every age. The sacrificial offerings of ancient times were of themselves of no value in the sight of God. Those who presented sacrifice before the Lord must have a true sense of its import, acknowledging their lost condition as sinners, and accepting the death of Christ in their behalf. They must repent of their transgressions of God's law, and exercise faith in Jesus as the only one who could remove their guilt. When the offering of a sacrifice was substituted for true, willing, glad service to God, when it was regarded as having any virtue or merit in itself, or when the type was exalted above the object typified, then it became displeasing to the Lord. ST September 14, 1882, par. 1

Had Saul presented an offering of the greatest value, from his own flocks and herds, obeying in every particular the requirements of the law, yet in a spirit of self-sufficiency, and without true penitence, his offering would have been rejected. But when he offered the spoils of Amalek, upon which the divine curse had been pronounced, how utterly abhorrent must have been his course in the sight of a holy God. He had presumed, in the presence of all Israel, to show contempt for the authority of his Maker. ST September 14, 1882, par. 2

“To obey is better than sacrifice.” This lesson is of special importance at the present time, when the claims of God's law are urged upon our attention. The light now shining from the sacred word reveals the fact that an alien power has tampered with the statutes of Jehovah. The papacy, “the man of sin,” has attempted to change the times and laws of divine appointment. The Creator of the heavens and the earth commanded, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work.” This command was enforced by the example of its Author, proclaimed with his own voice, and placed in the very bosom of the decalogue. But the papal power has removed this divine ordinance, and substituted a day which God has not sanctified, and upon which he did not rest, the festival so long adored by heathens as the “venerable day of the sun.” ST September 14, 1882, par. 3

In all this, Satan is the master spirit. He has no particular regard for Sunday, but he desires that his will shall be obeyed, rather than the will of God. It was Satan that incited Adam and Eve to transgress the command of their Maker, and he has continued this work even to our own day. We see the success of his attacks upon the law of God, in the wide-spread disregard for the ancient Sabbath of Jehovah, and the well-nigh universal veneration for the institution of heathenism and papacy. And we see the terrible results, in the skepticism which everywhere prevails. The Sabbath was instituted in Eden, as a memorial of creation. It points men directly to the true God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Thus it stands as a mighty barrier against idolatry, atheism, and infidelity. Had the Sabbath been universally kept, not one of these evils could have gained a foot-hold in our world. There could not have been an infidel nor an idolater. ST September 14, 1882, par. 4

Even the political regulations given to Moses when he was in secret council with Jehovah, contain important lessons for the people of every age. But the law proclaimed from Sinai in the hearing of assembled Israel, and written by the finger of God, is obligatory upon all men to the close of time. ST September 14, 1882, par. 5

When God commissioned Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, he did not leave it to Saul's judgment to destroy or keep alive as he should see fit. When he forbade our first parents to eat of the tree of knowledge, he did not leave it to them to eat or not to eat, as they pleased. When he commanded men to keep holy the seventh day, he did not make it optional with them to obey if convenient, and if not to sanctify a day of their own choosing. ST September 14, 1882, par. 6

Many endeavor to evade the claims of the fourth commandment by urging that the law of God was given to the Jews exclusively; that the seventh day of the week is the Jewish, while the first day is the Christian Sabbath. This distinction is not recognized in the Scriptures. There is no such contrast as is often claimed to exist between the Old and the New Testament, the law of God and the gospel of Christ, the requirements of the Jewish and those of the Christian dispensation. Every soul saved in the former dispensation was saved by Christ as verily as we are saved by him today. Patriarchs and prophets were Christians. The gospel promise was given to the first pair in Eden, when they had by transgression separated themselves from God. The gospel was preached to Abraham. The Hebrews all drank of that spiritual Rock, which was Christ. It was by Christ that the worlds were made. By Christ the law was proclaimed from Sinai. Hence, Christ is, in the fullest sense, as he declares himself to be, “Lord of the Sabbath.” He made the day sacred to himself, on which to receive the worship of angels and of men. ST September 14, 1882, par. 7

How dare any, understanding the claims of the fourth commandment, trample upon its requirements? Saul stated, as an excuse for his transgression, that he “feared the people.” Are there not many in our day, even among the professed ministers of Christ, who could give no better reason for their course? Though the word of God is plain, they dare not offend the prejudices or arouse the fears of their hearers; therefore they let them go on unwarned in their violation of God's law. In the day of final judgment the excuse of Saul will avail for them no more than it availed for him. ST September 14, 1882, par. 8

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Rebellion originated with Satan. Notwithstanding the exalted position which he occupied among the heavenly host, he became dissatisfied because he was not accorded supreme honor. Hence he questioned God's purposes and impugned his justice. He bent all his powers to allure the angels from their allegiance. The fact that he was an archangel, glorious and powerful, enabled him to exert a mighty influence. His complaints against God's government, at first met with no favor; yet being urged again and again, they were finally accepted by those who had before been loyal and happy subjects of the King of Heaven. There was not the shadow of justification or excuse for disaffection; but envy and jealousy, once cherished, gained a power that paralyzed reason and destroyed honor and loyalty. As the result, Satan and all his sympathizers were cast out of Heaven. ST September 14, 1882, par. 9

In his rebellion, Satan showed contempt for the authority of God, and virtually trampled upon every precept of his law. He is the grand prototype of all transgressors. To indulge unbelief, ingratitude, apostasy, defiance of God, or enmity against him, is but to repeat the course which Satan pursued in Heaven. Rebellion against God is as directly due to Satanic influence as is the practice of witchcraft. Like witchcraft, it exerts a bewitching, deceptive power almost impossible to break. Those who set themselves against the government of God have entered into an alliance with the arch-apostate, and he will not lightly lose his prey. All his power and cunning will be exercised to captivate the senses and mislead the understanding of his victims. Everything appears to them in a false light. Under his bewitching spell they can, like our first parents, see only the great benefits to be received by transgression. To achieve the desired object, they will stop at no means, however great the danger to another or the sin to themselves. ST September 14, 1882, par. 10

No stronger evidence can be given of Satan's delusive power than that many who are thus led by him deceive themselves with the belief that they are in the service of God. The Jewish scribes and elders in the days of Christ professed great zeal for the honor of God, and yet they rejected his Son. Jesus gave them the most conclusive evidence that he was the Promised One. Upon one occasion, the Spirit witnessed so powerfully to his claims that the hearts of all who were in the synagogue responded to the gracious words that proceeded from his lips. Here was the turning-point with that company. As Christ's divinity flashed through humanity, their spiritual sight was quickened. A new power of discernment and appreciation came upon them, and the conviction was almost irresistible that Jesus was the Son of God. But Satan was at hand to arouse doubts, unbelief, and pride. They steeled their hearts against the Saviour's words. As they yielded to the control of Satan, they were fired with uncontrollable rage against Jesus. With one accord they would have taken his life, had not angels interposed for his deliverance. ST September 14, 1882, par. 11

The same spirit still exists in the hearts of those who set themselves to follow their own perverted judgment in opposition to the will of God. The struggle between truth and error will reveal the same pride and stubbornness, and the same unreasoning hatred against the advocates of truth, as was displayed by the unbelieving Jews. ST September 14, 1882, par. 12

He who could cause all the glories of earthly empires to pass before Christ in his hour of temptation, exerts a wizard-like power upon the minds of all who do not implicitly trust and obey God. It is this moral infatuation which steels their hearts against the influence of the Holy Spirit. It was this that led Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to rebel against the authority of Moses. Satan deluded them with the idea that they were opposing only a human leader, a man like themselves. But in rejecting God's chosen instrument, they rejected Christ, their invisible leader. They insulted the Spirit of God; and judgments followed close upon their sin. They were deceived by Satan, but by their own consent; because they placed themselves in his power. ST September 14, 1882, par. 13

Thus was it with Saul. He had the most decisive evidence that Samuel had been divinely appointed and inspired. It was in opposition to all the dictates of reason and sound judgment, that he ventured to disregard the command of God through the prophet. His fatal presumption must be attributed to this Satanic sorcery, which made him blind to the sin, and reckless of its consequences. Saul had manifested great zeal to suppress idolatry and witchcraft, decreeing that all found guilty of these practices should be punished with death. Yet the prophet shows him that in his disobedience to the divine command he had been actuated by the same spirit of opposition to God, and had been as really inspired by Satan, as though he had practiced sorcery. And, further, when reproved, he had added stubbornness to rebellion. Instead of confessing his sin, and humbly seeking pardon, he rejected reproof, and hardened his heart in transgression. He could have offered no greater insult to the Spirit of God, had he openly united with idolaters. ST September 14, 1882, par. 14

It is a perilous step to slight the reproofs and warnings of God's word or of his Spirit. Many, like Saul, yield to temptation until they become blind to the true character of sin. They flatter themselves that they have had some good object in view, and have done no wrong, in departing from the Lord's requirements. Thus they do despite to the Spirit of grace until its pleading voice is no longer heard, and they are left to the delusions which they have chosen. ST September 14, 1882, par. 15