Is Yahweh pleased by burnt offerings and sacrifices or by obedience to Yahweh’s voice? Truly, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness than the fat of rams — 1 Samuel 22.
As adults, hearing that we should obey anyone tends to make us chafe a bit. After all, obedience is for children who can’t yet be trusted to make good responsible decisions for themselves. Having reached the age of maturity and gained a certain amount of experience and wisdom in the process, we feel that we should be able to decide for ourselves what the best course of action should be. Yet, a closer look at what it means to truly obey may make us realize that it is a wise course of action.
The word “obey” comes from the Latin “ob” + “audire” which means “to listen closely.” Listening is much harder than it seems, listening closely that much more so. Even in our human communications, we rarely give others our full attention. We have one ear to our children while we do our daily chores. We converse with our spouses while watching television or working on the computer. Even when there is nothing physically taking our attention away from the person in front of us, our minds are often elsewhere. We are busy thinking about what we are going to say next or our to-do list for the day. We may hear the words but we are not truly listening. It is hard to give those we are with the full attention that they deserve; the attention that we would like to receive in return.
If it is difficult to pay close attention to the person standing right in front of us, how much harder is it to listen closely to God who speaks in quiet whispers? This is no small task in our noisy world. We need to shut off the distractions around us. Perhaps even more difficult, we need to turn off the noise inside our head. We need to focus, so that prayer can become a two way conversation and not just us doing all the talking.
God also speaks to us through other means. His Word and intention comes to us through Scripture, through our spiritual leaders, through spiritual readings, and from the wisdom of close friends and family who know us well. When we are truly attempting to listen to God, to obey God, the direction can come in many ways. The key point is that we need to pay attention. We need to be open to God speaking in our lives. God wants us to listen and to do His will. We need to hear it and then do it. Our lives will be better that way. Obedience isn’t a burden; it is a gift. If we can begin to see it that way, perhaps we will be more open to the possibilities it offers for our lives.