And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22
It is not enough just to hear God’s voice, but we must obey it. Obedience is part of the honour we owe God, and makes us one of his favourites (Exod. 195). What are the ingredients in our obedience that will make it acceptable? (1.) It must be performed freely and cheerfully, or it is penance, not sacrifice. Hypocrites obey God grudgingly, and against their will. Cain brought his sacrifice, but not his heart. Cheerfulness shows that there is love in the duty. (2.) Obedience should be devout and fervent – not as the snail in a dull, slothful manner As water boils over, so the heart must boil over with hot affections in the service of God. Obedience without fervency is like a sacrifice without fire. Elijah’s prayer brought fire from heaven because it carried fire up to heaven. (3.) We must obey all of God’s commands. Hypocrites will obey God in the things which require little effort, and that raise their reputation, but leave other things undone. Herod would listen to John the Baptist, but would not leave his incest. (4.) Obedience must be sincere. We must aim at God’s glory in it. The object of our obedience is not just to stop the mouth of consequence, or to gain applause, but that we might grow more like God. (5.) Obedience must be constant. True obedience is like the fire on the altar which was always kept burning. A hypocrite’s obedience is but for a season; it is like whitewash, which is soon washed off. God’s commands are not grievous, and he commands nothing unreasonable (1 John 5:3). To obey God is not so much our duty as our privilege. His commands carry blessings in their mouth. There is love in every command, as if a king bid one of his subjects to dig in a gold mine, and then keep the gold for himself.
In this classic devotional, John Calvin urges readers to apply the Christian life in a balanced way to mind, heart, and hand. Rather than focusing on contemplative otherworldliness, the book stresses the importance of a devotedly active Christian life. In style and spirit, this book is much like Augustine’s Confessions, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, or Thomas à Kempis’s Imitation of Christ. However, its intense practicality sets it apart, making it easily accessible for any reader seeking to carry out Christian values in everyday life. Chapter themes include obedience, self-denial, the significance of the cross, and how we should live our lives today.