Is Partial Obedience to God Obedience to Him at all?

God anoints Saul as king through Samuel(1 Samuel 9). Saul experiences God quite profoundly during his years as King and has a godly prophet in Samuel who guides, instructs according to God’s word and prays for him. And yet in 1 Samuel 15 we read that Saul did not obey God as he should and God rejects him as king.

Reading Saul’s story made me dwell on the question – Is Partial Obedience to God obedience to Him at all?  

1 Samuel 15 begins with Samuel sharing God’s message to Saul. The Lord was going to punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel and it was God’s judgment upon the Amalekites that Saul was to carry out. God clearly mentions that everyone and everything was to be destroyed.

Saul goes on to attack the Amalekites, but we go on to read in verse 8 and 9 that he spares the Amalekite king Agag and takes the “best of the sheep, cattle, calves and lambs – everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.”

Saul clearly did not follow the Lord’s directive entirely. I want us to take note of two words in the verse above; good and unwilling.

Saul seems to have made a choice to deem what was good and what was not for them on his own. And the word ‘unwilling’ used to describe how they felt about the plunder, even though was not according to God’s will and Saul knowingly choosing to ignore it is reflective of his heart towards God.

For us: Even if something seems good to us and for us, if it is not the Lord’s will, may we turn from it and trust and surrender to His will and wisdom to know what is good for us. However tempted we feel to pull in the direction opposite of His will, may we surrender our hearts to Him to enable us to be obedient to our Lord in all aspects and not only in those suited to us.

Saul’s action grieved the Lord and it grieved Samuel too. In verse 12 we go on to read that Saul goes to Carmel, where he sets up a monument in his honour. Again, these actions are reflective of Saul’s heart and where it truly lies with, in relation to God. He disobeys God, did what suited him and probably gained him favour among his men. He does not seem conflicted about it and goes on to demonstrate prideful and glory seeking behaviour by setting up his monument.

His actions and achievements as king no more seem to him as solely because of the Lord’s hand on him but rather his pride is leading him down a path of sin and rebellion towards God.

When Samuel goes to Saul, he says to Samuel “I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Saul either thinks he can fool Samuel by lying or he believes that he did nothing wrong.

Pride can lead us to disobedience and can make us blind to sin.

Knowing what Saul did, Samuel questions him about the sheep and the cattle taken. But Saul seems quick with excuses as he says that “the soldiers brought them back so that they could offer sacrifices to the Lord your God.” (verse 15)

Firstly, there is a clear exclusion of himself in the explanation seeming to place all blame on the soldiers, not very reflective of a king or a leader. Secondly, notice that Saul says, it was to sacrifice to the Lord your God. Did Saul not consider the Lord as his God too? His actions before and his words now are a reflection of what is in his heart that seems to say that God is not Lord over his life.

Samuel further questions Saul by asking in verse 19 “Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

Saul replies “But I did obey the Lord, I went on the mission the Lord assigned me and 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 in Gilgal.” (verse 20-21)

Notice Saul trying to emphasise a lot of himself in the obedience and carrying out the mission part whereas he mentions only the soldiers when talking about taking the plunder. And again, we see him mention God as Samuel’s Lord and not his.

Shifting blame is not reflective of a repentant heart. If Saul held what God said higher than the need to please his men, he would have ensured that the Lord’s directive was carried out. A godly leader is first a godly follower and spurs others to follow in God’s ways.

To this Samuel replies “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 the 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.”(verses 22-23)

Samuel points out that sacrifice is acceptable to the Lord when it is accompanied with an attitude of true devotion, and honest worship and not just for the sake of it.

The best sacrifice we can offer is a repentant heart followed by that reflected in our actions.

‘You have rejected the word of God and he has rejected you as king’Someone who sets his own will before that of the Lord ceases to be God’s instrument.

Saul confesses, as we read in verses 24 and 25, but his confession is laced with justification. He also seemed to be more concerned that Samuel will break ties with him openly thereby undermining his authority as king in front of the people. Saul does not seem to be truly repentant at all.

In verse 29 we read Samuel say “He who is the Glory of Israel, does not lie or change His mind; for he is not a man that he should change his mind.”

Our God is a steadfast God who does not swivel his faithfulness towards us on a whim. Also, just take note of how Samuel refers to God in this verse “He who is the Glory of Israel”. With the backdrop of Saul’s story in the chapter who seemed quick to set up a monument in his honour instead of honouring God with obedience and Samuel referring to God as the Glory of Israel, it emphasises that all Glory should and rightly belongs only to God.

One can make many sacrifices on the outside to God but if our hearts are not truly surrendered to Him and if He does not hold a position of pre-eminence in our lives, does it truly matter?

How do we as followers of Christ view the need for obedience? We do see some of the principles of godly living not applied to Christians lives today. Would not that be called partial obedience. We saw that partial obedience was disobedience in the eyes of God. No one can come close to perfect obedience to God but God sees the heart of a person and may our hearts reflect what Psalm 40:8 says “I desire to do your will, my God, your law is within my heart.”

God Bless.

38 thoughts on “Is Partial Obedience to God Obedience to Him at all?

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  1. Wise words, Manu. Saul’s story is quite a cautionary tale! Though we will never achieve perfection in this life, I pray we can continually seek out obedience. Thanks for a great study and an important reminder! Blessings! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Marisa 😊. Saul’s story is indeed a cautionary one and yes we will not be perfect in our obedience to Him but may our desire to be obedient to Christ not be lacking.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
      Blessings to you too 🤗💙.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a powerful post. I believe that we also make excuses at times when we do not want to do what the Lord asked of us. This can stem from fear, pride, or even just plain selfishness. In our own lives, we might justify our actions. But reflecting on Saul’s story, this helps us to see how we truly need to seek full surrender and obedience. Thank you so much for sharing this, Manu! Blessings, my friend! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bridget 🤗. Yes, we do make excuses. Spending time with Sauls story, made me dwell on whether I am completely surrendering to Him or holding back in areas.
      Always appreciate your thoughts 😊
      Blessings to you too dear friend 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very thought-provoking! I’ve never before considered the implications of “partial obedience,” and I’m sure I do plenty of it myself. I’ll have to consider this closely, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 😊. Dwelling on Sauls story made me think of my whether my obedience is conditionally suited to my preference or is it with complete surrender. Being aware of this is good so that we can grow in these areas.
      Appreciate you sharing your thoughts
      Blessings 💙.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Indeed, total obedience is what is required of us. An obedient heart does everything God wants it do. David set an example for us to follow he wasn’t perfect but he was willing to do anything God ask him to do. And earned the title “A man after God’s own heart”

    Thank you, dear for this timely wisdom. Very insightful and encouraging 👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish to have an obedient heart always but it does not necessarily translate into all situations like that. I am growing in my journey.
      Yes, David was not perfect but God said that he was a man after Gods own heart.
      Thank you Marie for sharing your thoughts, always appreciate it.
      Blessings 💙.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Manu, What a powerful and well-titled post. Like Saul, we often try to reinterpret God’s ways into ways that suit what we want. However, our ways are not God’s way. As the heavens are higher than the earth, God’s ways are higher than our way. We must surrender our hearts, and with total obedience follow God’s path for us. Blessings! 🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true Jeanne, if it doesn’t necessarily suit us right away we can have excuses to not being completely obedient to Him.
      Being aware of this is a good and necessary thing so that we can consciously surrender to Him. We are all a work in progress.
      Blessings 💙


  6. Wow this one is a hard one to read when you feel like you are always tripping over yourself. Can’t seem to focus these days. Can’t seem to think straight. Praying for so many things including obedience, surrender, steadfastness, contentment in all situations, and kind of waiting for the Lord to help me with all of these things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all are a work in progress. Irrespective of whether we feel we are getting it better some days the truth is we all need His grace every single day. The Lord sees your heart and He sees a desire there to grow in all those areas.
      Always being in a posture of listening and learning from God, is the best thing to do.
      Blessings to you Tina 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great article! You listed so very good points concerning Saul and his “partial disobedience. ” I agree “ptide” is a monster to deal with in everyone, but there is hope as we surrender to the Lord and live a life of obedience. 😇👣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Georgetta 😊. Pride is surely such a huge stumbling block in our growth and can be used very effectively by Satan.
      The thing is to be aware and realise that we need His grace anew every single day and He enables us to walk with obedience.
      Blessings 💙


  8. This succinctly highlights those verses! Powerful teaching. Partial obedience is clearly disobedience. No grey area. May God help us to live in total obedience. And may our hearts be willing and acceoring of His leading! Amen! 🙏😇.
    Thank you for another great blog! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this in-depth look at Sauls actions. May all Christians take note, giving God our full obedience rather than following Saul’s acts of partial obedience. I pray we derive no pleasure or even short-term good in partial obedience. May it be as offensive to us as it is to the Lord God Almighty.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just now got a chance to read this more carefully. Like others have said, this is a wonderful explanation of Saul’s partial obedience to God and the tragic results. As I recall, God was displeased that Israel 🇮🇱 wanted a human king-instead of Him. He warned them that something like this would happen. One fallen human with absolute power is NEVER a good idea. Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is no in-between with God about obedience. We either follow Him or not and even though we cannot be perfect in our obedience to Him, there should be a sincerity in the desire to follow Him entirely.
      Thank you David. I appreciate your insights.
      Blessings to you as well 😊.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Obedience to the Lord is what we should always aim to do. He is always trying to keep us on the right path and lead us into what is best. Thanks Manu for sharing another blessed lesson! ❤️🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Whaaaaat!! such a sincere rebuke from God.

    Saul’s story used to be my favorite in primary school, as a young girl, I but never thought about partial obedience. you just made me realize that Today, I only felt he must have been dishonest to an omnipresent God.

    Just like Ananias and Sapphira.

    And imagine, any christian who claims they are not a victim of this is a LIAR.We are ALL victims of partial obedience may the Lord help me.

    My dad’s mantra which I also borrowed is, Obedience is better than sacrifice’

    May we learn to obey the Lord FULLY.

    God bless you, this one here is BIG!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right when you say that we are all victims of partial obedience to God.
      Your dad’s mantra is good, that is the right approach. As we become more aware as He grows us in our faith, may we in His strength obey Him fully.
      Thank you for always encouraging me dear sis 😊💙.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.
      I too am guilty of partial obedience. It is important to know than to just let it slide. And God does reveal things to us along our spiritual journey to further refine us. And as we grow in our faith and become more aware of these things, with prayer and in His strength we can grow in our complete obedience of Him.
      He wants a willing heart and not a perfect record.
      Blessings to you 💙.


  13. Excellent post and a great reminder for all of us! The beautiful thing about obedience to God is that, although it may be difficult at times, it is never a burden. “For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
    If we find it difficult to be obedient we should work on strengthening our love for Jehovah God. That love can and will move us to be obedient in all things. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I love what you pointed out that obedience may be difficult at times but never a burden. For when love for God is strong within us we will desire the things that are pleasing and according to His will.
      Thank you for sharing that.
      Blessings 😊💙


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