Samuel is a man who understood hearing from God and obeying His word. Samuel was a child longed for then dedicated to God. He had a mother that had yearned and prayed to have him, then gave Him back to God for His service. She prayed over him and brought him new clothes every year. I am sure she was checking up on her precious son. She wanted him to be used of God.
In 1 Samuel 3:1-19 we can read about young Samuel. His mother had given him back to the Lord. He was there to be raise by and serve Eli the priest. One night he heard God calling him. He thought it was Eli and ran to him. This happened three times. Eli realized that God was speaking to Samuel and told him to say "Speak for your servant hears."
Samuel responded to God and heard from God. When Eli asked him about what God had said, he was afraid to tell Eli the prophecy. Eli encouraged him to not hold back and speak God's word. From that time on, he heard from God, listened and obeyed. His life was spent speaking the Word of God to the people and individuals as God directed. Samuel was used of God to anoint kings, direct their actions and declare the blessings and curses of Almighty God.
He did not let any of His words fall to the ground.
Later Samuel gave directions from God to Saul. Saul was to wipe out an entire city. While this may seem harsh, God knew that if that did not happen, there would be dire consequences later. Saul disobeyed and did not follow God's directions. Saul made excuses and even tried to say they were saving the things they kept to offer as a sacrifice to God. Samuel declared that obedience is better than sacrifice and that Saul had lost the kingdom and the blessings of God.
Samuel was able to see that obedience to God brought good blessings or consequences and that disobedience brought destruction or negative consequences.
Just like we make rules as parents to protect our children, God has laws to protect his children, us.
He does not have laws just to be mean or controlling. He has laws that are in our best interest. He wants to keep us safe from harm and hurt. Saul's disobedience led to a man later trying to wipe out all the Israelites in the kingdom. You can read in Esther that Haman was an Agagite. Haman was a descendant of the King Agag that Saul had allowed to live a little longer. Our disobedience always has consequences.
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
1 Samuel 15:22
So 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 heed than the fat of rams.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandments He gave this answer:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
I often tell my kids that I want them to obey me just because they love me. I want them to listen to me out of love and respect, not out of fear or just because they might earn something. That is what God wants. He wants us to choose to obey His word, read His word, talk to him out of love for Him and respect for who He is. He doesn't want a bunch of sacrifices that mean nothing. He wants our love.
That's why Jesus said:
John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.
I am pleased when my children obey. I want to please God by obeying His commands. I want to show Him I love him through my obedience. It is not a sense of obligation, a requirement of the church, or a way to show off my religiousness that should be my motivation.
My motivation should be purely obedience in response to the love of my Savior and my love in return.
That doesn't always make it easy.
Samuel was afraid. Fear, difficulty and frustration can deter us at times from obedience. Our own desires and feelings can interfere. But in the end, we must find it in our hearts that obedience is better than sacrifice. God just wants to be pleased with us. He wants us to obey. He wants us to be safe and blessed. He is a good Father.