God’s Word is filled with God telling people to make some extraordinary sacrifices. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only promised son. Does God make this request of us? While it is certainly possible for God to ask someone to sacrifice a family member, I don’t think that it is his will for the majority of people (and if you think he’s calling you to do that, please be ABSOLUTELY sure you know it’s God giving the direction…but that’s a topic for another day).
In 1st Samuel chapter 15, King Saul led Israel into battle against the Nation of Amalek. In verse 3, God’s instructions are clear:
Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys. (NLT)
So, Saul led the army into battle. They wiped out the nation. The only person left alive was the King Agag (verse 8) and all of the best sheep, goats, cattle, and lambs which were brought back as plunder (verse 9). The next section after Israel defeated the nation of Amalek? God is upset with Saul and says to Samuel:
I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command. (verse 11)
When Samuel went the next day to find Saul, Saul’s reason for bringing back the plunder were noble…he was having the warriors sacrifice them to God (verse 21). Saul even had the nerve to, in response to Samuel’s repeat of God’s instructions, say that he did in fact obey God, except…(verse 20). It is then that Samuel gives the great instruction about obedience vs. sacrifice (which was also turned into a great lyric by Keith Green).
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” (vv 22 and 23)
Does God want your sacrifices? Of course, if he’s asked you to make them. Does God desire everyone to be poor and destitute? Despite the teachings of some, there is nothing in the Bible which indicates that is in any way his desire for all of us. What God desires more than anything is your obedience to His instructions.