‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.’ Hosea 6:6
When - in our lives - there is nothing more to be found of God than some knowledge of God’s laws and some religious ethics, then we strayed far from everything God intended for us in His great love, when through Christ He opened up again the way to the full communion with Him. Only when we realize how small we are, we can experience this love from God. Arrogance and self-confidence chill the communion with God. Then only laws and rules remain and we abide by them according to our own insights and possibilities.
When Saul forgot his smallness and interpreted the blessing of God as his own achievement, he failed to promptly complete the tasks God asked of him. A little less obedience is not as obvious as open rebellion, but it is much more condemnable. For we read in the Bible that God always finds ways to bring back rebellious children, but those who pretend to be obedient but - meanwhile - go secretly their own ways, those He rejects!
Who deems God’s word acceptable or condemnable according to his own insights, is someone filled with arrogance. Criticism of the Bible mostly stems from idolization of our own insights.
God does not impose His authority on us, but calls for us to subject ourselves to His will. He who learns to bow down before the word of God in this way will be blessed and guarded by God against many deceptions.
Really, even if we gave over our bodies to hardship, even if we devoted all the days of our life to the study of scripture… we would gain nothing. Only in the loving devotion to Him, we learn to listen and gladly obey, because the way He points out to us grants real life.