Another example is Saul. God commanded him to wipe out the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, yet Saul did not obey the voice of the Lord leaving cattle and Agag the king alive. When Samuel comes to know of this, his reaction is telling:
1 Sam. 15:22-23 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. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and Idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”
Saul uses the excuse that he had spared the cattle for sacrifice to the Lord, but Samuel knew better, he was motivated and moved by the people (1 Sam. 15:24). Notice that this passage does not say that the Lord has completely no delight, but rather “as great delight”, it compares the delight of the Lord in sacrifices and obedience. The Lord had given Saul a moral command to wipe out the Amalekites and all that belongs to them, but he despised the word of the Lord and did not fulfill it, using the pretense that he would have used the animals for sacrifice. Samuel rebukes Saul for his rebellion declaring that God has greater delight in obedience rather than sacrifice. In fact, “to obey is better than sacrifice”, herein we see clearly the division of the law, it may not be a “threefold” division in this passage, but there is certainly a division between the moral and the ceremonial law wherein the moral law has primacy. To me, this alone is a clear testimony to the division of the Mosaic Law even when it was administered, and not only that but that the believers themselves were conscious of this division.
The Division Of The Law In The New Testament
The Lord Jesus
The Summary of the Law
Did the Savior in His lifetime treat the Decalogue as the sum of the moral law and thus above the ceremonial and judicial laws? I believe that the answer is yes and I am indebted to Dr. Ross’ discussion on pp. 154-160 on this question. It is generally accepted that the Savior summarized the law in two commandments: 1) the love of God and 2) the love of neighbor. We read
Matt. 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The first commandment comes from the Shema, which religious Jews to this day recite every day (Deut. 6:4-5). There, we are told that there is but one God and that we should love this one God with everything that we have. This summarizes the first four commandments which are about 1) the exclusivity of that one God, 2) the right worship of that one God, 3) the honoring of that one God and 4) the public worship of that God. The first four commandments are expressions of what it means to love God with everything that we have and are.
The second commandment, given by the Savior, is that of loving our neighbor. The commandment is ancient and given by God to Israel all the way back in Leviticus:
Lev. 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.