Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Week Twenty-Eight - Obeyed

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  Hebrews 11:8
“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.  Genesis 22:18
Simple and strict obedience is the characteristic of Abraham. Genesis chapter twelve records that he heard the voice of God telling him to leave his home and go out into the wilderness by faith alone. To leave the comfort and security of a city and go out as a nomadic wanderer with no definite direction seems an absurd idea. He would have to live in a tent and always be in danger of robbers.  But Abraham’s faith meant that no danger or difficulty would deter him.  Obediently, he went out – not knowing whither he went.
He had only one promise in this venture and it was a futuristic promise:  In him would come a great nation, a great name, and abundant blessing.
Now….let’s just put ourselves in the shoes of those around Abraham.  His father has just died.  We might think Abraham is simply acting out of grief. Or, that he is in denial.  He might be trying to run away from some responsibility or accountability.  No matter what label we put on it, we would not think this is a good idea.
When people surrender their lives to following God’s will or plan, we sometimes have this same reaction.  We look for reasons why they might be taking such a deviation from the norm.  They “got religion” we might say, or, “lost their heads”.  But the truth of the matter is that they simply chose to obey God.  They are going out with only the promise – “and lo, I will be with you…”  It is strictly a faith matter.
Just as Abraham was blessed because of his obedience, they, too, can rest assured that God will bless.  He will bless obedience.  Don’t be thinking that it can be any other way.  God does not bless so we will obey, He blesses because we obey.
Abraham saw only a glimpse of the fulfillment of his God-given promise.  We, too, may not see all God will do with our obedience, but that does not negate the promise.  God’s blessing is there for those who choose to simply and strictly obey.
Are you an obedient Christian?  Would you be willing to simply and strictly obey God’s call and design for your life?  Would you go out – not knowing what the future might require?

“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.”  I Samuel 15:24
Poor Saul is an example of the opposite of strict obedience.  He was always cutting corners and coming short of the mark.  Excuses were his resort.  It was always someone else’s fault that he failed to obey.
Keep in mind that Saul knew what was right.  He knew the command of God to destroy everything of the Amalekites.  But he chose to take Agag the king alive.  Then, he and the people took the best of the livestock for themselves.  Now, the people also knew the command of God.  They were complicit in the act.  Saul was the leader; they were the cohorts.   When Samuel arrives on the scene and hears the bleating of the sheep he knows the truth of the matter and makes this statement:  “…behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
There is no place for Saul to justify his actions. Just as he had chose to reject the word of the Lord, the Lord has chosen to reject him from being king.  (I Samuel 15:26)
God is serious about obedience.  He is clear about what He expects from us.  He does not mince words.  Saul’s instructions were clear.  It was pride and arrogance that made him decide that his way was better than God’s.  It was rebellion and stubbornness that made him choose to cream off something for himself and ignore God’s command.
To obey our own idea, or the voice of others instead of following what we know is revealed in Scripture is a sign of pride and arrogance in our own lives.  Rebellion and stubbornness are paths that lead to destruction and great disappointment.  We will not lose our salvation, but we will lose the blessing of God and many times our testimony and position.  Better to obey than sacrifice!
Are you trying to get around God’s direct commands?  Do you think God will overlook your little indiscrepancies?  Does your heart buck when you are given instructions that go against your own plan?  It’s a sign of pride and rebellion – better be cutting that out!  It will cost you.

 “And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.”  Jeremiah 35:18-19
God is using the family on Jonadab to paint a picture for Israel.  He comes to Jeremiah and instructs him to bring the family of Jonadab into the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.  Jeremiah obeys.  But the response of the sons of Jonadab is not what Jeremiah is expecting.  “We will drink no wine; for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any; but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.”
These sons, no doubt fully grown men, were keeping the commands of their father.  No one in their family drank wine and they had never settled into a permanent dwelling.  They obeyed their father.
This was a live illustration of how Israel should have been obeying God.  “…notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me…” says the Lord.  God, the Father, is to be obeyed.  And the children of Israel were failing miserably.  Though God spoke and spoke, they chose to ignore Him.
The book of Proverbs is full of references to obeying the words of the father.  We see also the blessing for those who keep the words of their fathers and who live lives that are honouring to their parents.  Jonadab had set a standard for his family, and they were keeping it, Israel was not.
How many times do we throw off the instruction of our parents once we are adults?  Or even as we look at society we can see the whole thing shifting from what once were accepted norms, decorum and respect?  However, the sons of Jonadab stood strong.  They were obedient and God gave them a promise – the family would never be without a man to stand before God.  They were not priest or Levites, but their obedience had brought them into direct blessing.  God honours obedience!

 “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”  I Peter 3:6
Now…you will probably not hear a wife of today going around calling her husband, “lord”.  It just isn’t in our culture!  And, we can be thankful that the Bible does not even ask us to do this!  Imagine!
But we are still commanded to obey our husbands.  When you think about Abraham, a man of great faith and called a friend of God, you might think that he would surely be a man easy to obey.  But when you read the story you will find that Sarah was asked to obey in some rather doubtful and odd situations.
First, he announces that they are to leave the family behind and go out camping.  He doesn’t even know where they are going to camp, or what is to be the final destination!  Then, when he is fearful in facing Pharaoh, he denies that Sarah is his wife and lets her go into the king’s haram.  She obeys!  Not once, but twice.  Because a few years later this same fear brought Abraham to choose once again to deny her as his wife and turn her over to the King of Gerar.
This couple makes for a strange illustration of obedience.  They did obey God, but they were not perfect.  They disagreed and they struggled with God’s plan for their lives.  They even tried to “fix” things for God.  Yet, God says of Sarah, “she judged him faithful who had promised.”  (Hebrews 11:11)
This must be true in order to have real obedience.  We have to believe that the one we are obeying knows what is going on and is able.  She believed God was able. 
I like the phrase, “not afraid with any amazement.”  Sarah faced some amazing situations, but by faith she chose to trust God and simply obey.  She did not let fear cause her to disobey. 
What about you?  When your husband asks for obedience do you balk and squawk?  Are you fearful and second-guessing?  Or, are you able to trust God?  No one said obeying is easy – but it necessary.

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD, she drew not near to her God.  Zephaniah 3:2
“And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: there fore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them…”   Jeremiah 32:23
“But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.”  Jeremiah 17:23

Obeyed not.  We have to look at this.  Since obedience is a choice, we must face the fact that sometimes people choose not to obey.
In each of these verses Israel is the offender.  Israel chose not to obey her Lord.  You can read her history of disobedience in full glory throughout the Old Testament.  Then, in the New Testament you can read again of her choice to deny her Messiah.  The Bible uses words and phrases like stiff necked, stubborn, dull of hearing, blind, etc. to describe Israel as she disobeyed.
Sadly, these same adjectives can be applied to those of us today who still choose to disobey the Lord.  If you take a look at these verses you will see that the Lord has truly tried to make the choices plain.  He says he has given instruction, given His law, tried correction and spoken, but the disobedient refuse to hear and obey.  They will not trust Him.  They will not draw near.  They will not hear.
What can we do?  Not much.  A person must choose to obey.  To any real profit, you cannot make them obey.  Proverbs 13:15 says, “…but the way of the transgressors is hard.”  Evil will come to them.  They will not prosper nor find the happiness they seek.  (Proverbs 11:21, 27, 29)  God cannot bless or honour disobedience.
What can we do?  We can strive to be obedient ourselves.  Our example and the blessing of the hand of God upon our lives will be a light.  Those that choose to live righteously/obediently bring blessing to those around them.  Their prosperity is a benefit to all.  (Proverbs 11:10, 11)
Is there any area of your life where you are choosing to be disobedient?  Tithing, forgiveness, faithfulness, service?  We can be obedient in the big things, and disobedient in the smaller things.  Consider your choices.  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

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