Being obedient does not come easily. Doing as one is told does not seem to happen without a struggle for me, for most of the people I know or for the dogs which people try to train to be obedient.
We used to have a dog named Belle. While she was a nice dog and we loved her a lot, she was hopelessly disobedient in a few areas. Can you guess which ones? Yes – the important ones. She could make messes in the house. Even if we kept her in a crate she might still make a mess. Punishing her was a bit of a lot cause. Although she did make progress, we were not able to keep her for long enough to really see her obedience develop fully.
Still, it was incredibly frustrating for my wife and I to both go out to work, return home and be immediately confronted by a mess. Disobedience is not pleasant where faeces are involved.
On the other hand, obedience is great fun! Now we do not have a dog. My wife and I have three children.
They are somewhat more complicated than dogs.
Our children can be disobedient sometimes. Well, two of them can. The youngest is still too young to actually be disobedient – she only knows how to cry, eat, make messes and look beautiful. The other two, though, know how to defy their parents. Rather than mentioning very much about their disobedience, can I let you know how cool it is when they do stuff right? It really is great fun!
Obedience gets kind of a negative spin in the Christian world today. When people talk about the kingdom of God or Christianity it is usually all about love, relationships and your best life now kind of stuff. Jesus becomes sort of like ketchup. Everything goes better wth Jesus/ketchup. Yet the Bible consistently talks about obedience.
Then The Glory
In the Bible, Moses was one of God’s premier leaders of the Jews in their early history. Moses defied the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses stuck up for a Jew being beaten. Moses delivered God’s demands to the Egyptian rulers. Moses oversaw the implementation of God’s plagues. Moses led the people in their first Passover and the following flight from slavery. Moses stuck his rod in the sand and watched, from the front row, the waters of the Red Sea roll back and a dry passage appear. Moses was one of God’s heavy hitters.
How did he get to be so great? Could we copy him?
I have a book by Don Carson called “For The Love Of God” (buy it here on Amazon.co.uk). This book is a commentary on the daily reading plan put together by Robert Murray M’Cheyne. In today’s reading, I was direced to Exodus 40, John 19, Philippians 3 and then Proverbs 16. All four of these chapters have something so say about obedience. Perhaps God is trying to get my attention as well as yours?
In Exodus 40, we can read the account of Moses setting up the tent which the Jews used as a focal point of their worship while they were wandering in the desert. If you cannot be bothered reading it, let me tell you what jumped out at me from the pages. Eight times in the text it says Moses did as the Lord commanded him to do.
The turn comes when all of the obedience is finished. In Exodus 40, the thirty-fourth verse reads “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” The result of Moses’ obedience was the presence of God.
Following on from Moses I read from John’s Gospel, in Chapter Nineteen. Jesus is standing on trial before Pilate.
The Jews want to kill him.
Pilate wants to free him.
Jesus wants to obey His Father.
There is an interesting contradiction in the position of the Jews. In one verse, Pilate says to them, “You take Him and crucify Him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against Him.” The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the son of God.”
The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead because their law – which should have come from God, honoured God and helped people to follow God – their law decreed the one who claimed to be God should be killed. They were not seeking proof or an explanation. Their authority was threatened by this man, Jesus, who did not fit in with their plans and so they were going to use a law to kill God which was meant to honour God.
The contradiction comes in a statement the Jewish leaders make shortly afterwards. The Jews were shouting for Pilate to crucify Jesus and so Pilate responded by saying, “Shall I crucify your king?” The Jews answered by saying “We have no king but Caesar.”
If God makes the laws then we follow God as king by following His laws. If we reject His laws and make up our own rules then God is no longer king and we can no longer claim to be in His kingdom.
The Jews gave up God as king so they could be obedient to their own base desire for power. Contrast them with Jesus. Jesus acknowledged God as His king by giving up His life in obedience.
Who are we more like in our obedience?
Religion also gets a bad reputation these days. Christians in the evangelical wing of the church gleefully say to one another or to soon-to-be-confused non-Christians, “I am NOT religious!”
Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines religious:
“Relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.”
So which part of that definition are we not? Which part should be excluded from Christianity? Should we manifest our beliefs? Yes. Should we be faithful to God? Yes. Should we show devotion to God? Yes. Should we acknowledge God as Deity? Yes.
Then we are religious.
“Wait,” one might protest, “I’m just not into all of that religious obedience to rules.”
Here is what I read from Philippians 3: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
The Christian life in the Kingdom of God is not a free for all where everyone gets to do whatever they want as long as no one loses an eye. There is a pattern we are meant to obey and follow.
Let me finish with an obvious connection to make between Moses’ experience of God’s presence and a verse from Proverbs 16, the final chapter in my daily reading.
Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
After Moses had been obedient, Exodus 40:34 reads “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
Our obedience brings God’s presence, glory and blessing into our lives. Anything less is giving the throne to someone else.