Doing What God Says
As God, through the ages, has unfolded the history of his plans to redeem his creation, he has worked with man under different laws such as patriarchal law, Mosaic law and Christian law. To this was sometimes added other specific commands from God through the prophets down to the point that John’s baptism was added to prepare the way for the Lord. And finally, Jesus made out his last will and testament and brought it in effect by willing laying down his life and accepting our suffering so that we might live eternally. God’s giving and making of laws for man came to an end with the New Testament. It is His final and complete revelation for man.
Through all of those different laws God has given to man, through all of the personal requirements he made of various men such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon and John the baptizer, through all of the work of the prophets and throughout all the Christian age, two expectations have always been part of every command of the unchanging God – – faith and obedience. This month in the Joshua Generation we are emphasizing our response to God’s demand of obedience.
Consider this constant demand of obedience from the very beginning. Adam and Ever learned too late (though they were already warned) that God expected exact obedience (Gen. 3). God told Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). Noah’s generation ignored the preaching of God for over a hundred years and suffered the consequences of the loss of life and soul (Gen. 6:17). It was the lack of righteousness (obedience) that brought about the destruction of the cities with Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). Nothing has changed. God demands obedience.
Neither time nor circumstances negates or softens a command of God. In Gen. 17:9-12, God establishes, by verbal agreement, circumcision as the sign of the covenant/promise to bless the world through Abraham’s seed. Every male descendant of Abraham was to be circumcised. This verbal agreement was to be kept throughout the history of Abraham’s descendants. At least 7 generations and 400 plus years later, God sought to kill Moses whom he had already chosen as his messenger to Israel (Ex. 4:24). No excuse, not the circumstances of Moses’ life nor the time since the covenant, could relieve Moses of his obligation as a descendant of Abraham. Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego understood that their capture and enforced servitude did not relieve them from keeping the minute dietary requirements of the Mosaic law of God (Dan. 1:8-17). It took Saul only a moment to find out that peer pressure from the people and the good intentions of sacrifice to God were not reason to ignore the command of God to “utterly destroy the Amalekites” (1 Sam. 15:20-23). Thank God for both the words and example of the apostles as they stood and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), even at the risk of their lives and well being.
There is a quotation that I first heard from the lips of Guy N. Woods as he was preaching in my home congregation in St. Louis when I was a small boy not yet in my teens. For some reason, his lesson and illustration stuck with me. I used the statement and the illustration as a sermon outline early in my preaching career. I have since heard many preachers use both the statement and the illustration Bro. Woods used. It may well have not originated with Bro. Woods.
Bro. Woods was teaching a lesson on Obedience to God. He was trying to explain what obedience is. He said, “Obedience is doing what God says, the way God says and for the reason God says.” Here is the illustration.
A man bought a piece of property and made plans to have a house and barn built and a well dug on the property. He plotted the house, the barn and the well on a map of the property. He then placed the plans and the responsibility for following the plans in the hands of his son. The son accepted the task of fulfilling his father’s wishes in this matter. After looking at the plans and the property, the son’s respect for the father’s wisdom increased. He agreed that his father had chosen the perfect location for the house. He promptly built the house in the exact position the father wanted. As he considered the location selected by his Father for the barn, he again found that his thoughts on the best location were in agreement with his father. He built the barn to his father’s specifications. As he considered the location chosen by his father for the well, he was sure that in this matter, his father had missed considering certain things about the property. The well should actually be in a different location. He had the well diggers dig the well in this new, better chosen location.
Bro. Woods then asked the question of the audience that I ask of you. In which of the three commands, the house, the barn and the well, did the son obey his father? When you understand obedience, your answer will be, “in none of them!” The son actually made himself the authority. He built the house and barn where he did because he thought his father had picked a good spot. His attitude showed when he disagreed with the father over the well and followed his own thoughts rather than respecting the authority of his father. True, he did what the father said. He built the house and barn and dug the well. But he did not do it the way the father said. Consider these passages in connection with the three parts of the statement. Obedience is:
Doing what God says: Salvation is for those who obey God (Heb. 5:9). Vengeance will be taken on those who do not obey (2 Thess. 1:7-9). We must live by every word of God (Mt. 4:4)
In the way God says: We are to speak as God speaks (1 Pet. 4:11), build as God directs (Heb. 8:5), worship in truth (Jn. 4:24), neither add to nor take from his word (Rev. 22:18-19).
For the reason God says: Our worship is to be in spirit, that is, to glorify God (Jn. 4:23-24). Our service is to be motivated by love (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Sometimes we obey simply because God says, obey, even though we cannot fathom the reason or see the outcome.
The question for you and I to ask ourselves: Do we obey God?