Why do We Obey?
Read: 2 Chronicles 30:1-27
This week, we followed up on some paperwork that is necessary to finalize an insurance claim. It has taken longer than I originally thought it would; however, after signing a form and sending what is necessary to complete things, I believe we are about finished with our part of the process. The lady who was helping us was pleasant and explained the next steps we should take, and we did what we were asked to do. You could say that we obeyed the rules because we wanted to receive what we were entitled to. It was simply a business transaction. There are lots of circumstances in life that mirror the one we dealt with this week. We do a prescribed task in the prescribed way in order to reap a benefit. We obey the rules, and after we do that, we obtain the promised fruit of our obedience.
I remember a wife on a talk show many years ago who had that kind of relationship with her husband. She kept records of all her work done at home and all that she did that was for his benefit. She expected to receive equal "pay" back from him. They were on the program because she believed that her efforts weren't providing her with the benefit from her husband that she deserved. That's what it looks like when we do what is good or right for what we can receive, rather than out of love.
I'm so thankful that God doesn't want obedience from His loved children that is merely based on a "have to do it" relationship. Too many people have the false notion that the Savior watches for our failures and sins so that He can treat us with cruelty. Instead of that, He desires that all will truly know His love and how He longs to provide forgiveness rather than punishment, John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:18. He wants our obedience; however, the Lord doesn't want it to spring out of a formal loveless relationship. So, what does the obedience Jesus wants from us look like? Where is its source?
One thing I love about the obedience God desires is that it springs out of His love for us. In many scriptures, God reminds us that He is the One Who has sought a loving relationship with us. We have never been the initiators, 1 John 4:9-10; Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 2:4. God has never asked us for obedience to His Word and ways until He first has made Himself known to us and filled us with His love. God's love was poured out into our lives before we learn what it looked like to live a life of obedience.
So, obedience is the fruit of a life that has begun to understand God's love. Ephesians 3:18-19 is Paul's prayer that we begin to comprehend this love. As we grow and experience it, we will naturally want to learn what pleases Him, Ephesians 5:8-10. Obedience and thankfulness should be the result of our understanding more and more about God's love for us.
Another thing I love about the obedience that God desires from us is that Jesus modeled it for us. Jesus' obedience unto death was planned not forced or the result of man's choice, John 10:17-18. The plan was in place even prior to its having been revealed in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:15; 1 Peter 1:19-20. Jesus also wanted the world to know that His obedience was based on His love of the Father, John 14:31. Again, obedience sprang out from love.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus' obedience also sprang out of the joy He would have after enduring the cross. We Who are now His children, 1 John 3:1 are a part of the joy Jesus experienced. He knew whom He would purchase; so, He could endure the cross in spite of the shame He despised.
One more thing to highlight today concerning the obedience God desires. It often results in great joy as was the case in 2 Chronicles 30:1-27. It is in this chapter that we watch as King Hezekiah led his people into obedience and repentance. They hadn't celebrated the Passover as God had directed them to do; so, Hezekiah sent out couriers to invite people from both the Northern and Southern tribes to come to the celebration. They were called to come humbly before the Lord. Even though many mocked at the invitation, others came to honor and obey God. When they obeyed, all who participated received great mercy from the Lord and experienced His joy. They even extended the Passover feast for an additional week. The fruit of obedience was a time of refreshing and rejoicing as well as repentance. I love that obedience isn't a time of gritting the teeth and clenching the hands because of coercion. No, when it comes from a willing heart, there is joy.
This week, I once again heard Corrie Ten Boom. It was a classic recording where she shared about having been in three concentration camps during World War II. Her family hid Jews and saved many lives; however, they were betrayed for 600 Gilders, and most of them died in the camps. After the war, Corrie was speaking about the love of Jesus. That was when she was approached by one of the guards who had been so cruel, especially to her sister Betsy who had died only a week prior to Corrie's release. She related that deep hatred entered her heart upon recognition of this man. Why did he approach her? He wanted her to know that he had received Jesus’ forgiveness. He wondered if she might possibly extend her forgiveness to him? Right then, she knew she had a choice to make. What would she do? She asked God to fill her with the love for this man that she knew was in her heart because of the Holy Spirit's presence, Romans 5:5. God did it! Her obedience brought great joy and her honest offer of forgiveness to the guard. Her willingness to be obedient brought God's power for Corrie to carry out His will.
Lord, Thank You that You are at work in Your children to make us willing and to help us do what You desire, Philippians 2:12-13. Even so, sometimes we sin by not obeying You; so thank You for Your forgiveness and cleansing when we fall short, 1 John 1:9.