Disobedience is the opposite of obedience.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are many instances where the nations of Israel and Judah were disobedient to God. Eventually they were punished for this, but it was only for a time, after which there was a restoration.
There’s much about God we don’t know. For a society that craves knowledge and desires to fully understand things, what we don’t know about God can cause frustration. This keeps many people from embracing God. They want all their questions answered before they say “Yes” to Jesus and follow him. But that’s not faith; that’s a sure thing – and we need to live by faith.
The Bible reveals some truths about God, while keeping other aspects secret. It’s easy to fixate on what we don’t know, frustrated over questions and a lack of clarity on things hidden. But this misses the point.
There are things we do know about God, things the Bible teaches us. Let’s focus on them. In these areas, God expects us to do what he says.
We’re not supposed to worry about what we don’t know, but we do need to obey him in what we do know.
God gave the Promised Land to the descendants of Abraham, not because they deserved it, but to use them to punish other nations who were wicked. After he gave them the territory, their job was to drive out the other people (thereby punishing them). Though the nation of Israel did this to some extent, their efforts were incomplete. This was to their detriment and God’s dismay.
God also gave them laws to obey. They didn’t do a good job at following through with those either. Had they completely done all God instructed them to do, he would have given them even more territory: this time because they earned it. Sadly they didn’t do their part, so they never received all the land God wanted to give them. The Promised Land could have been bigger, but because of disobedience, the nation missed the full blessing of what God had in mind for them.
I think it’s that way with us sometimes. God wants to give us more, but we don’t do our part to receive it and so we miss out.
When the people of Israel were in the desert, God provided manna for their daily sustenance. He gave them some basic instructions about collecting the manna, but some people didn’t listen – or at least they didn’t do what God said.
He warned them not to stockpile the manna and try to save some for the next day. Those who did, found their hoard had become smelly and infested. I think the lesson was to rely on God for their daily bread, in this case manna.
On the day before the Sabbath, God said to collect enough for two days, because the next day was a day of rest. Those who ignored his instruction found no manna on the Sabbath and presumably went hungry. The lesson was for them to rest as God commanded them to do.
God provided for the people, but only those who obeyed him completely realized his full provision.
I wonder how often God does the same with us, trying to provide what we need, only for us to miss out because we don’t do what he says.
Whether or not we realize it, all aspects of our lives include traditions: unexamined habits and mindless rituals. But perhaps traditions most often exist in our approach to God and our worship of him. While some traditions had a positive origin, others were misguided from the start. With little thought we pass our traditions from one person to the next, one generation to another.
Churches often protect their traditions with adamant, unyielding passion – sometimes at the expense of obeying God and doing what the Bible says. This is not a new problem. Jesus addressed this two thousand years ago.
The religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were quick to point out that Jesus’ followers (disciples) broke from tradition. They didn’t bring this up to provide correction but to pronounce condemnation. They thought they could discredit Jesus and embarrass him in front of the people.
Their plan didn’t work. Jesus foiled them. He declared that what the Bible said took precedence over their traditions. Jesus put his detractors and their ideas of what was important in their place.
What are some traditions or rituals that you have jettisoned? What are some traditions that might warrant reconsideration?
Jesus gives a brief story about the interaction between a servant and his master. The conclusion is that the servant should not expect any praise or special treatment for merely doing his job.
So too should be our attitude when we do what God expects of us.
Instead, we — I don’t think I’m alone in this — have a tendency to expect God’s attention and special favor when we merely do what we’re supposed to do. It’s as if we tell him, “Look what I did for you; now you need to do something for me.”
While I do think God appreciates and takes pleasure in the good things we do, he doesn’t owe us anything as a result.
He’s already given us everything through Jesus. What more could we want or need?
In the post “Hear God” we looked at Jesus’ instruction to “hear the word of God and obey it.”
“Hear the word of God” is usually understood to mean “read the Bible,” but it might be more correct to comprehend it as meaning “listen to the Holy Spirit.”
Regardless, the concluding part, to “obey,” is the critical aspect.
When it comes to obeying the Bible, we do so selectively. We take some parts literally and some figuratively. We discard some commands as no longer being relevant and we interpret others from the perspective of modern society. We may obey the Bible, but I fear we all obey it in part.
Then there’s obeying the words, the promptings, of the Holy Spirit. This can be even more confusing. Did we hear correctly? What if we only heard part of the message? Did we understand it fully? Do we interpret the words literally or figuratively?
While we may not hear everything, everything we do hear, we should obey.