A while back, while I was praying and asking God what I should speak about at the home, or write in my blog, I was led to think about obedience. A new book I am trying to write is about obedience by a slave, as well as by his master. It’s based during a time where about half of the population of the day consisted of slaves. Imagine, every other person you met was probably a slave. Slaves were teachers, doctors, administrators of large estates, as well as household servants and field workers. Almost every occupation had slaves working in it. Those were days where obedience was required lest one be flogged or even hanged.
For centuries the rulers were kings, and they held absolute power over everyone in their kingdom. To defy a king was to risk certain death. This attitude was still prevalent when Rome conquered its territories. Only now it was Caesar who acted as an absolute ruler. That attitude trickled down to the large landowners and from there down to anyone who had enough income to purchase a slave. Most slaves were too afraid to try and run away, knowing what would happen when and if they were caught. Rough treatment, or even death of a runaway was done in front of the rest of the slaves for maximum impact.
Treatment of a slave was as varied as were the number of slave owners. Many owners treated their slaves in a humane manner because they felt they got more work out of them. A few drove their people hard, just wanting the maximum effort no matter the cost. Immediate obedience was the slave’s salvation from rough treatment of any kind.
How many people today are obedient? There is such a lack of obedience in families, in the work place, as well as in our churches and synagogues. The Apostle Paul (his Greek name) called it an outpouring of “itching ears.” Church leaders telling their congregations what the people want to hear, not what God wants them to hear. Families are splintering, children are disobedient to parents, teachers, and those in charge. Workers take whatever breaks they feel they can justify, intersperse work with surfing the internet, and ask supervisors to explain or show what is wanted, just so they can stall or put off the actual work time.
Noah was obedient to God when God told him to build an ark because it was going to rain. Even though Noah had never seen rain, he obeyed God, taking 100 years to make it. We are not told of any doubt, just obedience. Enoch was another man who obeyed God so carefully that he didn’t die. Genesis 5: 23. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. He lived 365 years and God took him. That tells me he was true to God all of his life.
Abraham was obedient in the main areas. He, his father Terah, and their families got up and moved at God’s command. After Terah died in Haran, Abraham continued the journey to Canaan with his nephew Lot and all the family. Even with his ups and downs morally, when God told him to sacrifice his only true son Isaac, Abraham got up early the next morning and set out to do just that. God, seeing Abraham’s obedience, saved Isaac and provided another lamb for the sacrifice.
Moses, Joshua, Deborah, and many other judges obeyed God in their walk and leadership of Israel. After several judges, Eli was priest and defacto leader, but he let his sons go astray, so God brought Samuel to guide the people. He led Israel in obedience to God.
In the New Testament, what should be called the New Covenant, we read about many of these people, and more who were obedient. The writer to the Hebrews starts chapter 11 by saying they were obedient to God because of their faith in God. They had faith in God because they took time to get to know Him, and God rewarded their faith. Those rewards, answered prayers, helped the people to grow in their faith.
Dr. Charles Stanley, tells a story about a young sailor in the 2nd World War. His ship was getting ready to engage in battle. The captain asked for a volunteer to climb to the crow’s nest, the basket at the top of the highest mast, and be a look-out for him to send him pertinent information about how things were going and where the other ships were. It was in the open, no shelter in case of enemy fire, and nobody stepped forward until one young man felt God speak to him. He felt God say “I’ll be with you up there just as I am down here.” Mr. Stowe climbed up and did his job, helping his shipmates, the captain, and others in the battle.
Years later, Mr. Stowe was teaching a Sunday School class, and told this story. One student, who came from a chaotic and difficult home situation listened, and was touched. That student was Dr. Stanley. He heard how Mr. Stowe obeyed God, even when it looked dangerous. Mr. Stowe wasn’t hurt, in fact nothing came anywhere near him, and he believed it was because he was obedient to God. Dr. Stanley became an obedient pastor because of this man’s obedience. Who have you touched like that lately? Anyone at all? At any time in the past?
Are you ready to do God’s will, or are you afraid of laughter, sneering, old age, or lies about you? When we fear, listen to Solomon. Ecclesiastes 12:5. also when they are afraid of height, and of terrors in the way; when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets.
Solomon is speaking about the last days of
a person’s life, when nerves give way, and little things become an intolerable burden There are so many things that now come our way that just bug us so much more than they used to. One writer said of this, “There are times when a fly or mosquito is more annoying than the devil himself.” There’s a reason the term “crotchety” is used for older people. Little things tend to bother us more and more. That’s when we need to remember Psalm 43: 5. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
It’s a tremendous help to know for sure that God is in control; He reigns and rules and rejoices when we call to mind His goodness. Our confidence is in what James called “The Father of lights. (James 1: 17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.)
We need that confidence in the Lord God when things look bleak, when troubles overwhelm us, when it doesn’t feel as if God is listening. Our feelings are usually very unreliable when it comes to our relationship with God. He is looking for our trust and our worship. Are you being tested? Is there sin in your life? He is looking for obedience in asking for forgiveness.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: (43: 27-31). Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
I’m sure you can agree with me that some of us can no longer run and not be weary; in fact, I can’t run anymore at all. But I believe God is speaking about out spiritual strength, that strength that comes when we grow weary and want to quit our work for Him. We may tire physically and mentally, but when we obey God, we feel an inner strength, a true blessing from God. We need to make the most of the time that we have here on earth. Remember, life is not about how long you live, but about whether you are living for Christ (God).
But I’m too old, I’m tired all of the time, my voice, my attitudes, my body have all changed and I’m not the person I was 15, 20, 30 years ago. So? What gift has God given you that you can still use? Maybe not in the way you feel comfortable in, but one that can be used for His glory? Personally, I can no longer hit the high or the low notes I used to. My voice is getting scratchy. But it is a blessing to be able to sing at all, to be able to tell people about my loving God, to be able to write something that might affect other people for God. I’m still able to pray for those hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Ecclesiastes 12: 13, says, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.
The Lord God told old Israel, and the new Israel, and Christians alike, that He wants obedience from His people, love from His people, and worship from His people. Are you obeying any of those things He is looking for in us? Jeremiah wrote a verse that has struck me about obedience: Jeremiah 12: 5. “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And, if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the flooding of the Jordan?
When we have done all we can in ourselves, and we have grown so tired of effort, or life, of everything we know about in peace time, how do we keep going? We turn to God in obedience, in trust, in asking for renewal of our spirits. He is just waiting for us. He will supply all of our needs. That’s His promise to those who believe in Him.