Posts Tagged obey

The Plan of Blessing

Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 8

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.
5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
6 “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
7 “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.
8 The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

I know the verses today are long but you’ve just got to know what was in God’s mind. You need to see His plan for you and it is spelled out very well in the passage above. This isn’t even all of it. The blessing continues for another six verses.

I am always surprised when people talk about the God of the Old Testament as mean, angry and vengeful. Have they read the Old Testament? Do fourteen verses of blessing sound vengeful? Besides, the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God. “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change,” (Psalm 55: 19).

We saw yesterday that God had a plan for our well-being. His master plan for us was blessing upon blessing. How can you beat being blessed coming in and going out. How about, blessed in the country and blessed in the city? It is like saying you will be blessed when the sun is up and when it is down. Or, you will be blessed when you breathe in or when you exhale. That was God’s plan for you and is His plan for you. He has not changed, neither has His plan. So why aren’t more of us abundantly blessed.

There is a four letter word in answer here, “obey.” What an awful little word that is to so many of us, but let’s get a revelation of this. God is trying to get the blessing to us but we are busy trying to figure out how to be in neither the country nor the city, neither inside or outside. I often think of the Pony Express in these situations. If the Pony Express riders did not follow the prescribed path, if they didn’t go the way they were told, then they would have missed the waystation which held their provisions and fresh horse. We are like that rider sometimes. We don’t follow Dad’s instructions and then when we end up in the desert, hungry and thirsty we grumble and complain. We blame Him. All the while, His labor was spent pouring out the blessing. Your ship may well be in but you are in the desert instead of at the port. That is the purpose of obedience, to insure that we are in the right place at the right time.

Look at God’s plan, it was (and is) one of blessing. He isn’t trying to break you, hurt you or make you stronger. He is trying to fulfill His plan for good. His plan was not for calamity or trials but for blessing. Let this sink in, then think back to the last thing God told you to do and jump on it. It is part of the blessing.

Obedience

Isaiah 1: 19

“If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land.”

Pastor, this is one of the quickest ways to empty out the pews; talk about obedience. The very fastest is to teach on tithing, which I did yesterday. However, we must move into what I call “Grown-up Christianity” and I pray that all of the pastors who read today’s devotion are blessed with mature Christians who can hear the Word of God.

Look, there is good news attached to obedience. That is why Isaiah has sent us this word. We don’t have to cringe when we hear the word “obey” because there is blessing tied to it. Hooray! Now let’s just apply some simple logic to this. If I obey God; if I do what He instructs me to do, is it reasonable to expect that good things are going to happen for me? Well of course! Whenever we walk down the path He directs us to, it will always lead to provision and blessing. I have said this before but I imagine the old Pony Express in the American west. Those riders followed a prescribed path. Why? Their provision was there. They had the freedom to go any way they chose but the waystation with the food and fresh horse was on the suggested trail. That is what this passage means to me. When we consent and obey, when we do as the Father has instructed, then the natural consequence of that action is that we eat the best of the land. Isaiah is just trying to get us blessed. He is simply saying that if we will do what God has said, we will benefit.

Now, doesn’t that make obedience a bit more palatable?

The Tail of the Snake

Exodus 4: 2 – 4

And the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he [Moses] said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail” – so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand.

I wonder how much time elapsed between when Moses fled and when he picked up the serpent by its tail. I think most of us would have fled when the staff turned into a serpent. What distinguishes Moses from many of us is that he did grab the serpent’s tail. 

Has God ever told you to do something that made absolutely no sense? What was your reaction? I know what I would have done if I was in Moses’ position. I would have said to myself, “That cannot be God telling me to grab the snake. Surely God wouldn’t tell me to grab a snake by the tail.” I would have talked myself out of it. There is an important life lesson in here. God is trying to lead us into the promised land but too many of us don’t obey His commands. When God told me to close my law practice and go into full time ministry I reasoned and thought until I talked myself out of following God. I convinced myself that I was not hearing God’s voice. It took a major event before I conceded that I was being led to leave the practice of law. I reasoned myself out of obedience. Looking back I can see that God had been nudging me for quite a while and I just couldn’t or wouldn’t hear Him. We will never get where we want to go if we do not follow God’s instructions. The road to the promised land is always paved with obedience.

When I think about some of the ridiculous things that God told people in the Bible stories to do it makes me laugh. The thing that makes them great stories, though, is that the people obeyed God and followed those outlandish directions. How many would-be Bible heroes do you think missed inclusion in the greatest book of all time because they reasoned away the instructions of God? Well, just be grateful that I wasn’t the one who was told to grab the snake’s tail. The nation of Israel would still be in Egypt. However, you could be the next great spiritual hero. Just do what God says. Don’t question His logic. Don’t reason. Just be a child and trust your Dad.

Jesus Reveals Himself

John 14: 21, 23 – 24

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

What powerful words from our Lord Jesus! One thing you might find interesting is discovering how many times the Lord spoke about words. It is quite fascinating. In this passage Jesus makes an outstanding promise to us. To paraphrase; if we will keep Jesus’ commandments then he and the father will love us AND Jesus will show himself to us. Those seem like enormously great promises. One of the techniques you can use in helping you glean fullness from scriptures is to look at the reward and work backward. I want Jesus and the Father to love me. I want Jesus to reveal himself to me so all I have to do is to look backward and I can see what I need in order to see that promise fulfilled. It is honoring the words of Jesus that yield the reward. We begin by reading our Bibles but we do not stop there. Reading the Bible is great but think about it for a moment, a lot of folks read the Bible who are not Christians. That which makes us Christians is the implementation of what we read in the Bible.

We can work backward in the second part of the passage as well. When we do so we discover that those who do not obey Jesus’ teachings do not love him. This might cause us each to pause and consider our ways. Are we following Jesus’ teachings? If we do not then do we really love Jesus? Do we say we love Jesus but fail to do the things that show that love? Has our love grown cold? 

These verses certainly cause me moments of quiet contemplation. We might very well ask, “What are these words, teachings and commandments that we are supposed to be obeying.” Well, I say start with the red letters and work your way out. Every word in the Bible is divine because Jesus is the word. He has given us each of the books of the Bible in order to teach us vital lessons, sometimes even what not to do. When all is said and done, though, you will find all of Jesus’ teachings encapsulated in the One Commandment, the commandment of love but it takes the whole book including the divine revelations given to Paul and John for us to even know what love means much less how to walk in a command to love.

Further, when we understand that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus then we should embrace immediately Jesus’ statement that the words that he speaks are not his own. He spoke what he heard the father speak. This is a good model for us as well. Once we learn what Jesus spoke and how he spoke, once we connect with Jesus inside of us, then perhaps we can say that the words we speak are not our own but rather those given us by our savior and Lord.  

Ultimately, when we heed the words that Jesus gave us, the words of life, then we experience the life of Christ growing within us. When we honor his commandments with obedience we give permission for our life in Christ to swell and fill us. As we give way from our ideas to God’s ways the love of God and of His dear son fill us and we will see Jesus revealed to us. More importantly, others will see Jesus revealed through us. Amen.