Thoughtful Thursday: True Obedience

True Obedience is true freedom.png

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God deserves our very best – not because He’s picky, but because He is worthy.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Samuel 13:12

I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt obligated to offer the burnt offering.”

1 Samuel 15:8,9,19-21

“He captured King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but he executed all Agag’s people with the sword. 9 However, Saul and the army spared Agag, along with the best of the flock, the cattle, the fatlings, and the lambs, as well as everything else that was of value. They were not willing to slaughter them. But they did slaughter everything that was despised and worthless.” 19 “Why haven’t you obeyed the LORD? Instead you have greedily rushed upon the plunder! You have done what is wrong in the LORD’s estimation. 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the LORD! I went on the campaign the LORD sent me on. I brought back King Agag of the Amalekites after exterminating the Amalekites. But the army took from the plunder some of the sheep and cattle – the best of what was to be slaughtered – to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Obedience – that ugly word our flesh recoils at. It seems old fashioned. Uptight. Legalistic. Or at least our rebellious culture tells us. But God’s design of authority is intended to be loving and kind, because He sees the dangers of stepping outside the pleasant boundaries He has placed for us.

Saul was doing all the right things. At least from the outside it appeared so. He sought the LORD’s favor and offered a burnt offering. Except his motivation had some problems – first, he felt obligated. Not feeling the love on that attitude. It also smacks of a manipulative kind of obedience – he had to do it and did it to get what he wanted – the favor of God. The only problem is, God sees what is going on in the inside.

God gave a command. Very clear and simple. Exterminate the Amalekites – I know, it sounds cruel, but they were a wicked people and God knew they would turn the hearts of His people. Here we see another problem with Saul’s response. Whether or not Saul understood the “why” to God’s command, he should have fully obeyed, but instead the word tells us that he was “not willing” to slaughter the animals. His will overrode God’s command. Sounds pretty awful, yet we can be guilty of the same thing.

Rationalizing the grey areas away when the Holy Spirit convicts us is no less of an obedience issue than Saul’s. In the name of freedom we can redefine what God has said, yet we are shackling ourselves to the chains of compromise instead. Turns out partial obedience is not obedience at all.

Samuel later said it was the motivation of greed that was a stumbling block, as well. Saul made it appear pious by saying he spared the sheep so he could sacrifice them to God, but half truths don’t stand to well before a Holy God. You just can’t fool Him. He will not be mocked.

Fear also cropped up as a valid reason why it was ok to twist God’s word. Didn’t God see the vast army? Surely He would not expect obedience to such a command, would He? Excuses, excuses. Mercy – I understand it, because my flesh likes to excuse itself, as well. Fear points to a lack of trust in the God Who called us in the first place.

Pride was Saul’s downfall, as well, and yet another aspect of Saul’s response that hindered Him from simple obedience. Samuel even finds Saul building a monument to himself. Every time we obey on our terms it leads to big trouble. It is prideful to think that we know better than the Omniscient One, and God knows fully the consequences of trying to accomplish something in the flesh instead of according to His perfect way.

Lastly, Saul pulled the famous “blame game” and scapegoated the army. They were the ones who kept the sheep and items of value. Clever. But the one in charge is responsible for those under his command.

Much like the attitude of Cain, whose offering was not what God required nor his best, we need to guard ourselves from thinking it is okay to define what is acceptable to God on our terms. He is an unchanging Holy God Who deserves our very best – not because He’s picky, but because He is worthy. Worthy of us delighting to obey the One Who created us in the first place.

Lord, please forgive us when we forget Your expectations or try to do things our way. Help us to live lives worthy of how awesome You are and to do things Your way. You know best.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Three: The Law

Gift of Gods law

 

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”

This Christmas, when we think about getting what we want, I am thankful that God in His wisdom does not always give us what we want.  Further, in His mercy, He did not give us what we really deserve – His judgment.

We are all rule breakers in one way or another, often rationalizing our weaknesses away, but God’s righteous standard is held.  He does not leave us in a state of deception, but opens our eyes through His perfect law found in His Word, revealing our sin and need for a Savior.

What a gift – absolute truth – steady, unchanging and Holy in a chaotic relevant world.  In a culture that demands its own way and makes laws to condone its sin, there still stands a righteous standard.

Many feel that this standard set by God steals our freedom and joy, but no greater freedom has anyone than the one who can see his sin that shackles him and can walk away from it.

Even though we could never fulfill God’s commandments perfectly, God in His sovereignty and mercy fulfilled it for us.  His law brought condemnation so we could see our need of Him.

As we visualize ourselves opening these gifts that You have given us, Lord, help us to see Your law at work in our lives and to submit ourselves to Your will in every area of our lives.

 

 

The Progressive Slippery Slope in a Vaccuum

Exodus 24:3

“Moses came and told the people all the LORD’s words and all the decisions.  All the people answered together, ‘We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said.'”

Exodus 24:9-11

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.  But he did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Exodus 32:1

“When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get up, make us gods that will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!”

Exodus 32:4

So Aaron “accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf.  They they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”

Forty days.  The number forty is a common duration for a time of testing many times in the bible.  Forty days of rain on the ark, forty years wandering in the desert, Jesus was tempted fourty days in the desert and Moses was on the mountain forty days, two separate times, hearing the commandments of God, to name a few.  Forty days goes by in a flash in our home.  Months come and go, years fly by.  But I guess to the Israelites, it seemed never-ending.  Certainly if one was suffering significantly, time would drag on.  But to God’s people at the bottom of the mountain, one would think there was great anticipation.  One would think that the meal with God that Aaron witnessed, coupled with thundering on top of the mountain would serve as vivid reminders that Almighty God was very near, indeed.

But somehow in that vacuum, in that moment of dearth, not hearing from God, the people of God longed to fill that void with something.  They wanted to worship, but impatiently accepted a counterfeit.  I wonder if there was a plethora of rationalizing going on – how did they ever arrive at it being acceptable to worship a golden calf in such a short amount of time?  Particularly troubling to me is that Aaron suggested the people donate golden objects and made the calf himself.  He had just encountered the living God.  How could he so quickly be deceived?  Was it peer pressure?  The sheep pressing in on him and he feared them more than God at that moment?  And the sheep – they had just stated that they were willing to do all the words that God had said.

This hypocrisy and seemingly blatant rebellion seems odd until I contemplate my own walk.  Evidence of lukewarmedness and blindness to our own faults can be seen if we are willing to let down our guard of self righteousness and self-protection.  I well recall the early days of my salvation, standing and sharing the gospel to a small crowd at the University of Maryland, being persecuted in class for being a Christian.  I recall many moments of victory in the past twenty-six years through various trials, where God grew my faith exponentially.  Candidly, I also recall being tested severely and beginning to lose my way, save the grace of God.  I started strong – though I was crushed, I would run to His word.  But in the lengthiness of the trial, I began to get confused and wondered when God was going to deliver me.  I began to compromise and look for a counterfeit to relieve my pain.  I am no better than the Israelites.  My trial was seven years of hardship, pressed on every side, not forty days, but I emphathize with the Israelites.  They wanted to follow God, but quickly chose an alternative god to appease their spiritual paucity.  In their moment of being deceived, they could not see clearly and needed a leader to guide them.  Their leader failed.

Humbling to us leaders, it is terrifying to think that we bear the responsibility of leading someone astray.  Shockingly, Aaron lied when confronted with his waywardness.  Somehow a golden calf popped out of the fire.  Wow, really?  As hard as it is to admit that we, too, have gone off the path, it is far better to confess and renounce our shortcomings and move forward in the new humility gained from our failure.  The former pride at imperceived righteousness that was our own, has been replaced with the knowledge of our own failure, which reminds us that it has never been our own righteousness, after all.

If you are a leader or a believer who has fallen short, you stand in a great cloud of witnesses who have also gone before us and failed.  David, too, a man after God’s own heart, murdered and committed adultery, yet later he would cry out to God in Psalm 51, for God to “restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me”.  It is easy to get lost in the vacuum or in severe trials and forget our mission and purpose in Christ.  But those mistakes, those blemishes we wish could be removed from our record are actually a means of grace to humble us and can make us more useful for the kingdom of God.  Thank God for second chances and His grace.

Maybe you have not yet endured a severe time of testing.  If not, count yourself blessed, but be ready.  Times of dryness, of not hearing from God can be around the next corner – will you cave in to comfort around you, or wait as long as it takes until you encounter the living God?  We might not have a warning sign cautioning us that the potential to slip is ahead, but we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us, if we listen.

Lord, I want to be near to You always.  I never want to drift away and walk in a manner that displeases you.  Please grant us grace to be aware of spiritual dangers that lie ahead and to walk humbly before you.  Help us to remember all You have done and to not forget when the heat is turned up or You seem far away.