The Lord Requires Obedience
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15: 22
Obedience to the Lord is difficult for us because it first requires that we recognize and submit to the authority of the Lord, and then for us to be attentive to Him about what He expects from us, and finally, we then must determine in our hearts to heed His requirements. For most Christians it is easy to accept His love and forgiveness, to receive His many benefits like His guidance and direction for our lives, or His healings of body and mind, and His many blessings. It is much more difficult for Christians to turn over the “reigns” of their life to the Lord totally, submitting to His commandments and instructions in every area.
My purpose in writing this message is to encourage Christians to pay attention to this need to obey the Lord, not only the commandments that are written in His word but also in the things that He has placed upon your heart, and has spoken to you about individually. This is a reminder that obedience is important to the Lord.
Some Christians are confused about obedience, thinking that any one mentioning it as a requirement is being legalistic. This idea is false and is only used as an excuse by those who wish to continue in disobedience.
The New Testament of the Bible does not remove the requirement for obedience to God’s commands, but rather supports it. It first exposes the error of the Old Testament of attempting to be obedient to God without faith, and thinking that this faithless attempt at obedience will merit a place in God’s family and kingdom. The result of this erroneous approach of focusing on obedience without having a true, living faith, is that God’s requirements are eventually either made less important than, or even replaced by, men’s requirements, rituals, and traditions.
Although the Israelites from the time of Moses on were attempting to make themselves right before God by focusing on being obedient to the laws that were given to them through Moses, they failed because they did not have true faith.
“But that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” Romans 9:31-32
J.B. Phillips translation of verse 32:
“And why? Because their minds were fixed on what they achieved instead of what they believed.”
But the error of the Israelites and the later shift in the New Testament to faith and grace, does not remove the requirement that we must be obedient to God’s rules, laws, commandments, etc.
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then releases one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 17-19
On the contrary, the New Testament now gives us the power to keep the laws and commandments of God by giving us a true, living faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We now can walk in the spirit, having the law written on our hearts and doing by nature the things that God requires. By becoming spiritual in nature, we can walk in love, and love fulfills all of the laws of God.
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet.’ And any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10
As Christians, with the Holy Spirit intimately connected with us and abiding in us, our conscience is alive and fully functioning. So rather than focusing on a list of do’s and don’ts, we can now allow our conscience to guide us as we focus on walking in the spirit and walking in love. We need to be assured that our conscience is clear, allowing the Holy Spirit the freedom to show us clearly what needs to be corrected when our conscience is accusing us.
“They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. While their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them” Romans 2: 15
My main point here is to emphasize that Christians need to be mindful of this requirement of obedience and that God expects obedience from us. As stated earlier, this means that we need to recognize and submit to His authority and all authority that has been established by Him, and we must be open to His directions and instructions for us, listening to His voice and heeding it.
There is a very interesting portion of Scripture from the book of Jeremiah that emphasizes this need to be open and aware of the Lord’s instructions and to obey them:
“Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not receive instruction to obey my words?’ says the Lord. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandment. But although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me. I have also sent to you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying “Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.” But you have not inclined you ear nor obeyed Me. Surely the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commended them, but this people has not obeyed Me.”’” Jeremiah 35: 12-16
I find it interesting that God was aware of the obedience of the sons of Jonadab to their father. He is aware and honors our obedience in all circumstances.
As for the error of the Israelites, the Lord says there are two (vs. 15): “But you have not inclined your ear nor obeyed Me.” The two are: 1) not listening, 2) not obeying.
By not “inclining their ear” I assume He means that they were not attentive to His instruction; they didn’t listen for it. I say again, this is the important lesson for us, to be aware of the requirement of obeying His instructions and listening attentively to His voice. Also, we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and our conscience.
One last warning: we are very good at making excuses for ourselves for why we don’t obey the Lord. Don’t deceive yourself. God knows your heart anyway so there is no sense in making excuses.
In 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul was instructed by the Lord to destroy completely or exterminate the Amalekites, but he didn’t do so and was rebuked by the prophet Samuel and was rejected by the Lord. When Samuel confronted Saul, he first made an excuse:
“But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord God in Gilgal.” 1 Sam. 15:21
Samuel’s response was longer than this, but the gist of it was in the above quote at the start of this writing:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam. 15: 22
After this Saul admits to Samuel that he sinned:
“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’” 1 Sam. 15: 24
In closing I urge you to listen attentively to the Lord’s instructions for you, and be strong and committed to perform them completely. God will honor this obedience both now and in the future in heaven.
I leave you with this exhortation that Paul the Apostle gave to Timothy, his son in the Lord, regarding the law:
“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” 1 Timothy 1: 5-11