October 7, 2015

Why is obedience important?

Ezekiel 16:1–63, Revelation 6:1–7:8, Job 34:1–15, Romans 8:1-2

Christians debate whether or not a believer can lose their salvation. While I am certain that a genuine Christian is safe in the redemption of Jesus Christ, I must acknowledge the warnings to God’s people about sin.

These warnings began early in the history recorded in the Bible. From creation to the time Israel had been established as a nation, they repeatedly fell into sin and God continued repeatedly warned them through the prophets: “And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its detestable things’ ” (Ezek 16:1–2).

Falling into sin is relatively easy, but confronting His people about their evil behavior and demanding repentance would be a challenge. Few people appreciate condemnation and many become openly hostile. The prophets needed great courage.

So do the people of God, lest we deserve the condemnation Ezekiel pronounced. It is heavy reading for this man called the nation a whore for their unfaithfulness to God. I cringe reading it because I’ve at times neglected God with disobedience and would abhor such a condemnation.

Yet, at the end of Ezekiel’s message about God’s wrath, God hints at a better future: “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember with shame all the evil you have done . . . . And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” (Ezekiel 16:59–63)

Forgiveness is powerful, but Ezekiel makes it clear that it should never be taken for granted.

Job’s young ‘friend’ says the same thing as Ezekiel about obedience, but he is much more concise: “Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34:4)

That statement is correct, but then Elihu goes on to accuse Job with lies. He says, “What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water, who travels in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men? For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.’” (Job 34:7–9)

Actually, Job did say that his obedience didn’t seem to profit him, yet at the end of this narrative, God says that Job spoke rightly and his friends did not. My conclusion is that it is not sinful to express frustrations and doubts when in a state of confusion. Job was not sure of himself or of God and countered the ‘friends’ who insisted that obedience would make all things right. In contrast, Elihu spoke as if he knew Job’s heart when he did not.

From this, I can see my own need to be cautious when trying to figure out the motives of others. I cannot even figure out my own situations unless God makes it clear. When I am perplexed, it is okay to say so, but not to speculate. God will reveal what He wants me to know or understand. In the meantime, I’m to be silent and trust Him.

If adversity makes me feel as if God is condemning me, I need to remember Job. His adversity was to prove his faith, not chasten or punish him. I only need to remember the cross where Jesus took God’s wrath for sin, my sin, on Himself. As Romans 8:1-2 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Yet there will be a judgment. Revelation describes the severity of God’s wrath. At that time, “The kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, (will hide) themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15–17)

Who indeed can stand? Only those God has redeemed: “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:3)

God commands me to walk away from temptation. I so easily wander in the wrong direction, looking for gaps in the border between right and wrong. My Lord not only wants me to separate ourselves from sin, He wants me to be victorious over it.

He also calls me to speak against the evil of this generation rather than excuse it. Through the power of God’s Spirit in me and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, I can fight sin inwardly and openly, not letting my doubts and fears push me to escape such an incredible responsibility and privilege.

No comments: