November 4, 2015

God gives light and rewards those who walk in it

1 Kings 5:1–6:38, Mark 4:1–24, Proverbs 1:20–27

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with a dear friend who I’ve not seen for several months. Before he went away because of a personal issue, he explained why he was going: “I have to do this right.”

Now that he is back, (not a perfect person as he so easily admits), his desire to obey God has not changed. This delights me and is an answer to my prayers for him. When we chatted, I affirmed and reminded him that God honors us when we do what is right.

Most of us learn this that the hard way. However, today’s devotional readings reinforce how God honors obedience. He also knows when obedience is from the heart. This does not mean I ‘earn’ His favor, yet obedience results in blessing. This is a spiritual reality just like oiling a squeaky hinge makes it stop squeaking!

To illustrate, blessings on a positive response to God, Solomon wrote, “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.” (Proverbs 1:22–27)

Solomon realized that the grace of God is extended to needy yet sometimes disobedient people, but not to those who mock God and refuse to respond to His counsel. He had learned this through his lifetime, beginning with a promise God made to him early in his rule over Israel:

“Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.’” (1 Kings 6:11–13)

Solomon was not a perfect person, nor a perfect king. He made many mistakes and disobeyed God. Yet God blessed him and blessed his obedience. Solomon built an incredible place of worship. He also recorded the God’s Word concerning wisdom and life. His proverbs and other writings have blessed many generations of God’s people. Why did God use this imperfect king to do that?

It seems to me that Solomon had some of his father’s heart for God, but at the same time he not earn this grace; it is a free gift. However, Solomon responded to grace and did not scoff at God or hate His reproof.

Obedience results in blessing. Jesus took the same attitude toward those around Him. The religious leaders of His day seemed to be concerned with obeying God, but Jesus knew their hearts. He would not bless them with any deeper knowledge because they did not believe or obey what they already had:

“And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” (Mark 4:10–12)

God isn’t interested in a mere intellectual response. If someone hears the gospel and ‘signs up’ like they were buying fire insurance, this is only lip-service. Their hearts are not in it. It seems to me that this is a huge reason why the gospel makes no sense at all to anyone unless the Holy Spirit opens their understanding. God knows we would mock and scoff unless He changes our attitude.

How can grace be free and obedience be blessed? Even with my efforts to try to sort out the difference between undeserved grace and blessings for obedience, I really cannot make full sense of it. I’m just glad that He works in human hearts so that I can respond to mercy and grace instead of being left in the dark.

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