August 3, 2016

Obedience does not mean I have to understand the plan

Years ago in a small town in Alaska, I learned an important lesson about obeying my husband. We were in a store and found a jacket on sale, just right for our son who badly needed one. But my hubby didn’t have enough cash with him or his credit card. We affirmed the sale price would still be available the next day and went home. The next morning, my hubby called from work and told me to phone the store and make sure it was still on sale.

At the time, I had an aversion to phoning business places, but was also trying to obey God by doing what my hubby asked. (Not a popular theology but Ephesians 5:24 gets me every time.) I called, the store said yes, so off I went. When I got there, the sale tags were gone. The clerk told me the jackets were now regular price. I said, “But I phoned!” She said, “Oh, you are the person who called. You can have the jacket at the sale price.”

This morning, reading this passage reminded me that when God asks us to do something, even if He explains it to us, we don’t always get it . . .

“And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Luke 18:31–34)

Not only does this incident show the need to obey even when it makes no sense, it shows that the words of the Lord need the revelation of the Holy Spirit before anyone can understand Him, even His disciples. In this case, it wasn’t just that His words made no sense, but that their meaning was hidden from them. No doubt God knew that they would likely try to stop Him had they understood. However, going to Jerusalem was the will of God, for there Jesus would die for the sins of the world.

Back in the days when I was a youth sponsor, one of the teens brought a friend to our Bible study. She was a member of a well-known cult. When I talked to her about salvation, she said that a person was saved by doing good works. I gave her my Bible opened to these verses and asked her to read them aloud . . .

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

Then I asked her what God’s Word said about how a person was saved. She replied, “It says we are saved by doing good works.” She read it, but she didn’t get it.

Spiritual blindness often escapes the understanding of those whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit. It is easy to forget what it is like to be oblivious about Jesus Christ or what He says. Most of us tend to think that if the gospel is explained clearly then those who cannot get it will understand, but that is not how it works. Of course I need to speak plainly and clearly, but if the Holy Spirit is not ‘revealing’ it, the listeners will remain blind to it.

The other side of the coin is that I am not always in on what the Holy Spirit is doing, but I need to be obedient anyway. The disciples went to Jerusalem with Jesus even though His prophetic statement went over their heads. Later, when the will of God was accomplished and they recovered from their shock and confusion, these disciples not only understood but set out on a mission that changed the world.

Jesus did not seek His own will but that of His Father. “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” even though He knew what would happen there. God calls me to be like Jesus — obedient no matter what, and whether or not I understand what He is asking.

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