Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 7, Romans 6, Jeremiah 44, Psalm 20
I must admit. . . I am troubled by today’s readings. Okay – I am confused.
Let’s wrestle with these texts.
Here’s what I seem to be reading: My obedience puts God at my disposal. I know that sounds harsh. I don’t even like typing it. Let me put it another way. If I obey, God owes me. I am not saying this is a true statement. I am saying this seems to be what is going on in some of these texts.
Consider Psalm 20:3. “May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!” In the context of the entire psalm, it seems to point to the fact that if God remembers what you have done for Him. . . it will go well with you.
My first thought? “Well, since I have done ‘this, this, and this’ for God, He better give me ‘this.'”
Or consider 1 Samuel 7:3. “And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.'”
Seriously? If I do “this,” God must do “that”?
Or how about Jeremiah 44:23. “It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.”
Again, this seems to say very clearly, “Obey – God owes you good. Disobey and God will give you bad.”
Oh, how careful we must be here! We can slip into dangerous places fast. Let me flesh this out and wrestle this to the ground with a couple of thoughts:
1. The only thing God owes us, ultimately, is wrath.
He made me for Himself. I have chosen – time and time again – to sin against Him. He owes me nothing but eternal punishment and damnation.
2. Obedience is faith in His goodness, not a transaction.
Proper obedience isn’t doing something ‘good’ so that God will be backed into a corner to do you ‘good’ later. Obedience comes from already believing God is good and is for you – totally. Obedience to God is something that the child of God believes is a good thing simply because God is good.
3. For disobedience to have no consequences would be unloving (and vice-versa).
Think about it. If there were ZERO consequences for disobedience, what would stop us? If my kids knew they would not get punished for lying, they would never know lying was a problem. If there was no problem, they would not seek change. The same is true for obedience. It is loving for God to cause positive consequences for obedience. Why? It makes us want to obey even further.
4. Every good and perfect gift is a gift of grace and mercy and love from God.
If #1 (above) is true, then anything good we get is due to God’s grace toward us. Read Romans 6:23. Eternal life with Him is a GIFT – not something owed because we did anything.
5. An Intercessor, a sacrifice, and a new heart is what ultimately makes our obedience “right.”
Read what happened in 1 Samuel 7:8-11. Samuel had told them (v.3) if they turned to the Lord with all their heart, God would deliver them from the Philistines. But God didn’t intervene and mess with the Philistines until a lamb was being sacrificed and a prophet was interceding. Hmmmmmm.
Similarly, the entirety of Romans 6 points us to what happens at salvation – death to disobedience (sin) and a new life to obedience (righteousness). Hmmmmm.
At the end of the day, I know my own sinfulness and disobedience. I know I need Someone to intervene and do for me what I am totally incapable of doing. In addition, I need a new heart and mind and life to save me and move me in a trajectory of obedience. In short, I need Jesus.
Let me be clear: God owes us nothing but wrath. But He has given us the indescribable gift of His Son. When you obey, please don’t do it with the attitude that God owes you something “good” as if an eternal relationship with Him is not enough. Obey because He is good, knowing that your desire to obey has been put there by God with a new heart.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.