The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (2 of 3)
Throughout the Old Testament God is clear about the results of obeying His commands: things will go well. “Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you,” God said through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:23b NIV). Here Jeremiah was reminding the Hebrews of God’s promises in Leviticus 26 in return for their obedience. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses wrote: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NIV).
Several years ago one of our church small group members described an epiphany he experienced while driving. “If you stay within the speed limit,” God told him, “you remain under my covering of protection. But if you speed, you move out from under that covering.” Speed limits have been imposed in an effort to protect folks from the consequences of irresponsible driving; God’s precepts have been given to protect folks from the consequences of sin. Remain obedient and things will go well for you.
When Hannah disobeys us then asks why we’ve disciplined her, Mary and I sometimes paraphrase what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, regarding the Fifth Commandment: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV). The alternative, we tell her, is for us to eat her. A little hyperbole never hurt anyone, but it sometimes leads Hannah to paraphrase back to me Paul’s next line: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children . . .” (Ephesians 6:4a NIV). Smart aleck.
Obedience to God’s commands also leads to power. In Deuteronomy 11, Moses instructed the Hebrews “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow–to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him–then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you” (Deuteronomy 11:22-23 NIV). And in Deuteronomy 28:1, God promised to raise Israel “high above all the nations of the earth” as long as they heeded His voice and obeyed His commands. In Deuteronomy 28:9 (NIV) Moses reiterated this truth: “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.”
As we keep God’s commands as grace-covered children of the New Covenant, as we yield ourselves to God’s authority, as we love Him and fear Him, we open our hearts and our lives to receive His unlimited power for His Kingdom, His glory, and our joy. As Jesus said to his apostles before His arrest, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14 NIV). And later He promised the disciples, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24b NIV).
Obedience to God’s commands also results in prosperity. “Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses,” David told his son, Solomon, before he died. “Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (1 Kings 2:3 NIV). In the Second Book of Chronicles, the Chronicler described Hezekiah, one of the most upright kings of Judah, as a man who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:2 NIV). And as a consequence of “doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God,” Hezekiah flourished. “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV).
Obedience to God’s commands also leads to long life. After Solomon asked God for wisdom instead of long life and wealth, God told him “if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14 NIV). And again, the Fifth Commandment says “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deuteronomy 5:16 NIV). Whenever Hannah questions the wisdom of what we’re asking her to do, Mary and I remind her that obedience leads to things continuing to go well for her. Then we throw in Bill Cosby’s famous line for punctuation: “I brought you in this world, and I can take you out” (Bill Cosby, Himself).
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes