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“…And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:15
Here You are, Lord, in the middle of telling Your plans to Zechariah. You are telling him Your immediate plans as well as plans for the future good of all people in the One who is the BRANCH and who will inhabit and rule from Your ultimate temple as King of Kings and High Priest eternal. But You give a warning to Zechariah for the people of Israel. “…And this shall come to pass, IF you will DILIGENTLY OBEY the voice of the Lord your God.” And if they didn’t obey?
What’s the idea of having to obey You? That’s such a hard concept for people today. Submission, what a tough idea. Servant, who wants to be a servant? But over and over again throughout the Old Testament, or should I call it the First Testament, because it’s still relevant and not outdated, You emphasize the importance and necessity of obedience.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1) Why would You set Israel above the other nations if they faithfully obey You and do what You desire? Is it so You can show what good little robots they are? I don’t think so. Obedience to You shows our alignment with You. If we love someone, I mean really love them, we care about what they care about. We care about what’s on the heart of the one we love. We desire to do things that bring them joy. We understand their feelings. And when we know that someone else loves us, truly loves us, we know that their heart is for us. You know when someone adores You. You know when someone wants to protect You. You know when someone truly cares for You by the things they do. And You know if they don’t care as much as they ought. You know if some of their love or all of their love is lacking by their actions and attitudes. And those actions and attitudes rub off on the people around you that look up to you or that stand in the background and mock you. And since You, Lord, love Your people so much to go to such extremes to show it, faithful obedience is the least we could give back to show the measure of our love for You. Because it matters. The nations are watching and if we say You are the True God and then don’t treat You like the True God You are, we make a mockery of our relationship and who will be drawn to a relationship like that?
“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Exodus 15:26) You want Your people to earnestly heed Your voice. It’s one thing to hear, but it’s a totally different thing to hear and do, to hear and care enough to act upon what we hear. I have to heed Your voice and do what pleases You; I have to give ear to You and complete that action by keeping and doing what You say. Does that mean I’ll never be sick? No. It meant for the people of God that they would not be plagued with the diseases that came as a judgment for denying You and worshipping false gods.
“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:22) The Angel of the Lord went before Israel in the wilderness. In trust and commitment, they were warned to “truly obey his voice and do”. Trusting is following through with doing. And God always makes good on His promises. Trusting and obeying and acting upon that trust leads to You standing in for us against our enemies. You become our number one Advocate. You even stand in for those who stand in for Your own. But if I want You to stand in for me, I am called to stand in for You.
I wear a little black rubber bracelet that says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says…” (John 8:47) And that’s not just about hearing Jesus speak and walking away. It’s about being changed by his thoughts. It’s about agreeing with His thinking. It’s about finally understanding and desiring things God’s way instead of our own and seeing how much better it is not just for us, but for the world.
“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.” (Exodus 23:25) Pride is a terrible thing. Pride will keep us from the truth, just like it did for the people in John 8:47 that Jesus was speaking with. Wanting to be on top and not willing to humble yourself to serve sets us against You, Lord, because here You are, God and Creator of the universe and every person. You are the highest and the mightiest and the smartest and yet You humbled Yourself to come as Jesus, as a baby birthed through that inglorious method that all babies are born through. You humbled Yourself to become a man, yet God, and serve those You created. It’s the most glorious thing ever! And it’s love beyond measure. So is it so much to ask that kind of service of us back to You and to those around us? I’d say pride is a major sickness that would be removed with that type of service. Maybe we’d all be healthier for it in other ways too.
The other day, I heard someone share the Gospel, the good news of how we can not only know God but be His. And it centered around the doctrine of believing that Jesus is God, that He came to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, that He died on the cross to pay our penalty, and that he rose again to give us new life. That’s all absolutely true. And we must believe that to be saved and to be His. But unless we believe and obey that belief, it’s nothing but doctrine. When You said, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” in Leviticus 26:3, You were telling us that actions must follow our belief. Doctrine is just doctrine unless I let it change my life. Doctrine is just doctrine unless I commit to act upon it with all of my being. I must trust and obey or I don’t really trust at all. I must believe and confess and then live in that belief, in the fellowship of what You have done for me. I cannot trust and my life not be changed. I cannot trust and my attitude not be changed.
“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:12) Is this really sounding like God rewarding us for our good works? I don’t think so. This sounds to me like God rewarding us with a close relationship with Him. It sounds like the more I lean my ear into You, Lord, and listen and agree with You and act upon that agreement, that our relationship deepens and I get to experience and see and revel in Your lovingkindness which You have just been waiting for me to experience along with You. Is obedience so tough? I mean, if the reward is a deep, personal, generous relationship with You, Lord, well then, I so much want to obey You no matter the cost. It certainly seems more worthwhile to obey You than not to.
I could keep sharing Scripture after Scripture. But I’m so happy that I’m sharing this one, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 11:13) Do I get that? It’s about true love for You God and true love is exhibited by what we do and how we serve the one we love. True love is love that gives our whole heart and soul. I mean, how is that too much to ask from us? You’ve shown every evidence that You have given Your whole heart and soul for our benefit? Who am I to refuse that and mock the love You’ve shown?
The truth is, I can choose to ignore Your love and withhold my love from You. You warned against that. “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 11:16) We’re all going to worship something. We’re all going to cleave to something. Everyone is diligent about something, it’s just not always the right something. And what we choose to cling to, well, we’re going to lead others to cling to it too, whether it leads them to life or to death. Are we willing to take on the responsibility of leading others to death?
But what if I choose to diligently keep all You say, and what if I choose to do it, and love You, Lord, and walk in all Your ways, and cleave to You like I’m glued, because I want LIFE and I want to lead others to true life? When the disciples saw Jesus calm the sea, they marveled, asking “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” The winds and sea have to obey because they are just matter and You are in charge of matter. But You give me a choice to obey. I think it’s a much more marvelous thing for a man or woman to choose to obey than for the winds or sea to calm. I don’t think the angels in heaven marveled as much that day at the calming of the winds and sea as they do every time one sinner obeys and turns in love away from his old life and into Your new life.
I mean, even demons obey you. The people were all amazed again at how you commanded unclean spirits and they obeyed. “What new doctrine is this?” But it’s not a teaching. It’s You, it’s Your life, it’s life in You. And if a demon who won’t love You has to obey You, why would I, who can love You, choose not to? See, it’s a way more amazing thing for me to choose to love You back than for a demon to flee. I can run to You; he must run from You. I can abide in You. I can receive more than I ever imagined in You because I can become Your very own beloved, Your precious child and faithful servant.
Peter and the other apostles made that choice. They came to their very own conclusion that, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) That means obeying God rather than ourselves, too, because we are only mere men.
And we’re not alone when we commit to You because You give us the Holy Spirit to be our resident witness within each of us that obey You. We’re all going to serve somebody. We’re all going to yield to something or someone to obey, either sin or death, or obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16) What will it be? Or rather, who will it be?
I want to commit to love the author of my eternal salvation who was made perfect and complete before us all through His obedience to You. I want to obey Him in love, that I may be part of Him. I want to love You so much, that I obey You, that I love Your ways, even if they are hard, and even if no one around me gets it. I want to press forward for You no matter how difficult, because You are worth so much more than I have to give and yet You still love and delight in my giving of myself. I want to obey You because I appreciate You so much. I want to obey You because I adore You and I am so grateful that You adored me first.