To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice; But Why is Obedience So Hard?

“If You Will” Is Part of the Covenant

“Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” (Exodus 19:3-6, NKJV)

When God called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of slavery, He gave them the evidence of mighty works that literally changed their world. He covered them with grace and offered them His Presence. He promised that they would be His own special treasure out of all the people on the earth. He delivered them from a lifetime of servitude to an ungodly master, and He formed a covenant with them that would last forever. Sound familiar? He did ask for something in return.

These verses contain an “if-then” clause, making the fulfilment of the promises somewhat conditional. God said, “If you will indeed OBEY My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me…” Apparently God really values obedience.

Oops I Did it Again

I guess it makes sense that we should be obedient, but the Bible (not to mention all of our current headlines) is pretty much the story of how we have NOT obeyed Him, starting with Adam and Eve. Pharaoh had a pretty sweet deal, what with all the slaves to build stuff and serve him. Imagine if he had said, “I think I’ll obey this God of the Israelites. Maybe if I take good care of these chosen people and follow this God, I can get some of this blessing for me.” His deal could have gotten even sweeter. But “Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should OBEY him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)

He wasn’t willing to obey the Living God, and he came to an inglorious and ignominious end. (Yeah I know, how often do you get referred to by the word ‘ignominious’? But if you aren’t obedient, it could happen to you…)The practice of animal sacrifice was designed as a graphic reminder of sin’s penalty and it became a focal point for the Hebrew religion, and yet Samuel said, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

I’m Sensing a Theme, Here

When rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, the Levites under Nehemiah told all the people why they had come to such a desolate state. Their public ceremony praised God for his deliverance, and included this reminder: “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not OBEY your commands.” (Nehemiah 9:16) The whole Bible is full of examples of disobedience and consequences. “But wait”, you say. “Why are you talking so much about disobedience to me? I’m New Testament. I’m under Grace.”

Well, consider what Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will OBEY my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) Apparently faith always results in obedience. Do you believe in Jesus? Yes. Well, then, how’s that obedience thing going? Do you realize he even included obedience as an important part of the Great Commission? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

I’m a little worried sometime that we have cheapened Grace by emphasizing how free it is, while failing to remember that our faith should naturally result in our obedience to God. Have you seen God do something in your life? Do you say you have a relationship with Him? Well, just ask yourself one question: Are you obeying God? As you take spiritual inventory every now and then, it’s a great question to ask.

Two Testaments, One Word

Here’s something no one likes to say,
Or much less, DO. And that’s OBEY.
It’s what God told the Israelites
Would please Him more than sacrifice;
It’s just how Pharaoh wouldn’t bend
That brought his ignominious end…
And here’s a different thought, my friend:
Although your Testament is the New,
It also still applies to YOU.
But you protest: “That’s out-of-place!
I’m free! I’m covered up by Grace!
I disobey God now and then,
But really, Jesus is my friend!”
Well here’s what Jesus has to say:
“To obey is love, and to love, obey.
There really is no other way.”
Obey. Today and every day.
Read your Bible. All I’m sayin’
Is just that Jesus wasn’t playin’.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread