“Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”… “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” – 2 Kings 5:10, 13-14 (ESV)
In the time of ancient Israel, the prophet Elisha served as the voice of God to the people. In this historical account, Naaman, a man of high standing and commander of the army of the king of ancient Syria was a leper. Hearing of God’s prophet Elisha, Naaman seeks for him and for healing. Elisha does not even exit his house to speak with him but sends a message that sounds absurd to Naaman. Pride stood in his way of obedience to what God had instructed through Elisha. At first offended, Naaman rejects the solution. It is beneath him to obey the instructions. But when convinced by his servants, Naaman gives it a try and dipping himself seven time in the Jordan River, he is healed instantly. God offers no insignificant promises of His grace – every promise from Him is significant and great. God instructs us now through His Word, the Bible and we face the same opportunity of blessings through obedience, or negative consequences through neglecting His promises. Naaman learned his lesson that God works through small promises as well as great promises. Every promise of God is a great promise for us.
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)
It is in this history lesson about Israel and their King that we find our promise. Given in today’s verse the promise is timeless in its application. King Saul, the first king of Israel in the time of Samuel the prophet/judge, also became the first king rejected by God for his disobedience to God’s command. The King heard and knew what God wanted of him – “Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.”(1 Samuel 15:18). But Saul saw and wanted some of the banned spoils from the battle. He helped himself and Samuel had to confront him. Trying, as we often do to rationalize our actions, Saul claimed with some excuse of how his disobedience was purposed to offer sacrifices to God. The lesson is clear and a promise from God of what he desires above all else – our obedience. God wants and even commands that we not just hear but listen and obey Him in all things. It is not easy and we need God’s help in order to do it. First we listen, then we do what is obedience. God is our sovereign and He blesses faithful obedience.
“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” – John 13:17 (NASB)
A favorite quote is “It’s always better to know than not know.” That sort of flies in the face of another quote of lesser quality, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” Well, not knowing some things or overlooking them might result in loss. What things you might ask? Anything we know we should do in obedience to God. There should be no delay is what Jesus was saying to his disciples at the last meal they had together before His arrest, suffering and crucifixion. It happened to be the Passover meal and Jesus knew the time had come for Him to go through all that it was going to take to provide salvation to all who were lost in their sin. Phony obedience is a state of mind in which we work up occasions to sacrifice ourselves; zeal is mistaken for thoughtfulness. It is easier to sacrifice ourself than to fulfil our spiritual purpose. (Romans 12:1–2) As the prophet Samuel said to the disobedient King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) The promise we have today is that joy is always tied to obedience to God’s revealed Word..
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:2-3 (ESV)
Twice in our verses today the apostle John says that love and obedience to God’s commandments go hand-in-hand. We are members of God’s family because we have been born of God, that is reason enough that we love all of God’s children ⸺all others who are born of Him. This kind of love is the second characteristic of the overcomer. We who by faith believe in God are the overcomers. We have overcome the stain and guilt of sin and our sin has been forgiven. Having never sinned Christ paid the penalty when He died on the cross in our place. The third characteristic of an overcomer is obedience. Let’s not think that obedience to God’s commandments, is too difficult or and onerous chore. God promises that his commandments are not burdensome. What is burdensome is the effort of earning our way by following the requirements of the false teachers and false religions. Trying to be “good enough” is difficult and tiring. Faith, love, and obedience to God are the characteristics of a true believer which are woven into a tapestry of our lives. Following in the way of Jesus Christ is not taxing but liberating.