“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” – Exodus 19:5-6 (NASB)
These words were given by God to Moses with instruction to speak them to the children of Israel. This is just before He gave them the Ten Commandments. God explains how important to Him it was for His people to obey His word. God identifies Israel with three titles, “My own possession,” “a kingdom of priests,” and “a holy nation.” contingent upon their being an obedient and covenant-keeping people. God was of course speaking to the people of Israel whom he had lead out of slavery in Egypt. Let’s notice the divine claim “for all the earth is Mine,” in the middle of the titles, and had to be understood as dismissing all other claims by so-called other gods of the nations. He said He would consider them His own possession if they would obey Him and keep His covenant. We know that a promise like this can be expanded to include all who have responded to God’s invitation and have, through faith believing, become part of His family. Yes, God is looking for us, His people today to obey Him fully. It is a wonderful promise to know that God treasures us as we follow His covenant fully.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” John 13:13 (NASB)
In Scripture many names are used to identify God whether He spoke them as God the Father or as the Son of God, each is significant in its meaning. During Jesus’ time on this earth, he taught people about Himself using, several names by which people could refer to Him. In today’s verse two names were used especially by Jesus’ disciples expressing what Jesus Christ was for them. These names represent what Jesus is for us too. He is our Teacher and is involved in our lives daily teaching us His truth. We need His teaching and we should be learning from Him all through our lives. Each moment is “a teaching moment” if we pay attention. Jesus, by title and essence is our Lord but let’s not forget that this name is manifest through our obedience. We must obey our Lord. There’s no place for us to say, “No, Lord” and continue to call Him Lord. As we think of these two names, let’s remember to be learning and obeying Him each day. He teaches us and directs each steps of our lives which we need to follow – learn and obey what we learn.
“The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:” 1 John 2:4-5 (NASB)
We have two verses today but are looking mostly at the second one for our promise. The use and repetition of the words know and keep emphasizes that those genuinely born again display the habit of obedience. Obedience results in assurance of salvation. God has given us many instructions in the Bible and we realize that He expects us to obey them. Someone may profess a fellowship with God but how they live their life shows they do not possess. John was not shy to call this kind of claim what it really is: a lie. Moreover, it may be said of the same person that the truth is not in him. If we truly love God we will want to live a way that is according to what He wants us to live. We obey God’s word and our love for Him is demonstrated. We show our love through obedience. When we obey God’s word His love for us is also demonstrated and His love for us is made perfected. He has given us instructions because He loves us and knows what is the best way for us is to live.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” – 1 John 5:1-2 (ESV)
We have been promised a victorious life. Tomorrow we will consider the substance of this promise in the following verses but today we have the promise of what it takes to have that triumphant life. All who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Anointed One, the Messiah who was promised from the beginning to make a way for our reconciliation with God the Father. Everyone who believes this is born spiritually by the power of God. We who have been born into God’s Spirit will manifest love for God the Father. We also will have and show love for all others who have been born of God. Our love of others is made possible by our love and obedience to God. Our promise is this, we can know that we love each other when we obey His commandments. These are the precepts in the teaching which Christ gave to all when He was on this earth. Recorded and written by the Holy Spirit into the inspired writings of our Scriptures, we know what the commandments are from the Bible.
“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.