There are many examples of obedience in the Bible, men and women who hear the Word of the Lord and do according to His Will. This study will look into the lives of three biblical figures that gave of their lives to be obedient.
What is obedience? There are several Hebrew and Greek words which are translated into some form of the word obey. The most common words are shama in the Hebrew, and hupakouo (hoop ak oo o) in the Greek. Most forms of the word mean, “to hear”. Jesus repeatedly tells us, “He who has ears, let him hear.” To be obedient means to hear.
We would think that the Hebrew and Greek words for disobedient would be translated “does not hear”, but they aren’t. In the Hebrew, the word means “to rebel, to resist, or to provoke”. In the Greek, they mean disbelief or unpersuadable. In obedience and disobedience, you have heard the word… but one is passive in response, the other active. I have found that it is important to establish the proper definition for words when using them in study. Let us look at the word passive, for instance. This word is vital to this study, yet I can hear all of you mumbling that I’m going to advocate sitting on your bottom! The word passive may be defined several ways. First is, “receiving or subjected to an action without responding or initiating a corresponding action.” This particular definition definitely advocates the “sit on your bottom” position. The definition I am using in this study is the second one, “accepting without resistance or objection.” The importance of this distinction will become clear as the study goes on.
We have obedience and disobedience. One you hear and accept without resistance; the other you rebel. In the book of Esther, we are given Vashti, an example of disobedience, as well as the story of Esther, who was obedient.
We turn now to the book of Esther. Here we find a king named Xerxes, or Ahasuerus (a has u e’ us). He has great wealth and decides to share his wealth with the people of his kingdom. At the same time, his wife Vashti holds another banquet. Right off the start, she is not performing her duties as the queen. She should be at her husband’s side. After seven days, King Xerxes decides to share his beautiful wife with his guests, so he calls her to make an appearance at his party.
At this point I used to say, “Well, the guy was drunk, and all he wanted to do was show her off. She had every right to turn him down.” Wrong. Her job as his wife, as queen, was to be obedient to his command. He made his point very clear to her, by sending seven eunuchs. Eunuchs, or chamberlains, are highly placed officials in the kingdom, and therefore have authority. The number seven means “completion”. By sending seven officials, Xerxes made the call sure.
Chapter one of the book of Esther provides us with an interesting parallel. We hear of a kingdom. The king held two great banquets. The first banquet is for the nobles and officials of his kingdom, a select group. The second banquet is for all the people, the least to the greatest, who live within the walls of the citadel. He provided the best of everything; linen, gold, marble, silver. The goblets for wine were of gold, and each was different from the others. The king ordered the wine to be poured according to the wishes of each individual guest.
When we speak of God, we speak of His Kingdom. He first held a banquet for His chosen nation, the Jews. Now the banquet is for all people, the least to the greatest, who live in Christ. God provides for all our needs, according to our individual and unique circumstances, and we are given the best of everything.
The book of Esther is often thought of as unimportant, because it does not mention God by name. It is likely that the book was written approximately one hundred years after the events portrayed. Xerxes ruled between 486-465 BC. The book was written to describe the events that are celebrated today by the Jews at the Festival of Purim. Christians generally read the book as a nice story about the saving of the Jewish nation or as an example of obedience to our husbands. Many women would rather ignore the book for that reason, but it is valuable to us today. The book of Esther represents the Kingdom of God and our place in it.
Vashti was part of the kingdom. As a matter of fact, she was the queen, bride to the king. He called her to perform a specific duty, and she refused. She enjoyed the blessings of the kingdom, but ignored the responsibilities. When she refused, the king was angry. He consulted the experts of the law as to what he should do. They told him that she not only disobeyed him, but that she did wrong to all the people of the kingdom by not appearing. By not completing her task, everyone lost. They recommended that Xerxes issue a royal decree banning her from his presence. Notice she is not put to death, or even exiled. But she can no longer enter into his presence.
Later, Xerxes remembers Vashti. Here is what Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, writes at this point in his version of the story. “But the king having been fond of her, he did not well bear a separation, and yet by the law he could not admit of a reconciliation, so he was under trouble, as not having it in his power to do what he desired to do: but when his friends saw him so uneasy, they advised him to cast the memory of his wife, and his love for her, out of his mind, but to send abroad over all the habitable earth, and to search out for comely virgins, and to take her whom he should best like for his wife, because his passion for his former wife would be quenched by the introduction of another, and the kindness he had for Vashti would be withdrawn from her, and be placed on her, that was with him.” Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, Chapter 6, Section 2.
Xerxes never stopped loving Vashti, but according to the law, he could not repeal his decree.
We now meet Esther, a Hebrew orphan who was living under the care of her uncle Moredecai. She was taken, with no choice in the matter, to the palace and placed in the care of Hegai, who was in charge of the harem. He was pleased with her, and took special care of her, going as far as moving her to a special place in the harem.
The preparation for the virgins was lengthy. Each girl had to go through twelve months of beauty treatments. When it was time to meet the king, she was granted anything she desired from the harem to take with her. She would go for one night, then return to a new part of the harem… with the concubines. She would only see the king again if he asked for her by name.
When it came time for Esther to meet the king, she was allowed to ask for anything from the harem to take with her. She showed herself as being without greed, by taking only what Hegai recommended, and she gained the favour of all that saw her. The king approved of her more than the other virgins, so took her to be his bride. Esther replaced Vashti.
There is another character necessary to set up the story of Esther’s boldness. Haman is an official in Xerxes kingdom. Not just an official, but the highest official. Haman is the epitome of pride and lust, the representation in this story of our flesh natures. Xerxes honours Haman, but Mordecai, being a Jew, is unwilling to bow down to a man, as he worships only the LORD God. This angers Haman, and rather than just kill Mordecai, Haman convinces Xerxes to issue a decree to kill all the Jews. Haman was willing to fill the treasury with great wealth for the king, but the king told him to keep his money. Mordecai discovers the plot and contacts Esther, asking her to appeal to the king on behalf of her people. Esther has not yet revealed to the king her own nationality. Esther questions the request, telling Mordecai that it means death to approach the king without being called. Mordecai reminds her that the decree means her death also, and that it is possible she was brought to this place and position for just this time.
Esther agrees but asks that the Hebrews fast and pray for her, and she also fasts and prays. Again, she takes the time to prepare for the task at hand, not stepping out without cover. On the third day, Esther puts on her royal robes and enters into his presence. He is pleased with her and holds out the golden scepter. She boldly approaches the throne of grace, touches the scepter to secure the pardon offered. The king asks her what she desires, offering her up to half the kingdom. Esther invites the king to join her at a banquet. She also invites Haman to come. At this banquet, the king again offers her half the kingdom. She requests their presence at another banquet and tells the king she will ask for her request then.
Haman, who is quite filled with self, goes home to boast to his family and friends that Esther has given him special honour. Yet, on his way home, he sees Mordecai and his rage is enflamed. He finds little satisfaction in the honours he is receiving, because of the honours that are being withheld.
Meanwhile, the king discovers that Mordecai was never honoured for saving his life. The king says to Haman, “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” Haman thinks that man is himself, so he provides a list of things, his own desires of wealth, power and fame. Xerxes grants those things to Mordecai. Haman must give the gifts to Mordecai, the man he despises and whose life he has purchased. Haman grieves, and his family and friends tell him he will come to ruin since Mordecai is a Jew set to die. He is then rushed off to the banquet with Esther.
At this final banquet, Esther reveals to the king Haman’s real nature. Just as Pharaoh received the punishment which was set for the Hebrews, Haman is killed by the means he set to kill Mordecai. Flesh called punishment upon itself.
Esther begs for the life of her people, but the king cannot withdraw the order. So instead, he grants the Jews permission to fight for their lives. Life was possible, but they had to work for it.
The Jews survived and now celebrate Purim in remembrance of these events. So, how does this relate to us today? What can we glean from Esther to apply to our own lives of obedience to God?
Lets fast-forward 500 years. The Jews are once again living in a land where they are dominated by a stronger power. The Romans rule the land. The Jews wait expectantly for a deliverer, the Messiah. Their expectation is for a worldly king, a political or military leader who will free them from the oppression of living in their land under Roman rule.
What they did not realize was that the real oppression was not from the Romans, but from their own sin natures. The law of the flesh, one of works righteousness, ruled them. The deliverer needed to be more than just a man who could overcome the work of man. He needed to overcome death itself. There is only one who was worthy to do so, Christ. He emptied Himself, in obedience to the Will of the Father, and became flesh and blood.
Let me share a bit about Atonement. In the days of the Tabernacle in the desert, and then in the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was located inside the room called the Holy of Holies. The Ark consisted of the box that held the tablets of the Law, manna from the wilderness and Aaron’s staff that bloomed. Over the box was the Atonement cover, or Mercy Seat. This was the Throne of Grace, the very Throne of God. This is where God dwelt among His people. When the High Priest performed the act of atonement for the people of Israel, it was necessary for him to go through a long series of actions. He needed to provide sacrifice for his own sins, be clean and clothed in special garments. The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, and always with blood. When he entered the room with the blood of the sacrifice for the Jews, he needed to cover the Mercy Seat with the smoke of incense, because no man was worthy to look upon the throne of God.
Jesus Christ came to provide the final sacrifice, the final atonement. Just as Esther risked her life to approach the Throne of Grace to beg for the life of her people, so too did Jesus approach God’s Throne of Grace to beg for the lives of His people. Esther secured pardon by touching the golden scepter, which was extended by Xerxes. There was no pardon for Jesus. The decree issued by the king could not be withdrawn. In the garden, when Adam and Eve attempted to be as God, they took upon themselves a curse, death. God issued the royal decree, and could not withdraw the order. The debt needed to be paid. The priests stood before the Mercy seat, none worthy to offer payment in full. So Christ came to be the final sacrifice. When He approached the Throne of Grace, He took upon Himself the punishment due to our own flesh natures. The scepter was not extended; He did not receive pardon. He became death and died, so that death would no longer have a grasp on our lives.
Esther risked her life so that the Jews might be able to secure life for themselves. Christ died so that we might have life. Here we see the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old, we needed to work for our life, by offering sacrifice. In the New, Christ did the work, so that we might have life.
Remember that to obey means to hear. Hear what? We read in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 5:1, “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.”
The time of the mountain was rather frightening for the Jews. God does not talk to normal folk, and when He does, they die. Moses repeats the words of the Jews in Deuteronomy 5:24-27, “Behold, Jehovah our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth speak with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and hear all that Jehovah our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that Jehovah our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.”
This last line would be better translated, “We will hear it and do it.” The Israelites were afraid to listen to the voice of God themselves, knowing that hearing His voice meant certain death. But they were willing to hear the word of God through Moses, and to do God’s Will.
Moses goes on to say in Deuteronomy 5:32-33, “Ye shall observe to do therefore as Jehovah your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the way which Jehovah your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.” Obedience brings rewards. What kind of rewards do we receive with obedience? Here in Deuteronomy, the rewards are in the natural realm, land, prosperity, and long life.
In 1 Chronicles 28:6-7, God is speaking to David, “And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts; for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and mine ordinances, as at this day.” Obedience to God meant an eternal kingdom. This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We are offered the same reward for obedience.
The words in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 are called the Shema, which is the Jewish confession of faith, “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Jesus recites this prayer in Mark. To this, he adds a quote from Leviticus 19:18, which says, “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Jehovah.”
In this story from Mark 12:28-34, Jesus tells us the two great commandments are to love God and to love neighbor. The man to whom Jesus is speaking says, “Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well said that he is one; and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is much more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” This man recognized that it is not the outward signs of obedience to God that God desires, but the sacrifice of the inner man.
Jesus tells the man in Mark 12:34, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” We need to recognize that it is never our outer workings that God desires, but our selves. He wants us to acknowledge Him through love. Then, and only then, are we close to His Kingdom, and to Him.
In the Old Testament, or Covenant, the Jews had a long list of regulations to follow, but even then God made it clear that they were to love Him, and each other. In the Old Covenant, it was impossible for man to come close to God, so they had to provide sacrifice to atone for their sins. Blood meant life, so when the Jews offered the blood of sacrifice to God, they were offering life to Him. But God did not want just the blood of animals; He wanted their lives, their obedience to Him.
In the New Covenant, after Jesus died to atone for our sins, blood was no longer necessary, for Jesus was the last blood offering. But God still wants our obedience. Now, however, we do not need to offer animal sacrifice, and yet the sacrifice we are expected to give is even greater. God wants our life. Not just an hour a week, but every moment of every day. He demands that give Him everything.
The Jews said to Moses (Deuteronomy 5:25), “If we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die.” They were right. When we hear the voice of God, we recognize that we are not worthy. We think of ourselves as holy, and yet when compared to God, we aren’t. We think of ourselves as merciful, and yet when compared to God, we aren’t. We think we give love, and yet when compared to the love of God, we do not truly love. Our flesh nature dies, when it is forced to stand in front of God.
So we HEAR from the LORD that we are to love, and this is the kind of sacrifice God desires. Jesus, speaking to a Pharisee says in Matthew 9:13, “But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” This phrase is a quote from Hosea 6:6, “For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.”
The Pharisees had asked why Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors. After all, it was a sin to share food with such men as those. But Jesus simply replied that they needed to learn what God required of them. They did not recognize that they were sinners in need of a healer, so they did not need God. They thought they were able to overcome their sin with a few acts of sacrifice. The Pharisees obeyed all the rules. They offered the right sacrifice, they ate the right foods, and they did according to the Law of Moses. And yet, they did not know mercy. Their lives were filled with visible sacrifice, but they did not acknowledge God in their lives. Again, Jesus is calling the Pharisees to give up their own selves in love for the Father and for others.
We hear in Matthew 7:21-24, that not all our good works are acceptable before the Lord. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.”
In 1 John 4:7-21 we hear, “Beloved, let us love one
another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God,
and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only
begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein
is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son
to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another. No man hath beheld God at any
time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected
in us: hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, because
he hath given us of his Spirit.
And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God. And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.
Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also."
From these verses in 1 John we see that it is not we who does the loving, but God in us. When we have heard His Word and we acknowledge it, then His love is manifested in our lives. The Pharisees caused men to fear God with their rules. They worked at the visible signs of righteousness, and yet they did not show love to their fellow man. They did not understand that God is love.
When Mordecai told Esther of the plot against the Jews,
Esther asked what she could do. It meant certain death for her to approach
the king without being summoned. Mordecai said, “When Esther's words
were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that
because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape.
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews
will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.
And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time
as this?" (Esther 4:12-14)
If Esther refused to do this task to which she’s been called, she too would lose her position. And death would come to her family. Remember that Esther was an orphan, adopted by Mordecai. If she perished so did her family. We are part of the Kingdom of God. As such God requires much from us, He demands our lives. If He calls us to accomplish a task for His kingdom, and we refuse, He will replace us with another. Then we will end up like Vashti.
The writer of Hebrews tells us in 12:25, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not when they refused him that warned them on earth, much more shall not we escape who turn away from him that warneth from heaven.” This particular chapter of Romans talks about what happens to those who refuse God. The example of Esau is given. Esau was the firstborn son of Isaac. One day he came in from hunting and was near death with starvation. Jacob had cooked stew. Esau asked for some. Jacob agreed, only if Esau sold him his birthright. Esau thought he was about to die, so gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew. When it came time for Isaac to die, the blessing was given to Jacob. When Esau went to Isaac to receive his blessing, he was refused. He gave up everything that was rightfully his, to satisfy the flesh.
This fulfilled the promise of God to Rachel that the older will serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). We do not always understand or recognize God’s plan in our life, but the words of Mordecai have long brought me peace in the midst of turmoil. He said, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” When I am facing difficult decisions or circumstances, I pray to God and ask Him for His Will. We never know what purpose He would have us fulfill, but we should be obedient whenever and wherever He has placed us.
When Esther was brought to the palace, she did not immediately meet the king. She spent a year being prepared. Then later in the story, when she was preparing to meet with the king, to beg for the lives of her people, she did not rush right in. She spent time in prayer and fasting, and asked her people to do likewise. We should never rush into serving the LORD. We must spend time in prayer for strength and guidance.
Prayer is a whole study in itself, but it is important to this word “obey.” How do we hear the Word of the Lord?
Jesus Christ offers the best example of prayer life. He spent much time in prayer. Here are a few passages:
Matthew 14:23 says, “ nd after he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone.”
Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed.”
Luke 3:21-22, “ Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”
The longest prayer Jesus spoke is recorded in John chapter 17. In this prayer, Jesus submits Himself completely to the will of the Father, and he speaks of the work accomplished during His time in flesh. Even as He is submitting to death itself, He prays for his beloved, the disciples and all future believers. In this instance, Jesus has shown Himself in complete obedience to the two great commandments, Love of God, and Love of neighbor.
Jesus Christ is more than just our example of prayer. His life was His prayer. He was so closely connected with God, that everything He did was for God’s Glory. That is what we should strive to do. We may not be perfect, but the closer we get to God, the more we listen to Him, the more his will is manifested in our lives, and the more our life will become our prayer to Him. This is obedience.
John 14:10-14, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do.”
John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.”
The fruit about which Jesus is speaking is the fruit of the Spirit, which is Christ working through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ in us doing mercy through us, manifesting Himself as good fruit. For this to happen, we must be less, so Christ can be more. In other words, obedience means death to our selves so that Christ might give us life.
Early in the book of Acts, we hear of the apostles praying. Acts 1:14, “These all with one accord continued stedfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” When it was time to make a decision, they prayed, as in Acts 1:24.
We must approach each task we are called to do through prayer. It is vital to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit in all matters, so that we are assured that we are responding to the call of God, not our own flesh natures. Prayer is not just the asking of stuff from God. Prayer is about communication with Him, hearing His voice in your life and being confident of His Word.
Esther asked for three days to fast and pray. At the end of the three days, she put on her royal robes. She did not go in clothed in every day attire, but in her finest clothes. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
Romans 13:14, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Colossians 3:12, “Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering.”
With what do we clothe ourselves? Christ Jesus. He is our righteousness. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags, but when we wear Christ, the light shines through. We are not holy, but when we wear Christ, we are heirs to His Holiness. If we love, it is because He is love in us. If we do mercy, it is because He is mercy in us. A dear friend recently put it very well. He said, “Christians are the lamps, we are not the light. We are to live transparent lives.”
Paul writes to the Philippians, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
It came to be time for Esther to approach the king. She was wearing her royal robes and stood in the doorway. Again, she did not rush right in. She stood in the doorway and waited for the right moment.
Psalm 27:14, “Wait for Jehovah: Be strong, And let thy heart take courage; Yea, wait thou for Jehovah.”
Psalm 37:7, “Rest in Jehovah, and wait patiently for him: Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, Because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”
Lamentations 3:21-26, “This I recall to my mind; therefore have I hope. It is of Jehovah's lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. Jehovah is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Jehovah is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of Jehovah.”
We often think that the way to be obedient is to jump right in, join every committee, and do all the work available. Let’s talk about the Sabbath rest. The Jews had one day a week when they could do no work. The teachers of the laws made this a burden, by creating a long list of rules associated with the Sabbath. Yet, the Sabbath was set apart by God to be a day of rest. He understood the necessity of time apart from work, to breathe. The Sabbath rest appears in agriculture, also. The seventh year a field is left fallow so that the soil recovers its nutrients and breathes for a season. We, too, go through moments in our life when we must take a Sabbath rest. Most people do not seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit for guidance on which tasks to take on for God’s Glory, so we do our own good works, not His. We get our Sabbath rest, but it often comes after a break down of some sort. We call it “burn out”, but we should never get burnt out. When we do, we are weakened, and often turn from God, thinking that God would not have allowed us to “burn out” if he really cared. The thing is, we had, by our own flesh natures, taken upon tasks which were not calls from God, but were our own desires. Sure, they were good works. But if our good works do not come from God, they are useless.
How do we discern the call of God? Again, through prayer, and also through study of scriptures. The call comes from God, and we must ever remember that it is for His purpose we are to live.
Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
In the garden, we were created in the image of God. When we reached to become as God, we took upon ourselves a new body, one of flesh that is separated from God. Christ came in flesh and died, so that we might once again be in relationship with Him. We are now called to be conformed in His image, as we were created to be. He does the work, He justifies, and He glorifies.
For what purpose have we been called? We hear in 1 Thessalonians 2:11, “...as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying...” God calls us into His Kingdom and glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:14, “Whereunto he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God’s Word, as He has given us through the Bible, has offered us the standard for Life in Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:15, we are warned, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”
In the same book, 1:8-10, Paul writes to Timothy, “Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God; who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” God calls us to live holy lives. We can only live that life of holiness if it is Christ who lives it through us. His life, His righteousness, His love.
Romans 1:6, “...among whom are ye also called to be Jesus Christ's...” You belong to Him. Hear His voice. This obedience will then be manifest in your life as love, as He reveals Himself.
I know what you are thinking, “She’s just spent forty-five minutes talking about obedience, and yet she hasn’t mentioned doing anything. Where is the talk of obedience to our husbands, or even doing God’s work in the church?” Remember that obedience means to hear. What we are to hear is the Word of our Lord. When we hear that Word, it becomes a part of us. When it becomes a part of us, our own flesh natures die, and then Christ is revealed in us. This is manifest in love, which means we will observe the two great commandments, which are to love God and our neighbor. When we love our neighbor, who includes our husbands, bosses, children, parents, friends, enemies, we will obey, which means? To hear.
Think of the people in your life who you would consider ‘Godly’ folk. What is it about them? Do they know the scriptures backwards and forwards? Do they serve at the church? When I think of those I consider Godly people, it is those in my life who take time for me, who listen to me and then, when possible, do something about what I’ve said. In most cases, just knowing they were willing to listen to me and to love me was enough.
I’d like to share one more example of disobedience. In Matthew 22:2-14, Jesus tells a parable, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage feast: and they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage feast. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise; and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast. And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests. But when the king came in to behold the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding-garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen."
This particular parable shows two examples of disobedience. The beginning says that the king sent his servants to get those who had been invited, but they refused to come. The invitations were sent and the people already sent their RSVP, apparently in the affirmative. When the banquet was ready the king sent his people out to bring the guests, but now they refused to come. They accepted the invitation, but did not act accordingly.
The second half of the parable needs some explanation to understand. At the time of this writing, the host of a wedding provided a special garment to his guests. It is as if the father of the bride rented tuxes for everyone. Yet, in this case, the man at the banquet chose not to wear the garment given. Note in this parable that the guests of this banquet had been brought in off the street. They would not have been able to clean up for such an important event. Their own clothes would be dirty. The garment provided by the host would have been clean.
What we learn from this parable is twofold. One, many respond to the invitation to the banquet, and yet when they are called to be a part of it, they reject the offer. Just as Vashti was the bride of Xerxes, but refused when called to be a part of his banquet, so do many Christians today reject their own calling to be an active part of God’s Kingdom.
Second, it is important to wear the right clothes. Remember that it is not our own righteousness that we wear to God’s banquet, but it is Christ’s. When we try to do our own good works to get into the Kingdom, God recognizes that it is our flesh bringing us there, rather than Him. We will be turned away.
Here’s one more story of obedience. In Acts, we hear of Philip the Evangelist. Philip was traveling around the countryside, preaching the gospel of our Lord. Well, according to Acts 8:4, we see that the church was being scattered. They were running from the persecution of Saul in Jerusalem, but they continued to share the gospel.
One day, Philip heard from an angel of the Lord who told him to go to the desert road. This particular road was a major trading route, and would have been very dangerous for a man to walk alone. Philip went. He came across an Ethiopian eunuch. This man was an important official, in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. He would not have been alone. His entourage would have consisted of a large number of armed guards, servants, family and friends.
Again the Spirit spoke to Philip and told him to go to the eunuch. Philip ran up to the chariot. What happens when someone runs up to the presidential limousine? Twenty secret service agents tackle him long before he reaches the car. It would have been no different for Philip. He risked his life to be obedient to the Word of God.
Philip reached the eunuch, who was reading from Isaiah the prophet. “And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some one shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him." (Acts 8:30-31) Philip went on to teach the eunuch the truth of the gospel, and the eunuch was baptized. The eunuch went off rejoicing.
Remember that obedience means, “to hear” and disobedience means, “to rebel.”
The book of Esther shows a parallel between the kingdom of Xerxes and God’s Kingdom. We also see a comparison between a life of disobedience in Vashti, and a life of obedience in Esther.
When Vashti refused her calling, she was banned from the presence of the king. Esther not only accepted her calling, but she boldly approached the throne of grace to save the lives of her people.
Jesus Christ also approached the Throne of Grace, but in this case He did not secure pardon. He died for our sins. He was obedient unto death, so that we might have life.
Obedience means, “to hear”, yet what do we hear? We hear God’s Word. To hear God’s Word brings death to selves, yet brings great rewards.
The Jewish Confession of Faith or Shema says, “Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Jesus teaches that it is not the outward signs of obedience that God desires but the sacrifice of the inner man. The sacrifice of the inner man is then manifested in love. Our good works are not acceptable to God, but God exhibits his love through our lives.
If Esther refused the task to which she was called, she would have been replaced. If we refuse, then we too might end up like Vashti.
Esther prepared with prayer and fasting. Jesus also spent much time in prayer. We should strive to make our lives one of complete obedience to God.
Esther wore the right clothes. We are to wear Christ.
Esther waited for the right moment. We too must wait upon the Word of the Lord. The LORD has given us the Sabbath rest for a reason. Sometimes we must just rest in Him until His time.
What are we called to do? We are called to fulfill His purpose.
We are called to be an active part of God’s Kingdom. Yet,
to do so we must submit ourselves 100% to His Will, so that it is not our
good works but His Works through us. God is mercy, and the fruits of the
Spirit are God doing mercy through us, manifesting itself in love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Hear His voice. This is obedience.
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