“Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. “ Jeremiah 7 v 23
As I child I was often told - by my God-fearing parents - that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Sam 15 v 22) I seem to recall that this admonition was issued as a warning to avoid the inevitable punishment that would occur if I followed a certain course of action that went against their advice. There were many times that followed when I understood the wisdom of their words as I listened to the warning of Samuel.
With the passing years I have seen the need for obedience in certain things at particular times. It has been an interesting journey trying to decide who to listen to, who to obey and what instructions to follow.
Being obedient is not too difficult for us as social human beings; we follow instructions all the time because of the benefits that we get from doing so. A simple example is of the traffic light systems: we all adhere obediently to the commands in tri-coloured lights to stop, get ready to stop, or go. That’s because we know of the probable chaos that would ensue if we went against this edict.
How then do I obey God? What exactly does He expect from me today? There are so many questions surrounding correct behaviour according to Bible commandments and expected social behaviour that the main question for me is how do I answer them sufficiently well to ensure that I am obeying the word of God and not the diktats of man? (Acts 5 v 29)
In the Old Testament it is recorded that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments as a reminder of the guidance for behaviour that He desires us to live by. The first section of the Commandments is about our relationship with God, and the second portion is a set of instructions that God wants us to obey so that we can have the best relationships with each other. The central theme throughout these Commandments is love; love for God and love for each other.
It is because of love that God wants the best for us. We are promised salvation as a reward for our obedience. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb 9 v 12)
In John 13 v 34 - 35 Jesus says “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one to another.” Jesus lived the perfect example of an obedient life full of love for His fellow man, and He was therefore in the ideal position to re-introduce this important aspect of obedience for us to live by.
God wants humanity to be reunited with Him permanently so it is His requirement that we obey His commandments - that are all based on His love for us. This matter of love has remained fundamental to all the things that God requires of us in the obedience stakes.
Why should we do what He says? Sometimes we ask questions before we follow the instructions. I know that some children (and some not so young people) are still motivated to act (or not) by the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?”
Relating to obedience to God, following His instructions for a happy earthly life and an everlasting eternal life, that question can be answered simply. “What’s in it for me?” “Eternal life.”
And the main instruction we have to remember, and a basis for all the commandments, is to love as Jesus loved.