Devotional Thoughts for Today
“To Obey or not to Obey”
Jeremiah 35:8-16 (ESV)
We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, 9 and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, 10 but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem.” 12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the Lord. 14 The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. 15 I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. 16 The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me.
In contemporary western Christianity, obedience to God or our lack thereof is seldom addressed. Pastors and preachers make it seem like obedience is not required in a relationship with God, and they present God’s commands as a suggestion or something that only needs our consideration. The notion that we have to do something simply because God has commanded us to do those things seems archaic and legalistic. Everyone wants a reason to obey, but at the same time they reject the best reason for obedience—which is that God has commanded it.
The story of the Rechabites is given to us as an example of obedience to a father’s commands. As we read yesterday, the prophet Jeremiah purposely tested the faithfulness of these men by putting out wine in front of them, but in observance of their father’s wishes, the Rechabites politely refused the offer. Their loyalty and obedience to an ancestor who has been dead for over 200 years stands in stark contrast to the lack of loyalty of the Jewish people towards the living God. Even though the commands of Jonadab, their father, seem obscure, irrelevant, and a bit extreme, his sons and their sons after them kept these commands for generations without question. Sadly, the commands that are given to us by our heavenly Father, laws that we know are written for our benefit, are seldom obeyed with the same level of zeal, commitment, and ardor.
We have become a nation of people who love to give our ceremonial sacrifices to the Lord but have neglected the higher call to obey His Word. Our churches are still filled to overflowing on Sunday but obedience to the word of God is sorely lacking Monday through Saturday. One of the main themes of Jeremiah is the importance of obedience above and beyond any religious sacrifice, because in the end, obedience to God is the most accurate measure of our love for God. A willingness and desire to obey God is the first step in learning how to love God with all of our heart, strength, and mind.
Prayer: Father, as we begin this day, set our hearts on obeying Your voice. Help us to see that the path of peace, joy, and wellness are found as we faithfully obey Your word. Give us the resolve to fight our own desires to sin, and teach us to walk in the Spirit so that we might live for You more fully. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Job 16
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Samuel 15:17-24 (ESV): And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said, “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. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.
Questions to Consider
- What sin was Saul guilty of?
- Why did he fall into that sin?
- What was the consequence of that sin?
- Saul was guilty of partial obedience. Instead of destroying everything of the Amalekites, Saul and his armies spared the best of the plunder for themselves and only destroyed the things that were worthless. In fact, the greater sin was not just the act of disobedience but assuming that they could appease God by sacrificing some of their treasures in His name. It is easy to justify our disobedience with all of our religious activity.
- In the end, we see that Saul fell into this sin because of his own insecurities and the pressures of the people around him. Saul clearly understood what God had commanded him, but he could not bring himself to stand up against the desires of the people. They would have listened to their king, but Saul failed as their leader.
- The consequence of sin was the rejection of Saul from being king over Israel. It seems rather harsh, especially in light of what seems like genuine repentance after the fact. However, it’s evident from this example, and many others to come, that Saul is not a man after God’s own heart. He is not fit to be the first king of God’s people, and so the throne was rightly taken from him.
Every day presents opportunities to either obey God or to disobey. Therefore, it is important to be sensitive to His voice so that we can grow in our obedience. Pray that God would give you ears to hear and a heart to understand all that His Spirit is saying. Take some time to reflect on your day, and to pray over areas of sin so that you might be washed in His forgiveness.