WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO OBEY GOD EVEN WHEN ASSURED IT IS HIM TALKING?
- Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do—then do it with all your strength (George Washington).
- Some people do not worship the Jesus of the Bible, but rather, a Jesus they created in their own minds (Shane Pruitt)
- I fear that all too often we blame the world for our failure to engage it when, in reality, we are more comfortable hiding from the world's hostility. Our fallen culture will do whatever it can to hide our light under a bushel. We dare not invent our own bushels to help them in their goal (R.C. Sproul).
- We won’t want to obey God if we don’t first trust Him. We won’t trust Him if we don’t love Him, and we can’t love Him if we don’t know Him (Ken Boa).
- There is foolishness in Christianity these days that claims heaven, but denies obedience to God’s word (Eddie Fleming).
Text: Jeremiah 38: 14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21 But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: . . . 34Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die.
Jeremiah 39:1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. 2 And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah.
This is the second year of the corona virus that has shaken the world economies, nations and individuals, leaving people on a continuous adjustment mode. It is not possible to escape “what if?” scenarios and calculations in the mind. What if the product/ services I offer are no longer needed? What if my spouse leaves me? What if the widespread superficiality and nominalism result in a Christ-less society? What if these symptoms don’t go away? These thoughts lead to one of the most confusing questions a Christian is certain to face when it comes to risk: whether one is trusting God or being foolish. That is likely to have been the experience of King Zedekiah who lived at a time of transition. His people were being taken captive by Babylonians. The king sought God’s word through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:1-3) but he somehow lacked the power to obey. King Zedekiah’s strategy was to escape. What King Zedekiah seems not to know is that God’s word is not negotiable. While he was escaping, the Babylonians caught up with him just as he had been told. “There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon” (Jeremiah 39:6-7). The king’s wisdom and strategy made him think that he had an alternative that was not what God said and that ended up being foolish of him. Why was it so difficult for King Zedekiah to act in obedience to God’s word that he knew was genuine?
A similar episode is repeated in Jeremiah 42 “Then all the army officers, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest approached 2 Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, “Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. 3 Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” Jeremiah doubted that the people would obey God’s word even if they knew it. In response to his doubt they said, “Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. 6 Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” It took ten days for the word of God to come to Jeremiah in response to the people’s prayer. When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them— 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there. (Jeremiah 43:1-2)
Contemptuous attitudes that make people have a feeling of self-importance is one reason people will treat God’s message with contempt. “It is a dangerous thing to listen to the word of God, know it and then act as if you do not know it” In both cases, King Zedekiah and the officers did not get another chance to change their fate. What God had spoken through His prophet Jeremiah came true. It is good to trust the Lord and His word.
SOME REASONS WHY ONE ACTS AGAINST THE KNOWN WORD OF GOD
Self-love – While the word of God commands us to love others as we love ourselves, it is dangerous when that love is based on fear. King Zedekiah was afraid of the people. Things had fallen apart and his power as king could not protect him. Instead of trusting and acting on the sure word of God, he chose to act based on what he thought people could do to him. King Zedekiah had a private conversation with Jeremiah. King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me” (Jeremiah 38: 19). Though assured that God would protect him, his fear of being killed by angry people led him to self-trust that resulted in his destruction.
Desire for acceptance – There is warmth when one is on the side of the majority. There is no need to reflect and examine the implications of actions. You hear “The people have spoken and the voice of the people is the voice of God”. Get it clear, the fact that people have spoken does not mean their voice is the voice of God. It is cunning strategy of the enemy to deceive people to believe that what is popular is of God. King Zedekiah and the people allowed themselves to lean on their shared understanding. Do not fear to follow the word of God even if you are the only one. You are secure in the voice of God not the voice of people.
The cost of obedience – The king must have found it hard to lose his kingship if he obeyed the word of God. He assumed that he could get a way to keep his kingship. To desire to remain in certain status can make one treat the word of God in contempt. To follow God requires death to self. That is what made Jeremiah God’s prophet. “Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die” (Jeremiah 38:34). Families, churches, organizations have collapsed because someone is holding on to power positions. What power is in an eyeless and later dead king?
BALANCING BETWEEN TRUSTING IN GOD AND LEANING ON ONE’S UNDERSTANDING
Trusting God is not the same as understanding Him– The Bible does not tell us that we can understand God; instead the encouragement is to trust Him. To trust is to have faith in the reliability, ability or strength of another. Trusting God means transferring one's confidence and hope from self to Him. It is believing His reliability, His word, His ability and His strength. God wants His people to place their trust in Him more than His methods.
Trust is a dynamic process –Trusting God is more than a feeling, it is a choice to have faith in what He says and intentionally refuse to follow the feelings or circumstances that indicate something different. Those turbulent times when the foundations are shaking, unsteady and uncertain, are opportunities to dig down like the wise builder who built upon the rock. Digging down and removing every soil may be a process of examining thoughts that present alternatives to total reliance on God and His word. It is examining the values and the rules that may have been taken for granted. Trusting in the Lord is continual soul-searching of every thought, motive and attitude in light of scripture.
Obedience is based on trust – To hear and act on the word of God begins by aligning one’s will to God’s will. It is an act of surrender to His authority and bases every decision and action on His word. Obedience is closely connected to abiding in Christ which means one’s view of life is through the lens of God’s word. That exclusive love of God is what sets His people apart as authentic children of God, allowing the free flow of the power of the Holy Spirit. Determination to honor God even when one is not sure of the outcome is what demonstrates that one loves Him. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23)
Trusting and obeying involves believing God’s sovereignty and accepting human responsibility manifested in the midst of the people. “The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical” (John MacArthur). It is the responsibility and choice of the person or people to let go of other dependents in order to grow insight into who God is. You cannot rely on your own understanding while at the same time relying on God. Though difficult, obedience to God is not an option. It is the foundation and true test of Christian life. King Zedekiah sought to know what was in God’s mind; he understood it but did not act in what would have saved his life. That is the temptation that faces every Christian. Jesus said, “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock” (Luke 6:47:48). The only way to escape the fate of Zedekiah is to come to Jesus Christ, hear His words, and act on them. The word of God has to be mixed with faith for it to be effective. “For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed” (Hebrews 4:2). To be born again ti to be enlisted as a child of the Living God, the King of kings. You have opportunity to choose to act on God's word and live irrespective of changing times. Does your life reveal that your obedience to Christ is not optional but the very foundation of your life?
The gospel we preach must not be just something we hear from men or read from books or even conceived through our meditation. Unless it is delivered to us by God, it can serve no spiritual utility (Watchman Nee).