OBEDIENCE (part 2)

Because of several good things that happened the last three Sundays, four weeks have passed since my last Sunday evening lesson. A painful part of preaching is being honest with yourself. In all honesty, as painful as it is to admit, I doubt many of you still retain much of what I shared four weeks ago. My first objective in tonight's lesson is to connect tonight's lesson to my last lesson on obedience.

The "over-all" theme we are considering is "Liberating Faith." I want us to believe and respond to everything God reveals about Himself, His Son, His Spirit, His will, and His purposes. I do not want us to mistrust or reject anything God reveals. I do not want us to oversimplify anything God reveals.

I want us to do three things in understanding God's will and purposes. (1) I want us to base our understandings on God's perspective and balance as revealed through His word, scripture. (2) I want us to grow in the awareness of all God did and is doing through Jesus Christ. (3) I want us to accept, even welcome, the discomfort of spiritual growth and development. [I personally know and understand that spiritual growth and development produces personal discomfort!]

  1. In my last lesson on "Liberating Faith" we started studying obedience.
    1. Many of us, maybe all of us, have oversimplified God's concept of obedience.
      1. We oversimplified the definition of obedience: "Obedience is doing what God says."
        1. "God is the authority."
        2. "You must yield to authority."
        3. "You do what God says you must do."
      2. In that definition, the primary focus [maybe even the exclusive focus] of obedience is on physical acts.
        1. Obedience is simply a matter of doing the right acts.
        2. Stated negatively, most Christians are confident that a person obeys God if he or she does not rebel against God.
      3. That concept and definition of obedience is an oversimplification.
    2. Tonight I will not present again the material in the lesson of 1/21/01 p.m.
      1. If you want to consider that material in detail, it is available to you on audio tape, in written copy supplied by the office, or on our Web site.
      2. To basically recap that material:
        1. We looked at the Sabbath command [one of the ten commandments] found in Exodus 20:8-10 and noted it clearly stated the Sabbath day [the seventh day, Saturday] must be kept holy by Israel by not working.
        2. We looked at Leviticus 15:32-36 and noted the execution of a man who worked on the Sabbath day by picking up sticks.
        3. We looked at the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6) and noted that on the Sabbath that the military at least marched around the city.
      3. My personal conclusion is that Israel's army fought the battle that conquered Jericho on the Sabbath.
        1. That is my personal conclusion because Exodus 20:10 specifically declared the seventh day is the Sabbath.
        2. Joshua 6:4 states the attack was to occur on the seventh day.
        3. Israel's victory over Jericho had a highly symbolic significance to Israel.
          1. One of the reasons Israel did not enter Canaan about a year after leaving Egypt was their fear of walled cities (Number 13:28).
          2. Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron told them that God could give them victory even over a land of walled cities (Numbers 14:7-9).
          3. Thirty-nine years later when Israel began conquering Canaan, God gave them the first city, a walled city.
        4. The fall of Jericho was a constant symbol of the fact that Israel would conquer Canaan because God would be with them.
        5. My conclusion is this: God took that symbolism to its height in two ways:
          1. God brought the walls down.
          2. God did it on the Sabbath.
          3. So all the spoil taken by that battle belonged to God.
    3. When I take all this into consideration [the Exodus 20 Sabbath law; the Leviticus 15 execution of the Sabbath violator; and the fall of Jericho], this is my conclusion: obedience is the complex response to God.
      1. The obedience response involves far more than human acts.
      2. An action without faith is meaningless.
      3. An action without repentance is meaningless.
      4. If obedience occurs, it must involve the mind, the heart, and the act.
      5. The act always depends on understanding God's priorities and purposes.
    4. I really appreciated your responses.
      1. Let me suggest three kinds of response, some vocal, some silent.
      2. Response one: "I have never thought about Jericho being marched around or attacked on the Sabbath."
      3. Response two: "That unsettles me. What does it mean? I always have considered obedience to be such a simple thing."
      4. Response three: "David, I think that you are snatching straws out of the air."
        1. "We decided a long time ago what obedience is."
        2. "That closed the matter, and we should not reopen it."

  2. Do you think that Jesus "snatched straws out of the air?"
    1. In the first century, the Pharisees were the best versed, best read, most accurate students of scripture.
      1. Even Jesus acknowledged their factual knowledge was accurate (Matthew 23:2,3).
      2. Yet, their leaders viciously attacked Jesus' teachings and actions.
      3. Their criticisms and judgments were intended to destroy Jesus' credibility and effectiveness.
      4. They constantly challenged:
        1. Jesus' understanding of the scripture.
        2. Jesus' application of the scripture.
    2. Interestingly, one of their continuing, constant challenges was this: Jesus violated the Sabbath.
      1. When Jesus countered their criticisms concerning the Sabbath, he called their attention to the same types of situations I asked you to consider in the last lesson.
      2. Jesus' disagreements with the Pharisees and scribes about what constituted working on the Sabbath day resulted in the Pharisees feeling enormous animosity against Jesus.
    3. Consider Matthew 12:1-7.
      1. The situation:
        1. It was a Sabbath day, a Saturday.
        2. It was harvest time.
        3. Jesus and his disciples were walking along the edges of grain fields (the line that paths commonly took).
        4. His disciples were hungry, so they stripped the "heads" of the mature grain from their stems and ate the raw grain.
      2. The accusation:
        1. The Pharisees, following them, looking for faults and mistakes, said the disciples broke the law.
        2. They violated the law by violating the Sabbath.
        3. They violated the Sabbath because eating the grain necessitated the act of harvesting which was an act of work.
    4. Jesus said there were three basic problems with their accusation.
      1. First, "you form your concepts and conclusions before you consider the full information of scripture."
        1. When David fled from King Saul, David asked for and took from the priest the shewbread [the twelve loaves of bread that represented the twelve tribes of Israel in the tabernacle] for emergency rations (1 Samuel 21:1-6).
        2. Such bread was to be in the tabernacle before God continually (Exodus 25:30).
        3. It was to be renewed [replaced] every Sabbath day as an everlasting covenant (Leviticus 24:8).
        4. That bread was holy, and only the priests were allowed to eat it (Leviticus 24:9).
        5. However, the priest gave it to David [who was not a priest], David ate, and nowhere did God condemn the priest or David.
        6. Jesus declared that was relevant in forming a complete, correct concept of God and Sabbath expectations.
      2. Second, "you form your concepts and conclusions without considering exceptions."
        1. The priests violated every Sabbath by offering sacrifices.
        2. Offering sacrifices involved major acts of work.
        3. Yet, God expected them to work and did not condemn it.
        4. If the pharisees justification was that this work was required to maintain the temple, they needed to understand that Jesus was more important than the temple.
      3. Third, "you form your concepts and conclusions in ignorance of God's full intents and purposes."
        1. Hosea [a prophet of God to the northern ten tribes of Israel] told those people they did not have a proper understanding of scripture.
        2. Jesus said neither did the Pharisees have a correct understanding.
        3. Hosea said (Hosea 6:6) that God desires compassion, not sacrifice.
        4. Jesus said, "You have no compassion; you condemn the innocent."
        5. Without compassion for people, a sacrifice given to God has no meaning.
        6. Let's put that in words we use and understand.
          1. Sacrifices were commanded acts of worship.
          2. Commanded acts of worship are meaningless to God when the people who worship have no compassion for others.
          3. Jesus said, "If you Pharisees understood that, you would not have judged and condemned my disciples."

  3. Let's be honest by examining the obvious (at the cost of painful awareness).
    1. First, Jesus declared there were relevant considerations in understanding the Sabbath law that we would not likely use.
      1. David eating the holy bread did not directly involve the Sabbath.
      2. The priests offering sacrifices on the Sabbath did directly involve the Sabbath.
      3. Hosea's statement did not directly involve the Sabbath.
      4. However, Jesus declared all three examples were relevant to understanding God and His interactions with people.
      5. Therefore, when you fail to properly understand God, you cannot understand the Sabbath.
      6. If you understand God, it will affect the way you treat people.
      7. If you do not understand how to treat people properly, the worship you offer to God has no meaning to God.
    2. Second, Jesus said understanding his true identity is the number one relevant consideration in understanding the will and purposes of God.
      1. The Pharisees did not understand Jesus' true identity.
      2. The basic reason they failed to understand Jesus' identity was this: Jesus did not agree with or endorse their conclusions, and they were the experts in scripture.
      3. Because they failed to understand who Jesus was, they failed to understand God's purposes in Scripture.
      4. The result: the people who should have been Jesus' greatest friends actually were Jesus' greatest enemies.
      5. That is scary!

It is impossible to understand everything we need to understand when we become a Christian. It is impossible to understand everything we need to understand in a lifetime of faith. There will never be a point in our lives when we do not need to grow spiritually. The easiest thing to do is stop growing. We must never, never do that!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 18 February 2001
previous next in series

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell