I have been thinking about obedience all week long, especially since I had lost my job in November. Between posts like Airport Dreams and Visions, and recently, Make Me!, my prayer for myself has been, "I just want to do [for work] what the Lord wants me to do." What does that look like? Well, I know that I don't want my job to come between men and the Lord, my wife, or my purpose in life. I don't want to work weekends so that I can be free to do ministry with my church, and I can have a day of rest. I don't want to work nights because let's face it, bad things happen at night. Not to mention that the body was designed to sleep at night. And I don't want to travel long distances or stay overnights because I have a wife that I worry about and also a Precept Inductive Bible Study that I teach at 7pm. My previous job was getting in the way of some things and I just know the Lord has something better for me. I have to be open to what He wants me to do. Even if it means changing careers at 43 years old.
Another person in our group, who came from a legalistic background, also has been thinking about the difference between obedience and sacrifice. He asked the questions, "What does obedience look like and what is the difference between obedience and sacrifice?" "Does God help those who help themselves?" One section of verses that I was reminded of throughout the week was the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6.
First, it was the Lord's work and we are to just be a part of it. God said to Joshua, "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor." (Joshua 6:2). We must realize that it is God's work and fight. He has done all the hard work and we are to just reap the blessings.
Second, God gave them specific instruction on what to do (Joshua 6:3-5).
- Men of valor march around the city once a day for six days with seven priests bearing ram's horns before the ark.
- The seventh day march around the city seven times. The priests shall blow the trumpets, the people will shout, and the wall will fall, and you will take the city.
Third, they obeyed the Lord and did what they were told (Joshua 6:6-20). And the result of their obedience? Blessing and a fulfillment of the promise God gave them. This could have only come from obeying the Lord.
Now, let's think about this in laymen's terms. God told them to march around a city a bunch of times, blow some horns, and yell at a wall, and then the wall will fall, and then after you walked around a city all day, you are supposed to have enough strength to fight and wipe out all people inside with the exception of Rahab and her family? Makes alot of sense, right? But here's the thing...you mean to tell me that the blowing of ram's horns or their shouts had anything to do with the wall falling? Did God need Israel to shout at a wall to make it fall? No. I can think of about 20 ways off the top of my head to make a wall fall, and shouting at it is not one of them. What did the Lord want from them? Their obedience. What does God want from us? Our obedience. 2 Samuel 15:22-23 states, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And the stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD..." The difference between obedience and sacrifice is that obedience is what we do that God commands us to do. Sacrifice is what we do for God that we want to do. Obedience, God chooses what we do. Sacrifice, we choose what we do.
Sometimes the Lord will tell you to do something. Sometimes it will sound absolutely ridiculous, like walking around a city and shouting at a wall. God doesn't need us to accomplish anything He wants to do. He doesn't need me to witness to people to save them. He doesn't need me to give to my church to keep the lights on and the doors open. He doesn't need me to fast and pray for people to overcome major adversity in their lives. But when we do what He says, blessings will come. And if you don't, there will be consequences, like in the next story of the battle of Ai (Joshua 7). There are no shortcuts with God. We are to do what He wants, His way; Quickly, thoroughly, and cheerfully.
So where does that leave me today? No matter what the Lord wants for me I need to be open, obedient, and willing to do whatever. Even if it means doing something I think is really stupid, insignificant, or crazy. It may mean switching careers, moving, doing ministry full time, or whatever. But with anything I ask prayer for guidance and clarity. In my next blog post I will talk about another thing God wants from me...my love. For Him and others. Thanks for reading.