Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Obeying God God's Way - What Characterizes Disobedience?

When an individual or a group of people disobey God and His word, their disobedience is not only clearly seen, but it also has some key characteristics. Jeremiah records for us these characteristics by pointing out what was taking place among the Israelites during his day.

Disobedience affects worship.

Israel’s disobedience to God directly affected their worship. Instead of worshipping God according to the precepts that He had laid for them, they not only assimilated the practices of the nations around them into their worship of God, but they also went so far as to worship other gods besides the one and only God, Yahweh.
God is not “obligated” as it were, to just take whatever acts of “worship” that we bring to Him. That is to reverse the order. We are obligated to come before Him as He has mandated. Israel forgot this and suffered severe consequences because of their actions. We need to learn from their mistakes and consistently seek to obey God even in our worship.

Disobedience is characterized by a trusting in man.

Even at the height of a man’s strength, man is still weak. He cannot prevail against God. However, in his disobedient turning away from God, he puts his trust in man. This misplaced trust will fail him.
Many times Israel did not rely upon God for deliverance, but rather sought military help from surrounding nations that were her allies. However, eventually these efforts failed and she was still carried into captivity.
In like manner our efforts to live out our lives trusting in our own selves or in other humans will shipwreck. God is the only One Who can be trusted with our lives. Therefore, we must obediently trust Him in all things.

Disobedience is a departing from God.

The word “depart” carries with it the sense of averting or diverting from an originally intended direction. The Israelites had gotten off track, as it were, from obeying God according to His commands. They had not only departed from God, but also from His commands.
Even the slightest deviation from a standard can be of great significance. When flying an airplane, a pilot must carefully maintain his course heading, which is usually described in degrees. If that course heading is followed precisely, the pilot will arrive at the planed and desired destination. However, if the pilot is not careful and drifts even slightly from that heading – even if it is only a degree or two – over a period of time the pilot will end up miles away from his intended destination. It is imperative that the precise heading is maintained in order to arrive safely. This is also the case when we depart from God’s commands. Even the slightest deviation will bring us off course from obedience to Him.

Disobedience is characterized by a disregard for God’s word.

Jeremiah describes the Israelites as people who “obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.” The phrase “inclined their ear” is a word picture. It should not be necessarily taken literally; rather, it carries with it the emphasis of paying attention to what is being said. In contrast with “inclined their ear” is the phrase “made their neck stiff.” Instead of figuratively bending their head so as to better hear what God saying to them, the people figuratively stiffened their neck, refusing to hear what God had to say.
The Israelites blatantly refused to take any action that would increase their likelihood of hearing God’s word. They not only did not obey God’s commands, they refused to even hear about them. In order to obey God, we need to first of all know what He has commanded. Therefore, careful attention must be given to His word. Otherwise, we run the risk of following the Israelites’ negative example.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obeying God God's Way - God's Authority

In a day and age where God and His word are treated lightly – from those who blatantly disavow His existence to those who seek to glorify Him with a “consumer oriented” worship and lifestyle – obedience to His commands is a very important issue.
In the time of Jeremiah, the Israelites had grown lax in their obedience to God’s commands – either completely disregarding them, or obeying the commands according to their own self-imposed standards. In Jeremiah 17 we have recorded Jeremiah’s exhortation to his countrymen to once again turn back and obey God according to His standards.
The issue that is addressed as an example is that of sanctifying the Sabbath day by ceasing from trade and business transactions on the Sabbath day. Since this same message of obeying God is applicable to us today, it is pivotal for the Christian to not only understand what God has commanded us but also the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to His commands.

God has the position of authority to command us to obey Him.

In Jeremiah 17, Jeremiah reminds the Israelites of Who their God is and why He has the authority to demand obedience from them by clearly stating some of God’s characteristics. The Israelites did not have the excuse of ignorance concerning their God. God had clearly throughout the ages again and again revealed Himself to generation after generation. His revealed character had also been carefully recorded in the existent Scriptures.

God searches the heart.

God, Who knows all things, searches or explores every man’s innermost thoughts. Nothing is hid from Him, even the most secret of thoughts. And thus, based upon an infallible knowledge, He rewards each man according to his own works.
An understanding that God knows everything should lead to a reverential obedience to Him. It is impossible to disobey God and for Him to not know of the disobedience. His omniscience should be a motivation for a desire of complete obedience on our behalf.

God is the source of salvation.

Jeremiah, in his prayer to God, addresses God as the hope of Israel. He uses this term of address also in Jeremiah 14:8. There, he states that God is the savior of Israel in time of trouble. God was the only One Who could deliver Israel in their present state. Jeremiah also expresses that God is “the fountain of living waters.” This phraseology reminds one of Christ’s statement in John 4:13-14, where He promises to give water that will spring up unto eternal life.
Just as in Jeremiah’s day, the people’s need was to turn to God in obedience in order that they might be saved, so we must likewise turn to God in obedience. There is no other source of salvation apart from God, and since He is the source of salvation, He is able to require obedience of us.

God is the object of praise.

Since God is the source of salvation, God is worthy of praise. God, and God alone is worthy of praise.
With such a standing and position, God is also then in the position to be able to demand obedience. For, praise carried out in a practical manner is obedience. The way to praise God with one’s actions is to obey what He has commanded.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Actions Have Consequences - The Righteous will be Rewarded

While Edom would be punished for its violence and pride, God promised that Israel would be restored. Obadiah has spent the majority of his time declaring God’s judgment upon Israel’s enemies. Now he goes on to set forth God’s promise of restoring Israel.

God promised deliverance.

Whereas formerly Israel had been under the oppression of its enemies, now deliverance would come to Israel. There would be those among its people who would come in power to deliver it.
Although God’s people often face oppression and difficulties, God has promised that there will be an end. In specifically, Israel will one day be restored and be freed from the oppression that it faces. This is also a promise that is made to the believer. And, the validity of the promise rests in the character of the One stating it, God Himself. Just as that which He said would happen to Edom really did happen, so that which He has promised concerning the deliverance of Israel will take place.

God promised possession of enemy territory.

God promised that one day Israel would possess the land of the very people who oppressed them, who betrayed them, who sold them back into the hands of their enemies. The day will come when Israel will take back all the land that is due to it. Israel will prosper and remain. “At the time of Obadiah’s prophecy, Edom may have seemed more likely to survive than Judah. Yet Edom has vanished and Judah still exists” (Life Application Study Bible). God’s word concerning His people will prevail.
Although the enemy may seem to be gaining ground as the ravages of sin seem to be widespread, God is still in control. “Know that when all is said and done, the Lord will still be King, and the confidence you place in Him will not be in vain” (Life Application Study Bible).

God promised rule by the Lord.

God promises that He will establish His kingdom. Jesus Christ declared that this had begun to take place during His earthly ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus Christ is still in control.
Obadiah’s final words end with placing our focus on the correct person: Jesus Christ. The main focal point is Christ and Christ alone.

Most of what Obadiah prophesied has already come to pass. Edom has been destroyed; what remains of it are simply ruins which testify that God’s justice does demand retribution. God has promised that our actions will be rewarded accordingly, whether those actions are ones that honor Him or that dishonor Him. May the example of Edom be both a warning and an encouragement to us: a warning against going against God and an encouragement in the fact that God will punish the wicked and reward the righteous.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Actions Have Consequences - Ungodly Actions Result in Destruction

The main message of the book of Obadiah as it is directed to Edom is that God will punish Edom for its violence and pride. This punishment will not be mild, rather, God promised that it will be utter and total destruction.

God promised utter humiliation.
God proclaimed that Edom would be greatly despised among the nations. This shame and despising would be wide spread and known throughout the known world.
God cannot abide the proud person. He will bring that person low; He will humiliate that person until he acknowledges Who God is. Nebuchadnezzar himself experienced this in an extreme form. Having personally taken the credit for the victories that God had given him, God caused him to become insane and to live like an animal until he acknowledged Who God is [Daniel 4].

God promised utter ransacking.
Obadiah stated that normally, even robbers leave some goods behind. However, God declared that this would not happen in Edom’s case. The kingdom of Edom has in effect been wiped off the face the earth. No one except Bible scholars and archeologists even care about the history of the kingdom of Esau. There is nothing left of it except ruins.
When God judges, He judges as is befitting the situation. Edom had been warned and had been told that it would be utterly destroyed. However, Edom never repented of its ways and God thus carried through with His judgment. In like manner, God will carry through with judgment towards us when we walk in sin. We will reap what we sow and if we sow to the flesh, we will reap of the flesh.

God promised utter betrayal.
Edom would be betrayed by those with whom it had formed alliances. The historical record points to the fact that the city of Petra was only overcome because of betrayal within the city itself, opening it up to the invading army.
Just as Edom was betrayed from within by those whom it trusted, so we ourselves, betray ourselves from within. We open ourselves up to temptation by the situations in which we put ourselves, the entertainment choices we make, the friends that we keep, the priorities that we place. We become, as it were, a living counterpart of Edom, opened up to destruction from the inside out.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Actions Have Consequences - The Problem of Pride

Although the book of Obadiah is a short book (it's only 21 verses long), there are ageless lessons we can learn from Edom. Edom had sown violence, but there was a deeper problem than just the actions it took. Edom's decisions were marked by pride. Part of this was understandable. Edom’s geographical situation rendered it almost invincible. It was mountainous, inaccessible, and easily defended.

Edom rested in its fortified security.

Edom’s capital city, Petra, was “considered impregnable because it was cut into a solid rock cliff and set in a canyon that could be entered only through a narrow gap” (Life Application Study Bible). Therefore, Edom boasted, “who shall bring me down to the ground?” Obadiah thus likens them to the eagle who builds its nest on top of the mountain. Edom was convinced that it was incapable of being destroyed.
It is easy for us to rely upon our own strength. We, like Edom, exalt ourselves and consider ourselves to be invincible. However, we forget that God is in ultimate control over everything. We forget that “not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:6-7).

Edom rested in its wealth.

Edom was a prosperous land. Its location was at the crossroads of the trade routes that ran from Egypt to Babylon and Assyria. As such, Edom was made rich through taxes and the trade that took place. Edom thought it was secure in this position of wealth. In our modern western society where we are well-off materially, we tend to think that we are secure in our wealth. We do not think that anything can happen to our prosperity. We forget that once again, that God is the One Who controls both wealth and prosperity. An instantaneous change of fortune often comes with natural disasters. This past calendar year has seen great destruction of fortune – from one day to the next – within our own country from coast to coast: hurricane damage, forest fires, drought, and flooding.

Edom rested in its allies and treaties.

Edom had made treaties with the nations around it. They were at peace with these nations. They had even – according to the custom of the day – eaten bread together. This eating of bread together was a commitment of extreme loyalty to provide protection and defense for one another. Picture a young child in elementary school who has made a “pact” with his best friend that whenever the older kids come to pick on him, they will stand together against the older kids. That kid is relying on his friend to help him in his time of need. And yet, just as Edom was to find out, promises of friendship do not always hold. When that same child then faces the older bullies and his friend does not come to his aid, he will experience only a portion of the betrayal that the Edomites experienced.

Edom rested in its wisdom.

Edom boasted of wise men. Teman was one of Edom’s major cities. It was also the home city of Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends (Job 2:11). The wisdom of Edom was noted and known throughout the surrounding countries. And yet, “there is a difference . . . between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. The Edomites may have been wise in the ways of the world, but they were foolish because they ignored and even mocked God” (Life Application Study Bible). Often we rest in our own wisdom or in the wisdom of the world around us. We are tempted to take the truths of the Bible and mix them with the wisdom of the world. One area in which this takes place that comes to mind is the realm of counseling. Many Christians today are convinced that they need to not only take what the Bible teaches to solve their problems but that they also need the teaching of the modern psychology movement to help them with the difficulties of life. However, relying upon the wisdom of the world will bring us to ruin just as surely as it brought the Edomites to ruin.

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