The constitution of a country always lays down two essential aspects governing the citizens’ life, first, the directive principles or duties and then the fundamental rights. All believers as children of God become citizens of His country, the heavens, and a joint heir with His Son. But we remember His promises as contained in His book of constitution, The Holy Bible, but tend to forget to obey His commands and statutes. What really is the relationship of these two parts of a Christian’s life?
My daughter, Narola, accompanied me to my in-laws house after my wife’s death, since we could not go earlier. All the elders advised her to care for me, be good and many other things to do and gave us many presents as per custom. Since our return she is also being reminded by them to be careful and obedient. When she will go back again, maybe next year or before, they will definitely ask her about all that was told to her. Supposing her reply is, ‘we are so busy that there is hardly any time for being with our father; in any case he takes care of himself on his own etc’, the instructions will be repeated again but her continuous failure to listen and obey will cause a crack in the relationship.
Through faith in Lord Jesus as our Lord, we become children of God and ‘citizens of heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). In Troas, Apostle Paul and Silas were put into prison on a false charge of ‘teaching unlawful customs’ but when the next day Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen, the magistrates were afraid and begged them to go (Acts 16:37-38). The citizens of a country are supposed to live in obedience to its laws and the Holy Bible is the constitutional book of the kingdom of heaven. Lord Jesus was born as a Man but He lived in obedience to the will of our heavenly Father. He could confidently claim His righteous living by challenging the Jewish leaders, ‘Which of you convicts Me of sin?’ (John 8:46). He declared that on His own He does nothing but exactly follows God the Father by doing only what He sees the Father do (John 5:19). It was this obedience that He could pray to God, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me’ (John 11:41-42).
God commanded Abram to leave his place of birth and family to go to a new place and then have a great name and be a blessing that ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12:1-3). The blessings were to follow him after he left for the new place in obedience to the command and not otherwise. Moses warned the people of Israel to ‘diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God’ (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). The blessings that were to follow are then listed, but from verses 15 to 68 there is a long list of curses that were to fall upon them for their disobedience. They did not obey God and suffered and were made slaves by the kingdoms around them.
God cannot lie nor change (Hebrews 6:18) and He revealed Himself to Moses as ‘I AM WHO I AM’ and this is for all generations of mankind (Exodus 3:14). Thus He is the same today as He was to Adam, to Moses and will be the same forever and in like manner His Word is also permanent. This fact has been declared by Lord Jesus also, ‘till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled’ (Matthew 5:18). Claiming blessings as per God’s promises are related directly to obedience to His commands for how can He be expected to bless someone who does not want to follow His ways?
But how can a loving God curse His children – Righteousness and justice ‘are the foundations of Your (God’s) throne’ (Psalm 89:14). When God created everything, it was not done in a haphazard manner but with all laws of governance prefixed in the perfect manner. The gravitational force is so fine tuned that every planet is in its perfect alignment. In like manner He has also established spiritual laws to govern the conduct of all angels and mankind. Satan violated this and had to leave the perfection of heaven to be in the chaos and darkness of the earth. God’s question to Eve after their sin, ‘What is this you have done?’ was not about finding out something about their act but about the results of that, which would have set into motion the consequential results of that action (Genesis 3:13).
The law of cause and effect is established in the world and what we do produces a result. This same principle is also applicable in spiritual laws where an act of disobedience sets in motion resultant equal and opposite curses, which may not be immediately visible but over a period of time the effect is seen in the individual’s life and may go even to the generations thereafter. God does not curse but His established justice system must take effect and it is in fulfillment of this that the Son of God had to pay the penalty for the sin of mankind. Moses received The Ten Commandments from God carved by the finger of God on tablets of stone (Exodus 20:1-17). These are not like military commands but guidelines given by a loving Father to His children to help them live a life of joy and fullness under His Divine guidance. In like manner Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is also a set of such rules to lead one into a state of blessedness (Matthew 5:3-11).
Moses said to the people, ‘Take heed and listen, O Israel; This day you have become the people of the LORD your God. Therefore, you shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments’ (Deuteronomy 29:9-10). The most important command given by Moses to the Israelites is ‘Shema’ which means ‘to listen, understand and obey’ and this obedience is not blind but with understanding. God desires the receiver of His Word to realize the beneficial effects and become a partner with Him in bringing about that effect on the world. This listening is in all its multiple senses of being attentive, meditating upon and reflecting upon the nature of God as revealed in creation, revelation and redemption.
God desires mankind to understand their limitations but He loves an enquiring mind. Lord Jesus promised and blessed each believer with the ‘Helper’, the indwelling Holy Spirit ‘to teach us all things and to remind’ all of His words. God wants each and every believer to understand why His commands are as they are, for only then can one grasp the consequences of disobedience. A father loves his child and desires the child to believe what is told and not touch the hot plate to experience the burn. Such burns are the result of unbelief in God’s word and not curses from God and are the opposite reaction of an evil action. God’s commands are given for our benefit to help us escape such bad effects and God also in turn Himself does not want to suffer the pain of our suffering, His children.
Relationship of obedience to our life – God created everything that man may need in the Garden of Eden and ‘put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15-17). Out of innumerable types of fruit trees that were given, restriction was placed only on the fruit of one tree. Even for that also God gave man free will to obey Him or not and face the consequences. God’s warning to Cain was also very clear, ‘if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it’ (Genesis 4:7). God promised Joshua, ‘Every place that the sole of your foot tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses’ (Joshua 1:3 & 8). Then Joshua was commanded to ‘meditate on’ and follow the way to victory as laid down in His word. Like Moses, Joshua also warned the Israelites to choose between God and living a good life or turn from Him and perish (Joshua 24:15). But then he could confidently claim, ‘But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’.
The best free gift of God is His Son through whom we receive salvation and escape eternal condemnation (John 3:16-18). God’s free gift of grace through Lord Jesus Christ leads to forgiveness of sins of all who believe in Him and the right to confidently approach His ‘throne of grace’ (Romans 5:15-17). But someone who does not believe this, how can he/she obey or receive the blessing? God commanded Moses to send leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel to go and check out ‘the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel’ (Numbers 13:2, 20 & 32-33). Moses defined their task and urged the leaders to ‘Be of good courage’. When they returned all of them agreed about the abundance of everything in the land but ten out of the twelve, focused more on the negative aspects like fortified towns, giants dwelling there and counting themselves ‘like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’.
Their task was not to plan the battle strategy but to get details only and this led all the people above twenty years of age, all the fighting men, except two, Joshua and Caleb, to perish in the wilderness. Many believers do not receive the blessings despite following the Scripture. God desires first place in our lives in everything but many want to try obedience to certain words while leaving others aside. If my daughter believes in the goodness of my in-laws’ words she will be obedient and be loved by all. If I have faith in the love and mercy of God, I would give Him praise through all my works in my life.
The Apostle provided another aspect of working and living faith in action in the works of obedience to the word of God (James 2:17). The devil will keep whispering in our ears about the futility of anything we do to lead us astray but we have to persevere and continue to live a life of obedience to God’s commands. However, there will be times when we feel alone with darkness all around, it is then, like the ‘Sons of Korah’, I will sing the ‘song of Confidence’ (Psalm 46). ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubles, though the mountains shake with its swelling’. The God that we worship has promised, I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6) and He is not a God of good times but is ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above everything that we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20). I will follow His word and live a life of obedience.
Abraham was commanded to shift from the place he was familiar with and go to a place yet unknown to him. How many can up stick and shift in such a manner with no clarity of future. Abraham obeyed God and all the nations of the world are blessed through him. God does not desire His people to be in darkness but be in the light of His glory and thus be a blessing to others. The qualifying clause for being blessed is simple obedience to His Word.