Why We Obey Godís Commandments
by Hermanus W. Smeenk
In this series of bible studies, we are following a theme on the development and spiritual growth in those that were called out by God or that are known as Christians in this world. In this chapter we will cover obedience to Godís commandments which are the foundation for righteous living. We will look at several reasons for obeying God's law in our time and contrast them with Israel's and David's reasons for obeying God's law. First we will see how Israel received the law and why they were commanded to obey the law.
How The Law Was Received
According to Exodus 20:2-17, Israel first heard about God's law at Mount Sinai when God thundered the Ten Commandments in their ears. The people of Israel were so afraid that they went to Moses and begged him to be their intermediary, lest they die! The people, although they expressed the desire, did not have the determination to obey God's law. God revealed this to us in Jeremiah 31:33 where he speaks of another covenant that He will make with the House of Israel, in which He "...will put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts, not as the covenant He made with their fathers (vs 32) in the day that He took their hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt." So we see the people had only their human nature and this, according to Jeremiah 17:9 meant their "...heart [was] deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?" And Paul, in Romans 7:14 tells us "...For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." This characteristic disposed them to many instances of disobedience and as Paul wrote in Romans 8:7 "...Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."
Promises For Keeping Godís Commandments
So then, knowing these things, God made many promises to Israel, Exodus 19:5-6, "If you will obey My voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people;...", (vs 6) "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." In Deuteronomy 4:5 Moses tells Israel"...Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess." (vs 6) "Therefore, be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' And in Deuteronomy 8:1 God commands Israel, "Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers." Further in Deuteronomy 11:13-15 God promises to bless them with rain in due season and grass for their livestock so that they could eat. In Deuteronomy 28, God puts blessings before Israel if they obey His laws, and curses if they forsake His laws. We can see then that as far as Israel was concerned, they had to obey God's law to obtain the promised physical blessings from God, and if they failed to obey the law it would result in curses on them and their children.
King Davidís Attitude
David, on the other hand, received God's Spirit when Samuel anointed him to become King of Israel. To David, obedience to God's law meant much more than merely receiving God's blessings. Although David, too, succumbed to temptations for which not only he, but all of Israel paid the penalty, he understood that he was responsible for his actions. He knew that he had sinned against God when he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed in battle, II Samuel 11. Nathan the prophet came to him and accused him of his evil deeds and "...David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' II Samuel 12:13. Again when David numbered the people against God's will (II Samuel 24:1-9) 70,000 men died as a result of a plague which God sent upon Israel. Again, David admitted his wrong doing in II Samuel 24:10, "...I have sinned greatly in what I have done; and now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly." In Psalm 51, David recorded a heartfelt prayer to God, admitting his sins and requesting God to cleanse him from his sins and not punish him by taking His Holy Spirit away from him. In verse 12 we read, "...Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (vs 13) Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.
In verse 12 we receive a glimpse of how much David valued his hope for salvation and his understanding of what it meant to partake of God's Holy Spirit. In Psalm 119, we see the difference between Israel's concept of God's law and David's concept. To David, God's law is a guide to living a righteous life (vs 11), something to meditate on and to contemplate God's ways (vs 15), the way of truth (vs 30), a delight (vs 35), a walk in liberty, (vs 45), teaching judgment and knowledge (vs 66), and vs 98-104, "...You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I have understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
What Should Be The Christianís Attitude?
As these verses teach us, David obeyed God's laws because, to him, they were a way of life more to be desired than the physical blessings. They brought him understanding, wisdom, and peace of mind. How do we, as Christians, having received a measure of God's Holy Spirit, think of God's law? Not as Israel of old, for we are among those for whom the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:33 is being fulfilled. God's law is being written in our minds and on our hearts. We are among the first recipients of the new covenant, of which Jesus Christ is the Mediator (Hebrews 12:24). Therefore, Paul exhorts us to "...not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from Heaven." But we will receive "...glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good. (Romans 2:10). And, "...as sin reigned in death, even grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21). As Paul reminds us in Romans 6:2, "...How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?..." because, (vs 4) "...we were buried with Him (Jesus Christ) through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Moreover, Paul explains (vs 6, 7), "...Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin." And in Romans 8:1-2, and 4, Paul continued, "...There is therefore now no condemnation to those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death. (vs 4) That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." To that end that God predestined us, "...to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." And in Philippians 2:13, Paul assures us that "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Jesus Christ, Himself placed this hope in us when he said in Matthew 13:43, "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Our goal must be to live a righteous life, for we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. The knowledge of God's law as revealed to us by Jesus Christ, who lives in us, presents us with understanding of the Father's and His Son's attitude and character to which we must be conformed. Therefore, we obey God's law for, when we died to sin, we were raised into newness of life, a life which should be patterned after God's own character. So that our character will reflect God's law of love. Upon our resurrection from the dead and our change to immortality at Christ's return, we will become one with the Father, even as Jesus Christ is now one with the Father, and.
In this bible study, we have presented three different reasons for obeying God's law: (1) to obtain the blessings promised by God, (2) to obtain wisdom, understanding, and peace of mind, and (3) to live a righteous life and become perfect, even as God is perfect.
Continue on to the next chapter where we'll discuss some of the teachings by Jesus in Matthew 5 about what our proper attitude should be towards our neighbor. The chapter's title is, "Blessed are the Meek"
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