Forthright Magazine

To obey or not to obey…

“As for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David, saying, ‘You shall never lack a successor on the throne of Israel.’ If you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut Israel off from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a taunt among all peoples.” (1 King 9:4-7 NRSVUE)

Throughout the pages of scripture God’s people have been presented with a choice: obey God or reject his commands and serve other gods. Before entering the Promised Land Israel was given this choice: observe God’s covenant or turn to other gods (Deuteronomy 29); serving God would bring God’s blessings and rejecting God for false gods would bring God’s anger. After conquering the Promised Land Joshua presented Israel with the same choice.

“Now, therefore, revere the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

At the beginning of Solomon’s reign God had appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted from God. When Solomon asked for wisdom God said he would not only give him wisdom but also riches and honour throughout his life. But Solomon needed to be faithful to him. God said, “If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life” (1 King 3:14). He needed to keep God’s commandments.

After completing his building projects twenty years later, God appeared to Solomon once again. Even though he had built a house for God in Jerusalem, he still needed to choose how he would live. The choices were the same: keep all that God commanded or reject him and worship other gods. If he was faithful there were blessings; if he rejected God the entire nation would suffer.

Although we are living almost 3,000 years after all of these events, God still offers us the same choice: believe and obey God or reject him. Here is how Jesus and the apostles stated it:–

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath.” (John 3:36)

“The one who believes and is baptised will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

The blessings God offered Israel were largely physical: long life, abundance, remaining in the land. The consequences of rejecting him were also physical: captivity and death. Today we are offered eternal life and salvation – something that will last forever. The consequences of rejecting God’s offer also have eternal ramifications: God’s wrath and condemnation.

When you see the difference in obeying God or rejecting him, why would anyone not want to obey him?

Photo by Jon Galloway: obeying God by being immersed in the River Jordan, Jordan.

Readings for next week: 1 Kings 6-10


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