I have a bit of a stubborn streak. (Just ask my family!) It goes against my grain to simply obey instructions or commands if I can’t understand and agree with the reason for them. Explain yourself to me, and I will happily do what you ask (usually). But “just because I say so” is not reason enough for me to do something that does not make sense to me.
Unfortunately, I also naturally have that same attitude toward God. Sure, I’ll try to live according to His law. It makes sense, and I can see the good that comes from it (and the bad that comes from disregarding it). But what if He asks me to….
“Go now to a certain place where you have no particular reason to be.”
That’s what he asked of Phillip.
In Acts 8:26-40, Philip was told by the Spirit to go to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then he was told to join a particular chariot that was traveling down that road. He wasn’t told why. He just went.
Because he did, he had opportunity to share Jesus with someone who was already prepped and eager to learn. That someone was a high official of the Ethiopian court, in charge of all the queen’s treasure. After his encounter with Philip, he believed in Jesus, was baptized, and went on his way rejoicing.
How many Christians in Ethiopia since then can trace their “ancestry” to Philip’s obedience?
“Go help the man who has been persecuting you.”
That’s what He asked of Ananias.
In Acts 9:10-18, a Christian named Ananias was told in a vision to go help a man named Saul. He questioned, knowing that Saul was a very influential Pharisee trying to stamp out Christianity. The answer was “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
Ananias went…and Saul became known as Paul, the apostle who founded churches throughout the Roman Empire and whose letters form much of the New Testament.
What if Ananias had not obeyed?
“Spend 100 years building a big boat, when there is no water nearby.”
That’s what He asked of Noah.
In Genesis chapters 6 through 9, God sees the uncontrollable evil in mankind, and chooses to do a “reset” that spares only the one righteous man and his family, along with representatives of all the animals. He tells Noah that a flood is coming, and to build a boat to very exact specifications. Noah is to prepare to take care of all the people and creatures who are to be rescued. Noah and his passengers re-populated the earth after the flood waters receded.
What if Noah had said “Uh-uh. That’s a lot of work, and it’s not raining.”?
“Leave your home and go to a land that I will show you.”
That’s what He asked of Abram.
In Genesis 12:1-9, Abram followed God’s call to leave Haran. The land that God showed him was Canaan, now Israel. It was to be the homeland of the nation chosen to demonstrate God to the world.
God’s dealing with Israel — His laws, His discipline, His mercy — were a summary of how He deals with all people. That summary was brought into sharp detail when He came to them in person: Jesus, the Son of God, was born as a descendant of Abram in that nation and in that land.
If Abram had stayed in Haran, how would God have revealed Himself to the world instead?
“Sacrifice your son, your only son, whom you love.”
That’s what He asked of Abraham.
In Genesis 22:1-19, Abraham was obedient even to the point of being willing to sacrifice Isaac. He provided one of the most powerful previews in the Old Testament of the coming sacrifice of Jesus.
Because we can empathize with him, we have a better understanding of the price that God paid for our salvation.
What if he had said “No, that’s too much. I won’t do it.”?
Don’t wait for understanding. Simply obey.
None of these people understood why God was asking them to do these tasks. They couldn’t see the future, couldn’t know the outcome of their obedience. They didn’t even get to see the full outcome during their lifetimes. But we have the benefit of hindsight. We know much (even if not all) of the good that God brought about by using them.
It’s simple, but not easy.
The things God asked of these people were not easy to do. I guess Phillip had the easiest of these examples, just go to a certain place without knowing what was there or what he was supposed to do. Even that took effort, and interrupted whatever Phillip otherwise had planned. Ananias could face prison or even death if Saul had treated him the way he had been treating other Christians. Noah worked for 100 years while his neighbors must have thought he was completely off his rocker. Abram left behind his entire life: home, family, inheritance 1, security. And later, as Abraham, he was asked to kill not only the son he loved but also the son of promise who was born after decades of waiting.
It’s all about trust.
The reason all these people obeyed was because they trusted God. They respected His authority over them; they knew that He had a plan; and they were willing to take their place in that plan. No finite human being can grasp even a hint of what God has in mind. (See Job 38 for God teaching that lesson to Job!) Our job is not to understand, debate, or suggest improvements to His plan. Our job is to simply trust and obey.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,Isaiah 55:8-9
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
What about now?
What about us today? What about me? Have I obeyed God on something just because I trusted Him? When I get to Heaven, will I learn of something good that He accomplished through me? Or, have I disobeyed, and missed out on a chance to be part of His accomplishment? Will I learn of what could have happened, if only I had been obedient?
I ask His forgiveness for all my disobedience. And I ask for His help as I try to listen more closely, and obey more thoroughly, whether I understand His reasons or not.
Footnotes and Scripture References
- From the way he is listed first in the genealogies, it seems that Abram was the eldest son. (Genesis 11:27-31) That would put him in line to inherit leadership of the family in addition to the majority of the possessions.