“But Samuel replied, ‘what is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.’”
1 Samuel 15:22
I view obedience with greater value now that I am a father, before I considered obedience important, whether it was to my parents, teachers, or authority. But now I can see the bigger picture as a parent, obedience is not about just following a rule here and there, it has to do with the overall structure in place of God-given authority as a parental unit. Rebelling against me as a parent has bigger implications than not doing your chores, for example, it can escalate into bigger issues in life and it leads to a heart of rebellion that can be extrapolated on other people in authority (aka the police, boss, clergy, etc).
Granted I will not expect my children to understand this like I do now, even though I try to connect the dots for them so that they will hopefully understand more later on in life.
This played out recently when I was out shopping; I bought my kids each a LEGO set, nothing fancy, just a simple gesture to show them I love them since they were good (relatively) during the week. Upon coming home for the day, I was told the many ways in which my son disobeyed and rebelled against my wife and he was now confined to his room for the remaining two hours of the night. This broke my heart; here I was looking forward to spending time with him and rewarding him with a toy. I spoke with him and expressed my frustration with him and told him that I would be returning the LEGO set that I bought for him. I had bought it out of the love I have for him, but his lack of obedience forced me to withhold what I wanted to bless him with.
Let’s look at Moses, now I feel for the guy, I mean, here was someone who the Lord used mightily and who led the people of Israel out of bondage. God proved His power with miraculous signs and wonders time and time again. And yet, the people were stubborn, disobedient, and wicked. You can feel Moses’ frustration as you read these accounts, sometimes he stood up for the people (Ex 32:13) and other times he had uncontrolled (righteous?) anger towards them (Ex 17:6).
Reading the history of the Israelites and their journey to the Promised Land, it’s easy to feel sad that Moses was not allowed to enter; after all here was a man was overall obedient and sincere. It just doesn’t seem fair.
The generation of Israelites had to die off due to their fear of the enemy and disobedience to God, except Joshua and Caleb. The spies that went out to survey the land came back with a scary report of giants and armies which resulted in fear in the people and not trust in God. The Lord heard their complaining and swore that “not one of your from this wicked generation will live to see the good land I swore to your ancestors” (Deut 1:34-35).
Moses was not allowed to enter for a different reason, and it had to do with obedience.
During the journey in the desert, the people of Israel became tired and thirsty, they demanded water. Moses went to God for water and God ordered him to strike a rock which provided water for all.
“I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.”
Years later the same thing happened, the people became thirsty and Moses took it before God, however God flipped the script on Moses and commanded a new thing.
“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
God specifically told Moses to speak and he struck the rock instead. You still may be thinking “so what?” You can tell by the tone of Moses’ voice when he says “you rebels” that he had enough of the Israelites; he allowed anger to control him which led to disobedience.
Moses knew that striking the rock worked before, he might have been comfortable with it, and he probably just wanted to get this situation over with it. The miracles of God did not give him reverence and awe anymore, he took God for granted and he relied on his OWN knowledge of what worked well in the past.
God was trying to do a new thing, he wanted Moses to trust him in a new way, and this required obedience.
God responded, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them! (Num 20:12)
Do you still think that obedience is not important to God? A lack of obedience can result in a lack of blessing from God!
Maybe God is asking you to do a new thing, maybe He is asking you to be faithful in a new way, what worked 10 years ago may not be obedience to God now. Whatever God is calling you to do, listen to His voice and OBEY, that is the most important thing we can do.
The thing is that God still provided for His people, water flowed from the rock despite Moses’ disobedience. The takeaway for me here is that God will always provide for His people despite the flaws of man! He demonstrates His holiness to us in many ways not for our glory but for His!
We can get so legalistic with the Bible that we think we are obeying God by following rules instead of listening to the heart of our Father. Take, for example, tithing. Maybe God is not asking you to give 10% anymore like you did in the past, maybe He is asking you to give 15% or volunteer your time or bless a neighbor. We may resist God and say “I am doing what worked before, I’m following the Bible” when God is trying to do a NEW thing in you that requires obedience!
Jesus told the rich man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor (Matt 19:21). This was specific to that man; Jesus is not asking everyone to do that. However for that specific rich man, he was required to act in obedience to God in that moment.
But here’s another caveat to the story of Moses and the rock which is expanded upon in the New Testament:
1 Corinthians 10:4 speaking of the Israelites says-
“All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.”
The rock was symbolic of Jesus who said, “Anyone who is thirty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (John 7:37). Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14).
Do you see it?
Moses struck the rock and then was asked to speak to it in faith the second time which Moses did not do.
Jesus is our Rock who was struck and crucified for our sins, the work is finished, and there is no need to strike Him again. NOW, we can speak to Him in faith.
Our promise of life giving waters is confirmed through the Holy Spirit inside of us and we have the blessed hope of eternity where we have life everlasting!
Discerning Reflection: So what is God asking you to be obedient in? Maybe it looks differently than it did in the past. Maybe a step of faith is what is required to receive the blessing that God gives those who honor Him and obey His Word.
Prayer: Lord, help me to understand the important of obedience to you, forgive me when I have disobeyed your Word. Give me the strength today to act in faith and trust your will for my life. Help me trust you despite the fears that my mind comes up with. Amen.
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