Commands are great—if they are for someone else—dogs, students, soldiers.
The ability to give commands involves a commander and an individual who has surrendered his/her rights. Not the kind of thing for which most of us would volunteer. The one being commanded is at the mercy of the commander. If the commander is skillful and caring, the commands given will be wise and beneficial. If the commander is incompetent and cruel the commands given could be deadly:
- Abusing the dog,
- Confusing the students, and
- Using up the soldiers.
In the Viet Nam era some young men of draft age fled to Canada to escape the loss of freedom that would subject them to a military system of command. Others submitted to the draft and then to the service, surrendering their freedom and doing as they were commanded. In this way they followed the example of their WWII fathers who set their rights aside to secure ours. They did as they were commanded and saved the world.
Starting at Mt. Sinai
This remarkable record of sacrifice of rights for the good of the community goes back to the foothills of Mt. Sinai. The Kingdom of God under the Law of Moses was expressed in commands. Ten of them summed up the morality and spirituality of the People of God. These were not guidelines or suggestions. They were the commands of One who had the authority to give them and to expect obedience. Moses was the leader of the people, but Jehovah God was the Commander.
- The people were not like dogs, responding by instinct learned in repetitive drills. They were the beloved creations of a Commander who understood the chaos in the world where laws were of the moment and were the province of men whose moments indeed were fleeting.
- They were not school children whose job it was to sit down and shut up while the teacher droned and drilled the lessons of the day. They were adult family members who were meant to partner with God to subdue and sustain a land flowing milk and honey.
- They were not nameless pawns of war, so much fodder for the hungry animals of battle. There were battles to fight, enemies to rout, and strongholds to bring down but the fighting would be done in name of the Lord and in the power of His might.
The songwriters of the day often expressed love for the commands of God, and not just the Big Ten—but all of them. This love for Law may be difficult for us to understand. In their best moments the psalmists remembered what God had done:
- He delivered them from Egypt.
- At His command the Red Sea split open for them to walk through.
- They had food that fell from the sky and water sweetened by a tree or spilling from a rock.
Impressive! Their God had the right to issue commands. His love for them formed the context for their obedience to the Law.
A New Context
Now we follow the same God with a New Covenant. If the commands begin to chafe a little or we find ourselves longing to taste a few of the world’s delights, let us remember what God has done:
- Choosing a manger over a heavenly throne,
- An example of the faithful, faith-filled life,
- A cross and an empty tomb,
- Sins forgiven and cast away, and
- An Abiding Spirit who gives us the victory.
Jesus has won the right of command. God, give us the sense to obey.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. … The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end. … I stand in awe of your laws.
2 Timothy 2:1-5 NIV
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.
John 14:21; 15:10-15 NIV
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” …If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
1 John 5:2-5 NIV
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Lord Jesus, You are my commander! You have every right to send me on any mission You choose for me. It is my extreme privilege to obey Your commands. As I obey You, I will remain in Your love. How foolish it would be for ne to walk away from Your love! Help me know today that Your love is the context in which you command me. You see what is ahead; I cannot. Your formed me in the secret place of my mother’s womb with a plan in mind for me. Lord, I will follow You. Your commands and Your love are enough for me today. Amen.
Trust and Obey
Words: John H. Sammis; Music: Daniel B. Turner
1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved