The Duty of Obedience
Reformed Free Publishing Association
This article was written by Rev. Rodney Miersma and published in the December 15, 1982 issue of the Standard Bearer.
Youth in the Lord, the last time we met together we saw that the strength of youth and the beauty of youth is the spiritual adornment of obedience. The earmark of the child of God is obedience unto one's parents in the Lord, for the Lord's sake, for this is right. This was based on the word of God as recorded in Ephesians 6:1–3. We concluded our discussion last time by pointing out that obedience is well-pleasing unto the Lord, that he loves obedience.
Youth who are obedient to their parents for the Lord's sake will also be obedient in all spheres of life. We wish to elaborate on this a bit in this article by drawing your attention to 1 Samuel 15:22 where we read, "And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
What we see here is that God demands of both you and me perfect obedience. Outward appearance will not be enough, but he who searches and knows the heart requires that obedience be from the heart, an obedience of love as a friend-servant.
As youth you look to the future contemplating a successful and happy life. You can have it only if you possess obedience. This is not some philosopher or psychologist speaking, but God himself. Turn with me to Proverbs 3:1, 2: "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee." Through the Psalmist in Psalm 91:14–16 the Lord says, "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation." And if this were not enough we have yet 1 Peter 3:10–12, "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil."
This truth Samuel conveys to King Saul, and thus also to us. As king of Israel Saul had been commanded by the Lord to smite utterly the nation of Amalek. Total destruction was the command of God: all men, women, children, and animals were to be destroyed. However, King Saul was not of a mind to obey this word of God, which was unmistakably clear. He destroyed much, almost everything; but he spared the life of Agag, king of Amalek, and took back with him the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, and lambs.
Upon return he piously informs Samuel that he has obeyed the commandment of the Lord. Samuel was not to be deceived, for in addition to the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen which he could hear, the Lord had appeared unto him revealing the disobedience of Saul. He demands of Saul an explanation.
Saul excuses himself under the pretext that not he but the people had spared the animals. To make it even more honorable he claims that the people were highly motivated, in that these animals were to be used for sacrifice unto the Lord. Noble indeed! As high-sounding as this may sound, Saul's heart is not pure. He does not seek to please God, but desires to please men; thus he condones this sin so that he may hear the people say that he has made them rich, rather than God. This evil deed he is trying to cover with the cloak of righteousness.
Even if we give Saul the benefit of the doubt and say that in his heart he really was trying to supply the altar of the Lord with the best, does it change anything? May we ever maintain that the end justifies the means no matter how wicked those means are? May we say that as long as the result is good it does not matter how we obtain it?
Do not ask me this question; ask the Lord. Through his mouthpiece, the prophet Samuel, he shows how impossible such a position is. "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." In other words, outward form and sacrificial service have meaning with God only when they are done from the heart and in obedience and love. It does not matter how many sacrifices are made, even if of the best quality. If they are made with enmity in the heart then they are only so many abominations.
As in all sacred Bible history there is also here the word of God to us. God is saying something to us concerning our daily life here on earth. The Amalekites were an evil people whose cup of iniquity was full. The word of the Lord to Saul was to destroy them utterly. That same word of God comes to us, although in different form. "Purify yourselves; cleanse yourselves from all wickedness; be ye holy, for I am holy." God speaks this to all of us, but the emphasis in this article is upon you, the young people. God requires also of you young people that you put away every sin, forsake every evil way, and walk before him in love and obedience according to his word. Young people like to think that they are exempt from this command of God, that somehow they have a special privilege and do not have to walk uprightly until they are married and settle down. Youth, you say, is the time to sow one's wild oats, to indulge so that one can get it out of one's system. Later in life one can become serious. Perhaps you even put off making confession of faith with the mistaken notion that now you can do many things which you will not be able to do after you make confession of faith.
Is this what you read in the Bible? Is this what you hear preached from the pulpit? Do your parents and teachers leave you with that impression? You know better. Of course not! God's demand is far-reaching, embracing every sphere of your life. There is no such thing as a "sin-privilege" for youth. Right now this command covers all that you think, speak, and do. Your relationships toward each other must be free from sin. This includes your dating practices, your entertainment, the music you listen to, the places you go to, and all other areas of your life. You must separate yourselves from all ties by which you are bound to worldliness, and you must seek the purest manifestation of the church of God, submitting yourselves to its doctrine and discipline.
You must not be like Saul and make excuses for yourselves. You must not piously pride yourselves in the fact that you are not using illicit drugs, are not addicted to alcoholic beverages, are not sexually promiscuous, and are not in attendance at the theater and dance. You may even say that there is much good. You go to church regularly, attend Young People's Society, even taking part in the discussion.
But does this make you obedient to the command of God? Did not Saul also destroy the vile and worthless? Saul did not sin in destroying the vile, but he disobeyed when he kept that which was good in his and the people's eyes. This is only partial obedience, not complete submission.
However, when this sin is exposed and pointed out, the excuses begin to flow abundantly. Suddenly there is a redeeming value, a little bit of good to be gained from the bad. You may ask, "But how do I know it is wrong or bad if I do not do it or try it? I have to see for myself." You try to make yourself believe that the only "fun" for yourself is that which is wrong, shoving aside the reproof that happiness and blessedness is only in the way of obedience to God in love.
But wait, do not take my word for it, listen to God. On the one hand, in Deuteronomy 28:15–20 he says, "It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee; cursed shalt thou be in the city and cursed shalt thou be in the field; cursed shall be thy basket and thy store, cursed shall be the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation and rebuke, in all that thou settest thy hand unto for to do until thou be destroyed." As can be seen, the miseries of today are a result of God's wrath upon disobedient mankind. Greater miseries will follow as the cup of iniquity continues to be filled.
On the other hand, the prophet Jeremiah tells us, "But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice and I will be your God and ye shall be my people and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well unto you." In Matthew 7:21 the Lord confirms this by saying, "Not all that say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father." Disobedience is certain death while obedience is eternal life.
To walk such a life of obedience takes much practice. In order to live in obedience you must know that you cannot do this all by yourself. By yourself you are disobedient and gainsaying, hopelessly lost and helpless. You also must know that Jesus Christ is perfect in obedience. This he demonstrated by obeying God from the manger to the cross. That obedience was rewarded by God on the third day when he raised Christ from the dead and exalted him over all. Finally, you must know that your obedience is possible only in Christ. It is a gift from God which he gives to you through his Son. His Spirit now reigns in your heart by which you resist the evil of the world and walk in the joy of the Lord. Hear the word of the Lord and trust and obey, for obedience is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.