Complete Obedience or Negotiated Compliance?

Today I read Numbers 8-10. Obedience is always in the details and how we obey completely not whether we obey in part. In Numbers God sets up the rules which the Israelites should follow in how they set up the tabernacle, consecrate the priests, handle the passover, and move from place to place. Each of these instructions had very specific things that could and couldn’t be done with consequences for each action that was not followed. For instance, if someone was deemed unclean for doing something like touching a dead body, they could not celebrate Passover with everyone else on the appointed time but had to wait a month to do it. To touch the ark of the covenant would mean instant death. While all of these rules had meaning beyond the rules themselves, it was also a test of obedience for the people of Israel who had to follow them.

Obedience is a word that many people do not like today. For many it is too authoritarian which in a postmodern society means someone is being marginalized and someone’s voice is not being heard. Sometimes I wonder how a postmodern thinker would have done in his/her conversation with God! As a result of our philosophy on life and errosion of authority through concepts like situational ethics, people prefer to pick and choose what they obey and what they do not. Most people see situations where obedience is necessary as opportunities to negotiate. If I can negotiate the terms I will obey you. This is kind of like what I experience with my kids. They want to obey the things that they deem easy and negotiate why they shouldn’t have to do the rest. Or if they know they are not going to win the negotiation they try to get me to give them something as motivation for doing something they should be doing in the first place. As a good parent, I can’t allow my boys to set terms or negotiate with me or they will grow up thinking they only have to do the right thing or submit to authorities if they feel like it and my life with them would be miserable. Instead, because I love them, I have to set up boundaries and rules that they must obey so they can learn appropriate boundaries and respect for authority.

Now I know some will think that something like that prevents them from being independent thinkers but it really doesn’t. It helps them to know the limits of what they can and can’t do and actually makes them more creative. Ask a child to build a sand castle on a beach and he goes wild trying to figure out how to make it happen because of all the space. Tell him to build a sand castle in a sand box and he suddenly has the appropriate boundaries to thrive. In our lives we need boundaries as adults just as our kids do. God puts boundaries in place in our lives because he loves us and knows what is best just as I as a parent put boundaries on my kids because I love them. When we obey completely without negotiation we should our love for him and our complete trust that he has our best interests at heart. When we choose to negotiate or partially obey we show that we really don’t trust God and we think we know better in some areas of life. How does your current obedience show your trust in God?

Lord, help me to trust you in everything in my life. I want to hear you and obey you because I know your way is better than anything I could dream up. Please help me to walk in step with you not negotiate, partially obey, or walk ahead of you. Amen.
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