Obeying God’s Word

In this post, I want to consider the relationship in God’s word and our quality of life. I have reflected on two passages of scripture for this post. They are Deuteronomy 30:11-20 and John 6:59-65. God’s word brings life and hope. For the ancient Hebrews, God’s word functioned as a seal of His covenant relationship with them. New Testament believers recognize the continuity of both covenants and consider the relationship of God’s spoken and written word and Jesus the Word-Made-Flesh. As I write this, I am reminded of that wonderful song entitled, “Ancient Words”. Perhaps you can worship along and come back to this post.

Every day we use countless words, whether written or spoken. The ability to communicate is one of the remarkable characteristics of our humanity that points us back to our Creator. We are made in the image of God, which means that we can reason and relate to God and other humans, among other things. Anthony Thiselton notes the following attributes traditionally associated with being made in God’s image, “Traditionally since Augustine and Aquinas, these have been rationality, dominion or sovereignty, freedom, and more recently relationality, or the capacity to relate to others (Barth, Migliore).” [1] Our ability to use language to communicate is a gift of God.

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Deuteronomy is admittedly one of those books I frequent in Bible study. The book is in many respects a collection of sermons from Moses to the people of Israel on the “eve the conquest of Canaan as a means of addressing questions and concerns” for the Covenant people.[2] The fifth book of Moses was a treasure trove for ancient Israelites, and we should treasure it as well. Deuteronomy renews and reapplies the Covenant God made with His people in a compelling way for a new generation.

About a month ago, verses 11-20 captured my attention. The passage is hyperlinked in the introduction above. Feel free to read the passage in your printed copy of God’s word as well. I will list three observations in a general sense as I am not writing an exegetical paper or a sermon here. I am trying to motivate you, my reader, to think about these things for yourself and the implications these propositions have on your life.

  • God’s word is intended to be obeyed. (vv.11-14)

God told His covenant people that His commandment (covenant fidelity) was not out of reach. Moses taught the people that they could observe the Word of the Lord. We must consider what the verb observe means as it is used in verse 14. The Hebrew word is עָשָׂה which is pronounced a-sã. The verb means to do or make. When Moses reminded the people to observe God’s Word he implied that they would obey it. Some of you immediately began making excuses for disobedience when you read that, such as “No one is perfect”. While we must affirm that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, we do not negate the importance of seeking to obey God’s word. We recognize that we will fall short and are desperately dependent on His grace. We reject any notion of Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism. We must also take God’s word through Moses seriously. Even the Ten Words (Ten Commandments) can be obeyed we just choose not to because we are sinners, and we choose the evil more than the good in our sin nature. (Perhaps we can reflect on how our desires are transformed as we grow in Christ in a later post.) The point is that Moses was not urging the people to hypothetically observe God’s word. (Consider 30:8)

  • Disobedience to God’s word results in consequences. (vv. 15-18)

Moses reminded the congregation of Israelites that there is a relationship between God’s blessing and one’s submission to His covenant. Chapter 28 captures the relationship of blessings and curses in the Old Covenant. Some of you are already arguing, “Well, we are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant now.” There is more continuity between the Testaments than has been discussed in the recent century. Mere law keeping does not result in justification. Accepting Christ’s atoning work on the cross alone results in justification. Those within the so-called New Perspectives on Paul would discuss covenantal nomism at this point.[3] In short, God’s word was given to us for our benefit. Contemporary people often think of commands as a burden but that would not have been the mindset of an ancient Hebrew. God gave us His word and commandments for our own good. Consider for example His law regarding adultery. In our over sexualized culture, people want absolute sexual autonomy. The sexual revolution of the late 20th century has ongoing impacts in our world today. I submit to you that there are consequences for rejecting what the Bible says about gender and sexuality. [4] Obedience results in blessing and disobedience results in consequences or curses.

  • Obedience is a choice. (vv.19-20)

Moses urged the people to posture themselves in submission to God rather than rebellion. All sin is ultimately rebellion against God. The Hebrew people were commanded to “choose life” by submitting to God’s covenant plan. While we cannot perfectly obey and while we recognize our dependence on God’s grace, we can posture our hearts in such a way that God can transform our desires. One difference in a follower of Jesus and an unbeliever is that the follower of Jesus has a desire to obey His word. We do not truly begin living until we live according to God’s word.

Consider these words of Jesus from John’s Gospel:

63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63, NASB)

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, NASB)

Conclusion

God’s word brings eternal life and hope. The Bible resounds with a message from God’s heart. He reveals Himself to us through His word so we might know Him. I invite all of you to choose life today by submitting yourself to God’s word. You may have difficulties in this life. There may be obstacles in your journey of life and faith. Recognize that there is a great reward in obeying God’s word, namely eternal life, which is the greatest blessing.

19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NASB)


[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, “Image of God,” The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015), 477.

[2] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 26.

[3] Paul F.M. Zahl, “Mistakes of the New Perspective on Paul,” Themelios 27, no. 1 (2001): 5. “Covenantal nomism is the idea that Second Temple Judaism taught that you are in the Covenant from birth, or better, from circumcision. After that, you are in until your failure to observe the Law, on any given point, places you out. But it is easy to get back in. If you repent of your sin and return to the Lord, he is merciful to forgive. Once you do whatever restitution is required for the wrong to be righted, you are back in. Second Temple Judaism was gracious, not legalistic. It was flexible, not harsh. It was forgiving, not inexorable. Judaism in the time of Paul was a religion not of law, but of grace.”

[4] I affirm, without reservation, the Nashville Statement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. If you are struggling with issues of sexuality, please know I do not think less of you. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. We can be made new in the area of our sexuality through the Good News of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

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