Obeying God's Word
by Tom Gryniewicz
Christian growth depends upon our response to the will of God which he communicates to us in a number of ways, but primarily through the Scriptures. What is the right attitude of heart for a Christian when he confronts the will of the Lord for him in Scripture?
Two examples of scripture illustrate the opposite extremes we can take to what the Lord says to us in the Bible. The first one is in 2 Kings 22; it concerns Josiah who was king over the chosen people. Those were difficult times: the Temple had fallen into disuse; the collection and storing of tithes in the Temple were the only religious duties still being done. So, as a measure of reform, the king ordered the Temple to be swept and all the tithes money put into the treasury. While Hilkiah the high priest was cleaning out the Temple, he found the Book of the Law, which had been lost for several generations. He had the king's secretary read it before King Josiah.
When Josiah heard the words of the Law, he could see that he and his people weren't living according to the Lord's word. And he also knew that his father's people hadn't lived that way. It cut him to the heart. He tore his clothes as a sign of submission to god. Next he took steps to do something about it. He destroyed the places of idol worship in the kingdom, sent the mediums and wizards from the land, established obedience to the Law and commanded the whole people to keep the Passover every year, a practice which had long before fallen into disuse.
Jeremiah 36 describes a similar situation that happened several years later to King Josiah's son, King Jehoiakim. But jehoiakim reacted quite differently. At that time Jeremiah was speaking the word of the Lord against the many kinds of evil which had persisted among the chosen people. The Lord had Jeremiah write down all he had spoken from Josiah's time up till the present and give it to King Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim had one of his servants give a public reading of it at his court with all his advisors and princes present. As his servant read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a knife and threw them into his fireplace until the entire scroll, bit by bit, was consumed in the fire. It says that neither the king nor any of his servants who heard these words was afraid, nor did they team their garments. A few men urged the king not to burn the scroll, but he refused to listen to them.
Notice the individual response that these two men, father and son, made to a situation where
the written word of God was presented to them in order to make a change in their lives. The first
one, Josiah, said, "I can see that I fit into what God is talking about; I can see that we are doing
wrong and that God says he can't tolerate people doing wrong in this way. God has said it and I
believe it; let's find out how we can put ourselves in the right relationship with this written word
of the Lord." Jehoiakim, on the other hand, said, "I don't like what I'm hearing, I don't want to
see it any more, I don't want to hear it any more, take it away, I'm happy the way I am."
God didn't give us the Scriptures because he wanted to be a
famous author; he gave us the Scripture because it contains life.
Believing or not believing the Word of God makes a difference. Our attitude toward Scripture is a vital key that releases the power of the Lord in our life. God didn't give us so many pages of his own words just because he wanted to be a famous author; he gave us Scripture because it contains life; it tells us how to live and what to avoid; it even tells us what to do if we're in the wrong position and doing the wrong thing. It gives us straightforward, solid information about God's plans. But he can't carry out his plans through us and in us if we don't agree with them; and we're not going to agree with them if we don't believe what the Lord says in Scripture, only then can we walk in his perfect will for our lives.
Let's take an example from everyday life. Suppose one day we find ourselves grumbling and feeling depressed because it seems that nothing in our day went well for us. We were involved in a car accident, our insurance agent was out of town on vacation, the operator cut us off during an important long-distance business conversation, and our boss reprimanded us for coming in late after lunch. Then suppose we remember a passage from Romans that says, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
In our situation we are confronted with the Word of God in Scripture. We can say, "I'm going to turn my face to the wall and pout; I'm going to rip that page out of my Bible and burn it," or we can do as Josiah did and say, "That is a true word of God--God has said it, I believe it, that settles it: where do I go from here?"
Even when we learn to rejoice in all circumstances, the Lord doesn't want us to stop there. There are innumerable major categories in Scriptures that would be a further confrontation for us; through these words of Scripture, God will lead us beyond what we would normally want to believe, beyond what we could imagine or hope for. The Lord's pattern for our life is in the Word of God and we have to respond to it: words about obedience to God that we find in Exodus 19 or John 14, or instructions about husband and wife, or parent and child relationships that we find in Ephesians five. For these words of Scripture to really bring us life we should approach them saying, "Lord, I'm committed to you and therefore I submit to your word in Scripture. I want to do what you say."
When we hear the Lord's piercing word to us we should not, of course, go running off wildly.
Once we have decided to submit to his word in Scripture, we may need to look closely and
sensibly at the word with our brothers and sisters and with the Lord and work out what it means
for our lives right now. But that comes later. First we must decide to take it seriously. Let's
decide today to believe, accept, and submit to what God says in Scripture; he will give us the
strength and energy to carry out that decision.
This article originally appeared in "New Covenant Magazine," December, 1974.