Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9

Genesis 20:1-22:24; Matthew 7:15-29; Psalm 9:1-12; Proverbs 2:16-22

Obedience is everywhere in today's reading: Abraham, Matthew's gospel, even the psalm.  I've thought a great deal about obedience in recent years: in child-rearing, in living life under God's rule, in how to explain why it's okay when I'm speeding.  (Grimace.)  And I've watched people: people who have obeyed, people who haven't, people who think they have.  I think in particular of a pastor at our former church.  He and his wife were incredibly faithful people, living an obedient life.  They weren't flashy; they weren't "cool"; they weren't compelling.  But their lives have flourished, more than the flashy, cool, compelling people who surround them.  I think it's because they obey, day in and day out, in all the small ways that lead to all the big ways.  And God blesses obedience.

Obedience isn't complicated.  It's not complex or incomprehensible.  It is, instead, just hard.  Really hard.  Really, really hard!  Knowing what to do is rarely the challenge; the difficulty is getting ourselves to do what we are commanded to do.  It isn't complicated to tithe; it's hard.  It isn't a complex equation to understand that we are expected to forgive those who wound us, but doing so - actually forgiving - requires effort beyond measure.  It's an easy thing to know that fidelity in marriage is God's design, but to remain faithful in word, thought and deed through a lifetime of matrimony is work, blood-and-sweat-and-tears kind of work.  We're called to hear and then to obey.

We see this with Abraham.  It wasn't complicated to understand what God required.  God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Step one: take him to the altar.  Step two: kill him.  Easy to know what the plan was.  Unbelievably difficult, perhaps even impossible, to do.  And yet Abraham heard and obeyed (see Gen. 22:10-11).  That truly amazes me; as a mother, I cannot comprehend Abraham's trust in God - and I wasn't childless for a century!  Such obedience, with such a reward by God.  Gen. 22:17-18 shows God's response to Abraham's trust.  Abundant, extravagant blessing - descendants like the stars, possession of the land, and "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed."  

We see Jesus affirming the activity of obedience in the New Testament portion of our reading today.  Jesus tells a parable of the wise and foolish builders, commending the one "who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice" (Matt. 7:24).  The wise man hears and obeys, and God's response is to confer security, the certainty of his own presence (see vs. 25).  What greater gift than to be sure in our foundation, to know that God is with us and for us.  Obedience leads to blessing.

Even the psalm reading declares action steps: I WILL praise; I WILL tell; I WILL be glad and rejoice in you; I WILL sing (Ps. 9:1-2).  Not when everything's hunky-dory and shiny-happy, but when my job is downsized, when my children are lost in addiction, when my dearest friend is dying from cancer.  I can yet CHOOSE to praise, CHOOSE to tell, CHOOSE to rejoice in you.  This is a declaration, a proclamation - a vow to say what is true, even when our experience and circumstance make life clouded.

Isn't it when life is murky that we most need obedience, that we need God's voice to lead us?  Isn't it when we feel adrift that we long for the comfort of boundaries and security?  When we obey, we're grounded in who we are and in who God is.  And that is fruitful soil for God's blessing to grow.

Lord, I need courage and strength to hear and to obey.  Let me choose to be glad and rejoice in you (Ps. 9:2).

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 


  1. Thanks, Sarah. Obedience isn't cool, as you so aptly describe above, but the benefits are amazing.

  2. Sarah, I was thinking what a refreshing word for us. So many of us do not want to think this how God works. As Nell, said it isn't cool. But in obedience we walk with God. We say whatever I think is best I submit to the One who understands, knows and loves me. Can I trust God's great love for me when obedience counters my understanding and what I perceive to be different than my good? It cuts across our personal and cultural expressions of what we say it means to love and to be loved by God.

  3. Michael, I think you hit on a key point: "Whatever I think is best...." So often we defer to our desires, our promptings, our understandings rather than choosing the more difficult path of just obeying. We obey regardless, and "regardless" can be really, really hard.