Jehovah Values Your Obedience
“Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice.”—PROVERBS 27:11.
1. What spirit permeates today’s society?
A SPIRIT of independence and disobedience permeates the world today. The apostle Paul explains why in his letter to Ephesian Christians: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:1, 2) Yes, Satan the Devil, “the ruler of the authority of the air,” has, you might say, infected the whole world with the spirit of disobedience. He was doing so in the first century, and he has been doing so even more intensely since being cast out of heaven about the time of World War I.—Revelation 12:9.
2, 3. What reasons do we have for obeying Jehovah?
2 As Christians, however, we know that Jehovah God deserves our heartfelt obedience because he is our Creator, the Sustainer of our life, the loving Sovereign, and our Deliverer. (Psalm 148:5, 6; Acts 4:24; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 4:11) The Israelites of Moses’ day knew that Jehovah was their Life-Giver and their Rescuer. Therefore, Moses told them: “You people must take care to do just as Jehovah your God has commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 5:32) Yes, Jehovah deserved their obedience. Yet, they quickly became disobedient to their Sovereign.
3 How important is our obedience to the Creator of the universe? God once had the prophet Samuel tell King Saul: “To obey is better than a sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22, 23) Why is this so?
How Obedience “Is Better Than a Sacrifice”
4. In what sense can we give something to Jehovah?
4 As the Creator, Jehovah already owns everything we have in a material way. That being the case, is there anything that we can give him? Yes, we can give him something very precious. What is that? We can draw the answer from the following admonition: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) We can give God our obedience. Though we have different circumstances and backgrounds, by being obedient, each of us can respond to the vicious claim of Satan the Devil that humans will not remain loyal to God in the face of trials. What a privilege that is!
5. How does disobedience affect the Creator? Illustrate.
5 God is interested in the decisions we make. If we disobey, it affects him. How? He is pained to see anyone take such an unwise course. (Psalm 78:40, 41) Suppose a diabetic failed to stick to the healthy diet that had been prescribed for his good and kept eating what was bad for him. How would his caring physician feel? We can be sure that Jehovah feels pained when humans disobey him, for he knows the consequences of ignoring his prescription for life.
6. What will help us to be obedient to God?
6 What will help us individually to be obedient? It is appropriate for each of us to ask God for “an obedient heart,” as did King Solomon. He asked for such a heart so that he could “discern between good and bad” in order to judge his fellow Israelites. (1 Kings 3:9) We need “an obedient heart” if we are to discern between good and bad in a world permeated with the spirit of disobedience. God has provided us with his Word, Bible study aids, Christian meetings, and caring congregation elders so that we can cultivate “an obedient heart.” Are we making good use of such loving provisions?
7. Why does Jehovah stress obedience more than sacrifices?
7 In this connection, recall that in the past, Jehovah revealed to his ancient people that obedience was even more important than animal sacrifices. (Proverbs 21:3, 27; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 12:7) Why was that so, since it was Jehovah who had commanded his people to offer such sacrifices? Well, what is the motive of the one offering the sacrifice? Is he doing it to please God? Or is he merely following some ritual? If a worshipper is truly desirous of pleasing God, he will take care to be obedient to all of God’s commands. God has no need of animal sacrifices, but our obedience is one thing of value that we can give him.
A Warning Example
8. Why did God reject Saul as king?
8 The Bible record of King Saul underlines the vital importance of obedience. Saul started off as a humble and modest ruler, ‘little in his own eyes.’ In time, though, pride and false reasoning began to govern his decisions. (1 Samuel 10:21, 22; 15:17) On one occasion, Saul was to face the Philistines in battle. Samuel told the king to wait for him to come to offer sacrifices to Jehovah and to provide further direction. However, Samuel did not come as soon as he was expected, and the people began to disperse. Seeing that, Saul “went offering up the burnt sacrifice.” This was displeasing to Jehovah. When Samuel finally arrived, the king excused his own disobedience, saying that because Samuel was late, he ‘compelled himself’ to offer up the burnt sacrifice to soften Jehovah’s face. To King Saul, offering that sacrifice was more important than obeying the direction he had received to wait for Samuel to make that sacrifice. Samuel told him: “You have acted foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God that he commanded you.” Disobedience to Jehovah cost Saul his kingship.—1 Samuel 10:8; 13:5-13.
9. How did Saul manifest a pattern of disobeying God?
9 Did the king learn a lesson from this experience? No! Later, Jehovah commanded Saul to annihilate the nation of Amalek, which had earlier attacked Israel without provocation. Saul was not even to spare their domestic animals. He obeyed to the point of “striking down Amalek from Havilah as far as Shur.” When Samuel came to meet him, the king was elated over the victory and said: “Blessed are you of Jehovah. I have carried out the word of Jehovah.” Yet, contrary to the clear instructions they had received, Saul and his people kept alive King Agag and “the best of the flock and the herd and the fat ones and . . . the rams and . . . all that was good.” King Saul justified his disobedient course by saying: “The people had compassion upon the best of the flock and of the herd, for the purpose of sacrificing to Jehovah your God.”—1 Samuel 15:1-15.
10. What lesson did Saul fail to learn?
10 At that, Samuel told Saul: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Since Jehovah had determined that those animals were to be destroyed, they were not acceptable for offering as sacrifices.
Be Obedient in All Things
11, 12. (a) How does Jehovah view our efforts to please him in our worship? (b) How might a person deceive himself into thinking that he is doing God’s will while in reality he is being disobedient?
11 How pleased Jehovah is to see his loyal servants remain steadfast despite persecution, proclaim the Kingdom despite an apathetic public, and attend Christian meetings even though feeling the pressure to earn a living! Our obedience in such important aspects of our spiritual life makes his heart rejoice! Our efforts in worshipping Jehovah are precious to him when offered out of love. Humans may ignore our hard work, but God takes note of our heartfelt offerings and remembers them.—Matthew 6:4.
12 To be fully pleasing to our God, however, we must be obedient in all facets of our life. We must never deceive ourselves into thinking that we can take certain liberties with God’s requirements as long as we are rendering worship to him in other aspects of life. For example, a person might deceive himself into thinking that if he goes through some of the motions of formal worship, he can get away with committing immorality or engaging in other serious wrongdoing. What a mistake that would be!—Galatians 6:7, 8.
13. In private, how might our obedience to Jehovah be tested?
13 Accordingly, we can ask ourselves, ‘Am I obeying Jehovah in my day-to-day activities, even in seemingly private matters?’ Jesus stated: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Are we ‘walking about in the integrity of our heart’ even ‘inside our house,’ where others do not see us? (Psalm 101:2) Yes, while we are in our house, our integrity might be tested. In many lands where computers are common household items, obscene images are only a few clicks of a mouse away. A few years ago, one could not see such images without venturing into places featuring immoral entertainment. Will we obediently take to heart the words of Jesus: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”? Yes, will we refuse even to look at immoral images? (Matthew 5:28; Job 31:1, 9, 10; Psalm 119:37; Proverbs 6:24, 25; Ephesians 5:3-5) What of TV programs with violent content? Are we in agreement with our God, whose soul ‘certainly hates anyone loving violence’? (Psalm 11:5) Or what of the excessive use of alcohol in private? The Bible condemns drunkenness, but it also warns Christians not to be given to “a lot of wine.”—Titus 2:3; Luke 21:34, 35; 1 Timothy 3:3, footnote.
14. What are some ways in which our obedience to God in money matters becomes apparent?
14 Another area in which we need to be alert is that of handling money matters. For example, would we get involved in a get-rich-quick scheme that borders on fraud? Are we tempted to resort to illegal means to avoid paying taxes? Or, rather, do we conscientiously obey the command to “render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax”?—Romans 13:7.
Obedience That Stems From Love
15. Why do you obey Jehovah’s commands?
15 Obedience to divine precepts brings blessings. For example, by abstaining from tobacco use, by living moral lives, and by respecting the sanctity of blood, we may avoid falling victim to certain diseases. In addition, by living in harmony with Bible truth in other aspects of life, we may benefit in an economic, social, or domestic way. (Isaiah 48:17) Any such tangible benefits can rightly be viewed as blessings that prove the practicality of God’s laws. Still, the main reason we obey Jehovah is that we love him. We do not serve God for selfish reasons. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5) God gave us the freedom to choose to obey whomever we want. We choose to obey Jehovah because we want to please him and because we seek to do what is right.—Romans 6:16, 17; 1 John 5:3.
16, 17. (a) How did Jesus show obedience to God out of heartfelt love? (b) How can we imitate Jesus?
16 Jesus set the perfect example in obeying Jehovah out of heartfelt love for Him. (John 8:28, 29) While on earth, Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8, 9) How? Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Philippians 2:7, 8) Although Jesus had already been obedient in heaven, his obedience was further tested on earth. We can be sure that Jesus is well-qualified in every way to serve as High Priest for his spiritual brothers as well as for others of believing mankind.—Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 2:1, 2.
17 How about us? We can imitate Jesus in giving priority to obedience to God’s will. (1 Peter 2:21) We can personally find satisfaction when our love for God motivates us to do what Jehovah commands, even at times when we are pressured or tempted to do otherwise. (Romans 7:18-20) This includes our being willing to obey directions from those who are taking the lead in true worship, though they are imperfect. (Hebrews 13:17) Our obedience to divine commandments in our private life is precious in Jehovah’s eyes.
18, 19. Our heartfelt obedience to God results in what?
18 Today, our obeying Jehovah may involve enduring persecution in order to maintain our integrity. (Acts 5:29) Also, our obeying Jehovah’s command to preach and to teach requires that we endure until the end of this system of things. (Matthew 24:13, 14; 28:19, 20) We need endurance to continue gathering together with our brothers, even though we may feel the weight of pressures from the world. Our loving God is fully aware of our efforts to be obedient in such areas. To be fully obedient, however, we have to fight our sinful flesh and turn away from bad while building appreciation for what is good.—Romans 12:9.
19 When we serve Jehovah out of love and with an appreciative heart, “he becomes [toward us] the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Proper sacrifices are necessary and desirable, but it is complete obedience out of love for Jehovah that pleases him to the fullest extent.—Proverbs 3:1, 2.
How Would You Answer?
• Why can we say that we have something to give to Jehovah?
• What mistakes did Saul make?
• How can you show that you believe that obedience is better than sacrifice?
• What moves you to obey Jehovah?
[Picture on page 26]
How would a caring physician feel about a patient who ignored his recommendations?
[Picture on page 28]
Why did King Saul incur Jehovah’s displeasure?
[Pictures on page 30]
Are you obeying God’s commands in the privacy of your home?