Monday, March 7, 2016

The Grace of God's Guidance

I'd like to do a one-question survey to see how people would respond to what is likely a little-read passage in the Old Testament book of Numbers. I'd ask, What's your first impression when you hear the phrases "at the command of the Lord" and "kept the charge of the Lord" and "according to the command of the Lord" repeated nine times in six brief Bible verses?

Christians sometimes tend to view commandments in the Old Testament with a bit of a sideways squint as though we're nervous of getting caught up in legalism. We don't like defining our spiritual lives with do's and don'ts. We like to focus on grace and on freedom in the Spirit. Too many repetitions of "at the command of the Lord" can feel like Old Testament living according to old covenant laws.

But why does there need to be a distinction between "the command of the Lord" and the grace of God? Could God's commands actually be an expression of His grace? 

When I most recently read Numbers 9:18-23 where the phrases above are repeated nine times, I was struck at how the great grace of God shone forth! Go ahead and look it up and see how those six verses impact you. Or check out how it feels to read all nine phrases quickly in succession...
v.18 - "at the command of the Lord"
v.18 - "at the command of the Lord"
v.19 - "kept the charge of the Lord"
v.20 - "according to the command of the Lord"
v.20 - "according to the command of the Lord"
v. 23 - "at the command of the Lord"
v. 23 - "at the command of the Lord"
v.23 - "kept the charge of the Lord"
v.23 - "at the command of the Lord"

As I was pummeled by these phrases one after the other, I thought, isn't it great that God directs and leads His people in such clear ways! How wonderful that He condescends to give His people such clear instructions so that they'll know how to remain close to Him!

Jesus understood this. He saw God's commandments as a confirmation of our relationship with Him and a means of assuring ourselves that He loves us. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 15:15) and "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 16:10). 

To obey God's commands indicates that we value His guidance and trust Him as our Leader, and our obedience to His commands is an indication that we want to stay close to Him. That's why the repetition of all those phrases in Numbers 9 should lift our spirits! Every instance of those phrases is a reminder that God wants to reveal Himself and what His will is, and wants us to walk with Him and Him with us!

This should take the heaviness out of God's commandments because it means that God is not interested in obedience for obedience's sake, but for relationship's sake. He never intended for His commandments to be a burden. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3). John went on to write that God's commands are not heavy because He has given us victory over the world's resistance to God's will through faith in the One who walks so closely with us in this world (1 John 5:4-5).

So what does all this mean? It means that the way to draw near to God is to walk in His will and His ways, and that requires moment by moment attentiveness to Him.

We may find this quite natural when facing big decisions, but it can also be appropriate when approaching smaller everyday decisions like whether or not to see a certain movie or to make a sudden purchase or to address a certain issue with someone. Why not seek God's counsel? His answers may sometimes be both immediate and obvious, but sometimes He may surprise us, as I think we are sometimes too quick in assuming we know God's thoughts  or don't need God's thoughts  regarding some decisions we face. The point is, we want to obey God, and sometimes we take for granted that we know what His will may be.

So when you're wondering what to do in a particular situation, or you're facing a decision for which you want to know God's will  that is, His command, if He is Lord of your life  have TALKS with the Lord...

T - Thank God that He cares about you and the details of your life, and the details you're bringing to Him.
A - Ask God for direction when facing big decisions (eg- Lord, do you want to me take that job offer?), as well as for some of the fairly ordinary decisions you face (eg- Lord, do You want me to buy this new coat?). 
L - Listen carefully as you wait for God to answer. He may answer through Scripture, a circumstance, another person, an impression you have, or in various other ways. For big decisions, it's always wise to seek confirmation from someone you respect.
K - Keep God's command! Once you hear from the Lord, it's important to obey Him if you want to maintain a close walk with God. 
S - Seek God's Strength. Ask the Lord to help you so that you can obey His commands according to His grace rather than trying to obey Him by your own efforts. Because when you rely on God for strength, your walk with Him becomes even closer and He is even more glorified in your life.

© 2016 by Ken Peters

1 comment:

Laurence said...

To use a biblical turn of phrase, "the time is coming and now is"

That knowing his voice, hearing his word, is more crucial than ever. My response to your BLOG is a rustling wind in my spirit. Erupting into inspiration that quickly engulfs me in passionate flames, and has me searching for a box of kleenix. I'm sure God will let me in on what He's saying to my heart soon :) But this thought came to mind.

These are the times where we will need to know God's guidance. Where we will bless the Lord all the more for the trials we have walked through, because through them we have come to know the loving, firm, guiding hand of God. Come to know it, and cherish it.

Then the verse fragment "do not fear what they fear" came to mind. And as an aside . . . we need to always go to an open bible and look up that fragment to hear God's complete word to us. And I'm so thankful for that habit.

I found it via Google :) and the verse that came up is in 1 Peter, and Peter is quoting scripture!

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”

Isaiah 8:12 “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.