THE WAYS OF GOD Part 3 (1)
By Ps. Jerry
In Daniel 11:32 it says, Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. It is the people who know their God who shall be strong and do great exploits. Note it does not say the people who believe in God – “You believe that there is one God – good for you – even the demons believe and tremble” (James 2:19). It is important that we recognize the difference. For so many years, the children of Israel were with God but they only knew His acts and not His ways. But when you know God and His ways, you will be strong and you will do great exploits!
As we continue to learn His ways, let us consider this: which is more important, a man who sacrifices a lot through fasting, the giving of his money, time and effort, or a man who obeys the word of God and does what God tells him to do? Some people believe that God’s love is dependent on their performance. We think the more we sacrifice, the closer to God we are. Is that true? Martin Luther, the great reformist who started the Protestant movement, used to go up the stairs on his knees as a penance, causing his knees to bleed, thinking that it will get him closer to God. And in the olden days, a lot of priests would self-flagellate or punish themselves by hitting and piercing their bodies.
But we say, we modern-day Christians don’t do that, we know better. But some Christians are willing to work long and hard in church and ministry. And I am not saying you shouldn’t. I encourage you all to do that. But the reason why you are doing it, is important. What is your intention? The intention should not be to win God’s love but to labor in His Kingdom. You must know the distinction. Some work long hours, sacrificing family and friends and some are willing to even sacrifice much money. But they find it difficult to follow the word of God and do the word of God. They say, “I am prepared to sacrifice but if you ask me to follow the word of God, I will do it on my terms.” That is where the difficulty is. I am prepared to sacrifice on my own terms. What does God think about this? What is God’s way?
1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. God’s word is clear: Obedience is better than sacrifice. That is God’s way. You can sacrifice all you want but if you do not obey God’s word and what God tells you to do, He will eventually reject you. That is as serious as it gets. It is so important because that is the truth. In 1 Samuel 15, God told King Saul to totally destroy the Amalekites and all that they owned. But Saul decided to keep the sheep to sacrifice to God. He also decided to spare the king as a symbol of his victory. So, Samuel appears at the scene and says to Saul, didn’t you hear the word of God? Didn’t God say to destroy all? When Saul made excuses to justify his actions, Samuel has this to say: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23) Saul, don’t you know rebellion is as witchcraft and to obey is better than sacrifice? So, remember that obeying the word of God is more important than sacrifice.
In Micah 6:8, the scripture specifies what the Lord requires of you: “He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This is a requirement. This is not an option. You are required to do justice, to love mercy/kindness and to walk humbly before your God. In Hosea 6:6, it says, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Proverbs 21:3 says, “To do righteousness and justice is more desirable to the Lord than sacrifice.” This is the Lord’s command. It is a requirement and not an option.
Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2-3, talks about honoring your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise. To what extent are we to honor our father and our mother? Is it lips service? Or is it more than that? Let’s read Matthew 15: 3-9 and see what the Lord says when the scribes and Pharisees questioned why His disciples break the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before eating. He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus, you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’.”
Again, this is a heart issue, He says their hearts are far from Him. If your heart is with the Lord, you will obey His commandments. The scribes and Pharisees are saying, we have already given to God. And the word they used is korban. That means, we have surrendered to God the gift/monies meant for our parents, so how can we now again be required to give to our parents? (You see, honouring your parents requires an immediate act, but giving on trust or by will to God monies or land meant they could keep it for the time being. It was the excuse) We don’t need to provide. But Jesus said to them, you sacrifice the commandment of God for your tradition. That means you make up excuses why you cannot do it. So, we must distinguish between the traditions of men and the commandments of God. I am suggesting based on that scripture, that our honoring is not just lips service, but also giving financially and taking care of our parents. And as we do it, God will bless us.
The Bible also says, parents do not provoke your children. This verse in Ephesians 6:4 is seldom preached. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:8, it says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It’s shocking! If the man does not provide for his wife and children, or his household, he has rejected the faith and is worse than an unbeliever! Some versions say that imbecile. So, there is a responsibility on the father and the man of the house to provide.
Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord.” Is God making a request? No, it is a commandment. If you want all to go well with you, you must submit to your husband. In Genesis 20:1-16 we read the account of Sarah submitting to Abraham under very difficult circumstances. Abraham went to the southern region of Gerar, whose king is named Abimelech. When the king asked about Sarah, Abraham told his wife to tell the king that she is his sister. Imagine, surrendering one’s wife to another man! Yes, fearing for his life, Abraham did just that. But Sarah submitted, she went along with whatever her husband said. But God intervened and stopped the king from having anything to do with Sarah. And what was the end result? Abraham and Sarah were blessed because Sarah submitted to her husband. When you submit according to His word, God has an obligation to make everything work out right.
Now, we go to Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. So, husbands are commanded to love their wives. And He also gives you the scale of how much to love: As Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. So, you must love to that extent, giving your life which includes your property, money and everything. God is not requesting you to love your wife, he is telling you to love your wife. Our job is to follow our God. That’s what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all mind and all your strength (Mark 12:10). It means, not relying on your own understanding, but trusting God with our whole being. Are you prepared to do that? That is God’s way!