OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD
Attached to the back of a framed item hanging on a wall can be found the following writing:-
Remember the advice of those faithful servants of God who lived their lives and governed their actions in accord with His word; seeking to obey at all times His commands.
1. “Obedience to the Word of God is the crucial matter, God is a living God, not a dead, inactive or silent Being. He cannot be ignored with impunity or even by His children. He has living energy; power to succour, power to punish. His Word likewise is a living Word; it is never obsolete, inoperative, ineffective, a dead letter. It is active, two-edged, pointed; it cuts, it pierces, it dissects. Blessed are they who welcome its surgery, for it promotes health.”
2. "Remember the startling fact that the Lord names "overcomers" in every one of His seven letters to the churches."
3. "Be careful to obey the responsibility truths, to disregard which will wreck all your highest achievements."
4. "Do not be side-tracked by those who consider reward beneath the notice of a Christian: you will find as you consciously strive after God's standard, for His approval in the great day, that your life will enrich and expand in blessing towards all. Seek first, then bring others."
5. Finally, remember at all times that it is forbearance when opposed that commends the truth professed, and, more importantly the fact: "It is required [by God] that those who are stewards" - those who have been given a trust –“must prove faithful.” (1 Cor. 4: 2)
Our Saviour has shown, in the servant entrusted with only one talent (Matthew 25: 15), how a child of God can wreck his discipleship by despising the apparent insignificance of his trust: the balancing truth - namely, how a servant endowed with the whole five talents can make an equally deadly shipwreck - is pictured in one of the most dramatic episodes of all history, stamped all over with miracle. In the morning, a Man of God calling down miracles from Heaven - a convulsed Altar, and a King’s hand withered as he stretched it out to arrest God's ambassador: in the evening, a carcass on a lonely road with a lion standing motionless beside it. The King’s hand is withered and healed; the Man of God’s body is withered - and buried. The Westminster Larger Catechism states the principle: “Some sins receive their aggravation from the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience in grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, and as such are guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others."
Man of God here fills a tremendous drama. Unknown and unnamed, with no
recorded birth, or education or family, living in the far background of Judah -
as suddenly as lightning he appears at Bethel, then the centre of the apostasy
of Israel; backed by nothing but the commission of Jehovah, and possessing
nothing but the bare Word of God. But this he had in full. He came
now we come to one of the searching details of life. One minor command
had been given him by God, a command
vital in an age of apostasy. "Eat no
bread, not drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest."
All fellowship with idolatrous People of God, so long as the idolatry
continues, has always been forbidden; and exactly identical is our command, in
words as simple and as obvious. “If any man that
is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater”
- all God's people in
Now we reach a peril peculiarly dangerous to the most highly gifted servant of God, a peril that will beset us in the last days with ever-growing menace. Bethel was the seat and stronghold of the apostasy; yet, living there was an old prophet: a prophet so silent that God had to send a messenger from far-off Judah to speak for Heaven; one who is named a prophet by the Scriptures, and who himself imparts a prophecy from Jehovah: who, nevertheless, consciously or unconsciously, invites the Man of God to disobey his Lord; and when the Man of God refuses, says, - “I also am a prophet as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, - Bring him back with thee into thine house that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him." The command had come from the mouth of the Lord; the seduction comes from the mouth of the Old Prophet; and a man claiming the supernatural can be the most plausible and dangerous of all tempters.
Now therefore we reach the crisis. We see the Man of God's face weakening: "so he went back" - a backslider - "with him, and did eat bread and drink water." The physical desire at last outweighs his fidelity to his Master. This is borne out all down the ages. Constant experience proves that in pressing Scripture, as plain and simple as the Man of God’s, tragically often we are not arguing with the intellect at all, but with desires, prejudices, dislikes against which arguments are powerless; and any believer, who wishes to do so, can always find abundant reasons for disobedience. As the two men sit at meat, the Old Prophet, under a sudden seizure from God, sees through the disobedience, and addresses the man before him as a corpse. “Forasmuch as thou hast been disobedient unto the mouth of the Lord, thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers." If it had been an angel that spoke to the Old Prophet, Paul’s word abides for ever: "Though we [even the apostles], or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any other gospel, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Galatians 1: 8).¹ It is a priceless truth. We must suffer neither our own reasoning or doubts, nor the subtleties or authority or ridicule or denial of others, no, nor the claim of supernatural authority from God, to challenge for a moment our belief in, and obedience to, ALL REVEALED TRUTH. Judgment can fall even in the act of disobedience. While he was eating, the sentence fell.
Now we reach the dread climax. “A lion met him by the way” - found him, after search, as the word means and is used elsewhere (1 Kings 13: 14, 28) – “and slew him” - crushed him: the word is very expressive, for the lion kills with one blow (Themies). The sanctity of his profession, the dignity of his office, the splendour of his past service - none of these saved him from the just anger of God: the lions guarded faithful Daniel in his prison; this lion carries out the sentence of judgment. And the whole scene is so set that the crowds that had seen the Man of God’s magnificent miracles see this one also: “his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass; the lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass”. It was a studied drama, set by the hand of God. The ass did not fly from the face of the lion, nor did the lion molest the ass: both stood, as God's sentinels, proved so by their completely non-natural attitude. The Man of God was given over to the lion for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
now the overwhelming lesson of the narrative seeks to write itself on all our
hearts. The higher the man stands, the deeper is his fall, and to whom
much is given, of him much will be required. It is a far deeper
problem than that the Man of God simply failed in obedience. A man called
to the highest possible mission - to represent Jehovah to an apostate People of
God; having nothing and knowing nothing except the direct words of Deity with
which he was entrusted; endowed with miracles before all
is the over-ruling power of God. For the validity and integrity of his
mission; for the honour and holiness of the God whose delegate he was; for the
impartiality of a just Deity with whom is no respect
of persons; and, most convincingly of all, for the
very fulfilment of his mission: the lion struck. All
So therefore we see the golden summary. As the spirit of disobedience is the root of all practical iniquity, so instant, utter, minute, and constant obedience to the Word of God is our sole holiness, and our sole safety. There are greater commands, and there are lesser; but there is but one thing to do with them all - and that is to obey. The terrible mistake that countless millions are making, with large sections of the Church of Christ amongst them, is that God has changed, and that we are dealing with a new and different God in the New Testament, and to-day: whereas the truth is – “I the Lord change not"; He is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever”. “The Lord is a jealous God and avengeth; the Lord avengeth and is full of wrath; the Lord taketh vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1: 2). No warnings in the whole Bible, warnings both to the believer and to the unbeliever, are so black as our Lord’s.
there remains the call of infinite love. A Roman girl, of high birth and
finished culture, once said: “No one shall win my hand
unless he gives me proof that he would die for me.” Years passed
away, and one day passing through the streets of
any should imagine the warning (found in Galatians
1: 8) negatives "the message about the
kingdom" (Galatians 5: 21;Matthew 13:
19); he should read carefully the same Apostle's recorded words found
later in the same letter and addressed to the same people (Galatians 5: 13- 6: 26), and take to heart the
following warning : "The acts of the sinful nature"
- [which are still very much alive in every Christian and need to be 'crucified' (5: 24)]-
"are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and
debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the
like. I warn you" -[a warning
addressed initially for "all the brethren - no exceptions made -
which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia" (1: 2); and therefore, a warning applicable to every
regenerate believer alive today] - "as I
did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the
2. And, on another occasion the same apostle, when addressing Ephesian elders, said:-
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish
the race" - [so as to win the prize] - "and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task
of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." - [That is, the good news of
eternal salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.]
- "Now I know that none of you among whom I have
gone about preaching the kingdom" - [That is, the message
about the millennial