How many of us say that we trust God or proclaim we turn to Him yet when it comes down to it, we turn to ourselves, our friends or the media to tell us what to do in difficult situations? I think many of us may turn to ourselves much more than we turn to God. Or we ask Him for the answer and don’t like what we hear so we decide to listen to Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz instead.
In Ancient Israel, The Lord put priests in place to minister to Him, He gave the people judges to rule in a uniquely governmentless government. It was not anarchy but theocracy. He understood that people are people, flawed, prideful, and prone to sin. He knew we needed someone to help settle problems, hand out justice, and ensure righteousness. Verses 8-13 read,
“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the Lord your God will choose. 9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. 10 Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the Lord will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. 11 According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.”
The priests and judges (who were also prophets) interceded between Israel and God. When the people had an issue they first tried to handle it between themselves, then they took it to the judge over the town, if it was too difficult they were to go to Jerusalem to the judge in the presence of the priests. They would declare The Lord’s decision. Whatever it was He said, they were to obey it, completely. How many times have we gotten the answer to a prayer and left out the parts we don’t like?
Today we have The Holy Spirit. Turning to our Judge and High Priest is easier because He indwells us. He imparts His nature and His mind to us. We are the priests and the judges now. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 reads,
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We have the mind of Christ. That is not a reason to do whatever we choose, but a responsibility to live as the image of Christ. Sometimes, the answers or directives we get don’t make a lot of sense to us. I remember God telling me to go up to a woman and hand her a paper flower I had bought from a homeless man. He said, “Give that woman the flower and tell her I said she is beautiful, more beautiful than her mirror could tell her.” I obeyed even though it sounded crazy to me. I went to her, handed her the paper flower and told her that God said she was beautiful, much more beautiful than her mirror could ever tell her. She was awestruck, took the flower and quietly said thanks. I walked away and when I glanced back she was putting a compact into her purse and had a big smile on her face. I don’t know why the Lord wanted her to know that, it felt kind of foolish to say that to a stranger, but God had a purpose and it was accomplished, whatever it was.
There is a story in the Bible about Naaman a Syrian commander who had leprosy. He went to Elisha looking to be healed. Elisha sent a messenger who said, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” Naaman was indignant. He couldn’t believe that he was told to something so strange. He had hoped Elisha would come to him, make a big show of calling on the name of The Lord and heal him. Thankfully he had servants who cared about him and they encouraged him to follow the directions he was given. He did as he was told and he was healed (2 Kings 5:1-14).
Like Naaman, I wondered why The Lord gave him such explicit instructions when He could have healed him just by saying it. God wanted Naaman to understand that it was His power and not Naaman’s money or position which healed him. He wanted obedience which Naaman would not have learned if he had handed over all the money he brought and gotten a big show. Naaman’s healing was a gift, not anything he could purchase or earn.
How often do you ask God for direction and when He gives it to you, you don’t like it, so instead you keep asking friends, neighbors, accountability partners, anyone and everyone until someone gives you the direction you were hoping for.
Imagine the scenario: Let’s say your co-worker has just complained to your boss that she has to do all the hard work while you do nothing. You know what she said is a lie, missing a lot of information, but for some reason your boss believes her. Your job is threatened. You want to fight back, you want to tell your boss what a lousy worker she is, and you want to hurt her for hurting you. Hopefully, your first reaction is prayer and silence. In that silence the Lord prompts you to remember Jesus’ words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:38-44).
Now if you do what I did in this situation, you will cry to every friend you know about the unfairness of the situation, you will want a truck to hit your co-worker, and you will cry to your boss that none of it is true. I can say, I never retaliated, I never complained about things I could have complained about. I never accused her of wrong and I did have wrong to accuse her of. But what I should have done was obey God completely. Either way, it meant losing my job. But I could have lost it with much less drama and hurt. I could have glorified Jesus but I didn’t. It took me a few years to stop thinking of this person as my enemy, to stop wishing her harm and to earnestly and genuinely pray for her. I didn’t listen to The Lord and do what He said. I don’t know if things would have been different. Maybe I would have kept my job or not. I definitely would not have nearly lost two of my best friends. I certainly would not have sunk to the depression I sunk to after that incident. But I didn’t like God’s answer, I sought my own.
God knows what is best and He knows who we are and how we will respond. He made Israel special and gave them judges instead of kings but even before they stepped foot in The Promised Land He knew they would eventually think their way was better than His and demand a king. He had already chosen Saul and David, and all the rest twelve generations before Saul was even born. God knows us. He wants what is best but made provision and rules for our rebellious natures. Verses 14-20 read,
“When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
The kings of Israel and Judah all fell short of who they were meant to be. Power warped Saul. David, a man after God’s own heart didn’t always follow God’s heart over his own passions. Solomon was debased by his lust and wealth. For some reason people need a ruler, a king, prime minister, or president to give them rules. We would rather have a corruptible man lead us than be led by God. God gave us what we wanted. And still we complain and refuse to obey.
But today even though we do have governmental leaders who we are commanded to respect, we are kings and queens in Christ (Revelation 1:6). And like God commanded for the kings of Israel we are to remember and meditate on the importance of that position. We must seek God and heavenly treasure not worldly treasure. We are to pursue God first and foremost never veering from His path.
It is in seeking God above all, including ourselves we are free to obey completely because we trust God’s love and sovereignty through everything. When we lean on God obedience is so much easier. We can trust the Lord to do what is best for us. Isaiah 48:15-18 reads,
I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
16 Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.
17 Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
18 Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
Believer, you are a king and Jesus is your King of kings. You are a judge and Jesus is the Judge of the world. You are a priest with Jesus as your compassionate High Priest. You can obey because you know how loved you are, how provided for you are. This life is temporary. The Kingdom of God is eternal. Whatever difficulties you face here can conform you to the image of Christ with your submission.