In the last few weeks I have been surprised by something that has been in the Scriptures the entire time. What surprised me was that throughout the Scriptures there is a consistent connection between our obedience to what God commands and God’s blessing of that obedience. I don’t have time to going into many of the examples, but I would like to provide one example that is representative of what I mean. The example is phrased in the negative sense—describing disobedience—but the positive principle is still present.
The context the writer is discussing is the exodus of the Hebrew nation of Egypt.
16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:16-19)
Now, what makes this an interesting commentary on the events surrounding the Exodus is the interaction between two ideas. The question that popped into my mind when I read this section was this: Did those who were restricted from entering into the promised land, where they kept out because of disobedience (v. 18) or because of unbelief (v. 19)?
The way the passage is structured I was left with the impression that disobedience = unbelief, and by extension, obedience = belief. The writer of Hebrews draws a straight line between the concepts of obedience/disobedience and belief/unbelief. It was something that I had never noticed before, and definitely not with this implication.
To put this in more practical terms, the evidence of my belief is not my confession, but my changed conduct. My actions are the physical manifestation of what I claim to believe, which is exactly what James was arguing for in James 2! The problem is that most people understand WHAT James is saying, but not WHY. Why are we supposed to have good works? We have good works because in doing these good works our faith, what we believe, is proved; both to the world and to me.
Another reason this link is so significant is that it provides an answer to a question I have heard a lot of people ask and have asked myself. It is this: How do I increase my faith? According to this passage and a few more, we are able to increase our faith when we increase our obedience. Or said another way, when our obedience increases it is because we have internalized the commandments of God. We have accepted the cost and call of conforming our lives to God’s will.
I will grant that there may be many who already knew this, but I was new to me. And, it has greatly affected how I understand what God is doing in and through his word in my life. And what God is calling me to do in my daily walk with Him.
Allow this season of Lent to be a time of intentionally growing in our obedience to God.