Because I said so. I never liked hearing those words when I was a child, but here I am as a parent, using them so frequently they may as well be tattooed across my forehead.
I have been told I am a very patient person. I rarely raise my voice. I usually take the time to explain WHY the rules are what they are, because obedience is easier when you understand the purpose. But sometimes…sometimes I get exasperated with these little people who think they know everything but can’t possibly understand it yet. Sometimes I just want my kids to trust me and obey what I’m saying. Can’t they just do it because they know that I love them and they love me? Can’t they just believe that I know what is best for them? Can’t they just obey because I am their mother and I said so?
Parenthood creates a strange echo that bounces around in my soul and opens my ears to God. I wonder if He allows us to become parents so we can swallow a thick dose of our own medicine, because I can actually hear Him saying these exact complaints about me.
What does it really mean to obey? I used to feel a very negative vibe when I thought about obedience. As if it only relates to slavery or force, or that it’s shameful to have to do what someone else says to do. But I must admit, as I’ve become more intentional about my walk with Jesus, and started following Him more closely, obedience doesn’t feel so negative anymore. Every time I obey, especially when I don’t I want to, I end up feeling very…content. Could that mean that obedience isn’t as negative as I thought?
The Hebrew word for obey, shama or shema, means much more than to just do what you’re told. It means to hear intelligently; to consider and consent with contentment; to diligently discern and perceive with the ear; listening, taking heed, and responding with action to what one has heard.
In the Greek, the word is hupokouo, which means to listen attentively; to heed or conform to a command or authority.
In English, we define obedience as complying with a command, direction, or request; to submit to an authority; to carry out.
When I put all of these meanings together, two pieces seem critical.
I honestly hadn’t thought of it like that before – how important listening is. More than just hearing. Understanding. Internalizing. And then letting it drive action. You need both listening and carrying out to truly obey. I’ve seen this coming to life in my own Bible study. Why did the message never really click before now? Because I wasn’t listening and so I wasn’t acting. I wasn’t obeying.
When I really listen, His Word is so good, so true, and so right that the action comes naturally. This leads me to the part of the Hebrew definition that really jumped out at me – to consider and consent with contentment. This removes that negative connotation that had blocked me from obedience for so long. Obeying God doesn’t feel forced or shameful at all! I feel content because the commands are so good. They make sense. They come from love. It doesn’t need to be difficult if I just listen first and really consider what He’s asking me to do. I pray and ask for clarity. Then I can consent with contentment, happy to obey.
I am in no way implying that obedience is always easy. There are many times when I feel Him pushing me right out of my comfort zone to walk against the oncoming traffic of society. There are times when I don’t understand at all, which makes it so difficult to obey. There are times when I know obedience will cause me or those I love to suffer while I push through to the end result. But when I feel myself wavering, I look to the perfect example of obedience – Jesus.
At first I thought obedience must have come easy for Jesus because He IS God. But I shouldn’t forget that in becoming human to fulfill God’s plan, He also received the same gift we all receive – free will. His human life was not simply a script that He passively followed, but a life He chose freely.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. ~John 10:17-18 (NIV)
It was a choice that found Him in the garden before His crucifixion, “offering up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death.” (Hebrews 5:7 NIV) Not an easy choice. The most difficult choice in the history of the universe. And He chose to endure the suffering in order to obey.
I can obey my small challenges because He obeyed the biggest challenge ever, and He did it for my sake.
I can obey because I trust Him.
I can do it because I know that He loves me and I love Him.
Because I believe that He knows what is best for me.
I can’t possibly understand everything yet, but I can obey because He is my Father and He said so.
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” ~1 Samuel 15:22