TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

II. Obeying God

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Chapter 23  Part II

Obeying God

See also:

The concept of obeying God permeates the whole Bible – the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. It is fundamental to a functional and healthy relationship with God. A related concept is that of following Jesus Christ, which likewise is relevant to all aspects of the Christian’s life.

Note the section cross-referenced above, which has been placed in 21. Being Right with God, in the second half of the chapter which is entitled Staying Right with God. It is obviously also very pertinent to this topic, Obeying God.

Obey God

Keep God’s commands

See also:

Deut 4:13  And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,x and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. ▤ 

x Hebrew words

Deut 6:17  You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. ▤ 

Deut 13:4  You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. ▤ 

Eccl 12:13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.y ▤ 

y Or the duty of all mankind

1Jn 3:21-22  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. ▤ 

Ps 119:57, 59, 101  The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words. ▤ 59When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; ▤ 101I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. ▤ 

In v. 59, “testimonies” (cf. vv. 129, 167-168 ) denotes God’s written laws.

2Sam 22:22  For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not wickedly departed from my God. ▤ 

To keep “the ways of the Lord” is to live the way God wants one to (cf. NIrV) – essentially to obey God’s commands.

Num 9:23  At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses. ▤ 

1Ki 12:24  ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord. ▤ 

  • Reasons to keep God’s commands:

Ps 119:129, 167-168  Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. ▤ 167My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. 168I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you. ▤ 

The psalmist kept God’s commands because: they are wonderful (v. 129); he loved them (v. 167); and he knew that God was aware of all he did (v. 168).

Do all that God commands

Note that most of the following verses speak of obeying all of the Mosaic Law, which was what God’s covenant with Israel was based on. Under the new covenant instituted by Jesus Christ, believers are still to obey all the law’s commands that remain pertinent under the new covenant. These commands are basically those pertaining to believers’ spiritual relationship with God and their relationships with other people. The elements of the law that have been annulled by what Jesus Christ has accomplished and the new covenant include commands governing: the role of the priests; ritual worship; sacrifices for sin; and ceremonial cleanness.

Ex 24:3, 7  Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules.z And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” ▤ 7Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” ▤ 

z Or all the just decrees

Lev 19:37  And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord. ▤ 

Josh 1:7-8  Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successa wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. ▤ 

a Or may act wisely

“Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left” (cf. 23:6) is an exhortation to not diverge from God’s instructions in any way – to follow them in every detail.

Deut 8:1  The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. ▤ 

Deut 15:5  … if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. ▤ 

Deut 29:29  The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. ▤ 

The “secret things” primarily refers to the “words of this law”, that he has revealed (cf. GNT, CEV).

2Ki 17:13  Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” ▤ 

2Ki 21:8  And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them. ▤ 

Gen 6:22  Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. ▤ 

Josh 11:15  Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. ▤ 

2Sam 22:23  For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. ▤ 

Luke 17:10  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;b we have only done what was our duty.’ ▤ 

b Greek bondservants

  • The importance of obeying even the least of God’s commands:

Matt 5:19  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ▤ 

Obey God always – forever

Deut 11:1  You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. ▤ 

2Ki 17:37a  And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. ▤ 

1Chr 28:7  I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today. ▤ 

Ps 119:44, 112  I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, ▤ 112I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.c ▤ 

c Or statutes; the reward is eternal

Deut 12:1  These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. ▤ 

1Ki 15:5  … because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. ▤ 

Job 23:11-12  My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. 12I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ▤ 

Acts 23:1  And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” ▤ 

Phil 2:12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, … ▤ 

Here and in 1 Timothy 6:13-14 below Paul speaks of obedience to his commands, which ultimately were commands of God passed on by Paul.

1Tim 6:13-14  I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony befored Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

d Or in the time of

Mic 4:5  For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. ▤ 

To “walk in the name of the Lord” involves following God (cf. CEV, NCV, NLT) and his will, confessing his name, and trusting in him.

  • Do not delay to obey God’s commands:

Ps 119:60  I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. ▤ 

Do God’s will . . .

See also:

Ezra 10:11a  Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. ▤ 

Ps 40:8  I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. ▤ 

Acts 13:22  And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ ▤ 

Col 4:12  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. ▤ 

In the last clause, Paul appears to be speaking of conformity or obedience to God’s will (cf. CEV, GNT) and/or being fully assured of what it involves (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT, NRSV).

1Pet 4:1-2  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,e arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. ▤ 

e Some manuscripts add for us; some for you

1Thes 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:f that you abstain from sexual immorality; … ▤ 

f Or your holiness

The implication is that we are to act in accordance with God’s will (cf. 1Thes 5:16-18 ).

1Thes 5:16-18  Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ▤ 

. . . Do what pleases God

1Thes 4:1  Finally, then, brothers,g we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. ▤ 

g Or brothers and sisters; also verses 10, 13

1Jn 3:21-22  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. ▤ 

John 8:29  And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him. ▤ 

Note that earlier at Jesus’ baptism, God had testified that Jesus had pleased him – ‘… and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”’ (Matt 3:17)

1Tim 5:4  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. ▤ 

Heb 13:20-21  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in ush that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. ▤ 

h Some manuscripts you

An implication of this prayer is that we should do God’s will and be or do what is pleasing to him.

Isa 56:4-5  For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. ▤ 

To “choose the things that please me” is essentially to “choose to do what pleases me” (NIrV®, NLT; cf. GNT).

Deut 6:18  And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers … ▤ 

  • We should live for God:

1Cor 8:6  … yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. ▤ 

Obey Jesus Christ

Matt 28:19-20  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ini the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ▤ 

i Or into

John 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ▤ 

Eph 6:5  Slaves,j obey your earthly mastersk with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, … ▤ 

j Or servants; Greek bondservants; similarly verse 8

k Or your masters according to the flesh

1Pet 1:2  … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ▤ 

Isa 50:10a  Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? ▤ 

This speaks of the messianic servant – Jesus Christ – whom we should obey.

Acts 26:19  Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, … ▤ 

Paul is referring to his vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus in which Christ appointed him as a witness to Jews and Gentiles (cf. vv. 15-18).

2Cor 10:5  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, … ▤ 

This reflects that we should bring “every thought” of our own into obedience to Christ.

John 2:5-9  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.l 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom … ▤ 

l Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

The servants at the wedding banquet presumably were not obeying as followers of Jesus. Nevertheless their prompt obedience on this occasion provides a good example of obedience to him.

Rev 2:26  The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, … ▤ 

The phrase “keeps my works” likely refers to doing what Jesus Christ wants them to do.

  • Submit to Christ:

Eph 5:22-24  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ▤ 

We should obey God because he is our God . . .

See also:

Ezek 20:19  I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, … ▤ 

Ex 20:1-2  And God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ▤ 

God’s statement in v. 2 introduces the Ten Commandments; the Israelites were to obey the Lord’s commandments as he was their God, who had redeemed them.

Deut 26:17  You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. ▤ 

Lev 18:4  You shall follow my rulesm and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. ▤ 

m Or my just decrees; also verse 5

1Ki 18:21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. ▤ 

Ps 40:8  I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. ▤ 

Ps 44:4  You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! ▤ 

In conjunction with being our God, God is also our king. This of course further underlines the need to obey him. Other examples of God being spoken of as both God and king are: “Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary–” (68:24); and “Yet God my King is from of old …” (74:12a).

. . . It is no good expressing commitment to God and Jesus Christ without obeying them

See also:

1Sam 15:22-23  And Samuel said, “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 listen than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” ▤ 

Saul had spoken of sacrificing to God (cf. v. 21), but had earlier not carried out God’s word (cf. vv. 1-11). Samuel pointed out that such expressions of supposed devotion or commitment were secondary to obedience to God’s word – in effect pointless without it.

Ps 50:16-17  But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? 17For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. ▤ 

Ezek 33:31  And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. ▤ 

Many of the people would willingly listen to Ezekiel’s messages from God as being God’s people. But doing this was pointless as they did not follow God’s ways.

Matt 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ▤ 

Note that if such people as referred to in v. 22 perform deeds that are in fact supernatural, the deeds may be of satanic origin. Alternatively these people may simply be self-deceived, fooling themselves into thinking they can or have performed such acts. Whatever the case, the bottom line is: they do not do God’s will.

Luke 6:46  Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? ▤ 

Matt 15:3-9  He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”n 6he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the wordo of God. 7You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ▤ 

n Or is an offering

o Some manuscripts law

By what they said, the Jewish leaders expressed commitment to God (v. 8a). But in practice they disobeyed God’s word, giving priority to their own traditions (v. 6). Such action is hypocritical and pointless.

1Cor 7:19  For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. ▤ 

Being circumcised is the sign of commitment to the first covenant, including God’s commands therein. The implication is that such an expression of commitment is by itself pointless, for it is the actual keeping of God’s commands that counts.

Titus 1:16  They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ▤ 

  • Obey God because of how awesome he is:

Deut 4:10-14  … how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments,p and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. ▤ 

p Hebrew words

Moses here exhorts the people to remember God’s awesome revelation of himself (v. 11), with his subsequent declaration of his commands for them to obey (v. 13). Moses did this largely to motivate the people to be committed to obeying God’s commands.

We should obey God and Jesus Christ because of the great things they have done for us

See also:

A number of the following passages speak of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and his later wonderful blessings for the Israelites as reasons why they should obey God. What is said of Israel is applicable to God’s people today. We should likewise keep God’s commands because of what God has done for us, particularly in delivering us from sin through Jesus Christ and granting us the associated blessings. We should obey in gratitude to God and also because enjoying such blessings depends on our continued obedience.

Lev 19:36-37  You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin:q I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord. ▤ 

q An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters; a hin was about 4 quarts or 3.5 liters

This and Deuteronomy 6:20-24 immediately below do not explicitly say that Israel should obey God because of what God had done for them. But the references to obeying God immediately following statements of what God had done for them, clearly imply this.

Deut 6:20-24  When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. ▤ 

Ps 78:4-7  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; … ▤ 

This speaks of parents telling their children of God’s deeds and power (v. 4) and subsequently of his commands (vv. 5-6). Verse 7 then concludes that in light of God’s wonderful deeds for them – and his awesome power – the children should set their hope on God and obey his commands.

Ps 105:43-45  So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, 45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord! ▤ 

We should obey God because of all that he has done for us and moreover because our obedience is in fact one of the chief objectives of all his deeds for us (v. 45a).

Ps 25:4-5  Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. ▤ 

David was intent on obeying or living according to God’s ways, because God was his Savior. To act otherwise would be to act against the one who helped him, his Savior – putting such help at risk.

Jer 3:19b  And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. ▤ 

The rebellious Israelites should have obeyed God as he was their “Father”, quite possibly a reference to him bringing them into being as a nation. Likewise believers should obey God because he is their spiritual Father who has given them spiritual birth.

Matt 20:30, 34  And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,r have mercy on us, Son of David!” ▤ 34And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. ▤ 

r Some manuscripts omit Lord

2Cor 5:14-15  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ▤ 

Christ’s love of us shown in dying for us should in effect control us, compelling us to live for him. Note that the phrase “therefore all have died” (v. 14) appears to refer primarily to his followers dying to their old lives (cf. NLT), in which sin held sway.

  • Obey God because of his discipline of his people, along with his care and blessings:

Deut 11:1-2, 5-9  You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. 2And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the disciplines of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, ▤ 5and what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place, 6and what he did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel. 7For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did. 8“You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess, 9and that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey. ▤ 

s Or instruction

We should obey God because of all the great things he does, not only in caring for his people but also in disciplining his people (vv. 2-7). Additionally, we should obey God so as to experience and continue in his blessings (vv. 8-9), as spoken of in the above passages. Note that Dathan and Abiram (v. 6) were punished for their rebellion against God and Moses (cf. Num 16:1-35).

Note: Implications of not obeying God

See also:

Num 14:21-23  But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. ▤ 

In not obeying God we in a sense test him (v. 22; cf. Ps 78:40-41, 56 ), testing his patience and response. This passage also shows a further implication of not obeying God, illustrating that by persisting in disobeying God we forfeit the blessings he has promised us (v. 23).

2Ki 18:11-12  The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened nor obeyed. ▤ 

This illustrates that disobeying God’s word has consequences, even punishment from God.

Ps 78:40-41, 56  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! 41They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. ▤ 56Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, … ▤ 

Prov 28:9  If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. ▤ 

Rom 2:23-24  You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” ▤ 

When God’s people disobey him they dishonor him, even causing his name to be vilified by non-believers.

1Thes 4:7-8  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. ▤ 

In v. 8 Paul is saying that disregarding his instructions (cf. vv. 3-6) that are in accordance with God’s call or command to live a holy life (v. 7) amounts to disregarding God. This is applicable to disregarding (and thus not obeying) any of God’s commands.

Titus 1:16  They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ▤ 

One can infer from this that those who are disobedient do not know God (cf. 1Jn 1:6 ; 1Jn 2:4 ), their actions effectively denying God and any personal knowledge of him.

1Jn 1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ▤ 

No one who lives contrary to God’s commands can have fellowship with him. To claim otherwise would be a lie (cf. 1Jn 2:4 ).

1Jn 2:4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, … ▤ 

  • Satan works in those who disobey God:

Eph 2:1-2  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Learn God’s Commands – and All His Word

See also:

In order to obey God we need to learn his commands. Moreover, we should learn all aspects of God’s word.

Learn God’s commands

See also:

Deut 5:1  And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. ▤ 

Ps 119:7  I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.t ▤ 

t Or your just and righteous decrees; also verses 62, 106, 160, 164

Ps 119:71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. ▤ 

Matt 9:13  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. ▤ 

In learning what God’s commands say, ensure you also learn what they mean.

Rom 7:1  Or do you not know, brothersu—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? ▤ 

u Or brothers and sisters; also verse 4

We can construe from this that just as those who Paul is addressing here knew the law, we should likewise know it and so ensure that we learn it.

1Chr 28:8  Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever. ▤ 

We need to “seek out” or find out all God’s commands, so as “to be familiar with” (AMP) them.

  • Learn from Jesus Christ and his ways:

Matt 11:29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ▤ 

Ask God to teach you his ways and commands

See also:

Ps 25:4-5  Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. ▤ 

Ps 27:11  Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. ▤ 

Ps 86:11  Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. ▤ 

Ps 119:26-27, 73, 125  When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! 27Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. ▤ 73Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. ▤ 125I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! ▤ 

In conjunction with asking God to teach him God’s commands, the psalmist asks God to help him understand God’s commands.

  • Ask God to open your eyes to spiritual truths in his law:

Ps 119:18  Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ▤ 

Persistently read and study God’s commands – and all of God’s word

See also:

Deut 17:18-20  And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved byv the Levitical priests. 19And 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, 20that 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. ▤ 

v Hebrew from before

Neh 9:3  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. ▤ 

Ezra 7:10  For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. ▤ 

Neh 8:13  On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. ▤ 

John 5:39  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, … ▤ 

Like the Jewish leaders we should “search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently” (AMP) – but with a mind open to God’s teachings.

Acts 17:11  Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. ▤ 

Just as the Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true, so we ought to examine the Scriptures every day to learn more of God’s truth.

Acts 18:24  Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. ▤ 

Having “a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures” (GNT, NIV), Apollos is a good example of one who would have persistently read and studied all of God’s word.

James 1:25  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ▤ 

Here “perseveres” appears to refer or be inclusive of perseverance in looking into the Scriptures (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT), although James may possibly have in view perseverance in obeying it (cf. NASB).

  • Long for God’s word:

1Pet 2:2  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— ▤ 

Longing for “the pure milk of the word” (NKJV) compliments persistence in reading and studying God’s word.

Listen carefully and pay attention to God’s word and commands

See also:

Ex 15:26  … saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” ▤ 

Ex 23:13, 20-21  Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips. ▤ 20“Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. ▤ 

1Sam 3:10  And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” ▤ 

1Ki 11:38  And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. ▤ 

Neh 8:3  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. ▤ 

Isa 48:18a  Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! ▤ 

Isa 50:4-5  The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. ▤ 

This description of the messianic servant portrays him as listening carefully and being responsive to God’s word – an example all should follow.

Isa 51:4  Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a laww will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. ▤ 

w Or for teaching; also verse 7

Isa 55:3  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. ▤ 

Jer 11:4b  Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, … ▤ 

Jer 13:15  Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord has spoken. ▤ 

Jer 23:18  For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? ▤ 

Ezek 2:8  “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” ▤ 

Ezek 44:5a  And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I shall tell you concerning all the statutes of the temple of the Lord and all its laws. ▤ 

Hos 5:1  Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. ▤ 

John 8:47a  Whoever is of God hears the words of God. ▤ 

  • Everyone who listens to God and learns from him is drawn to Jesus Christ:

John 6:45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me ▤ 

Listen carefully to Jesus’ teaching

Matt 17:5  He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,x with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” ▤ 

x Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

Mark 4:3, 9, 24  “Listen! A sower went out to sow. ▤ 9And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ▤ 24And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. ▤ 

Mark 7:14  And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: … ▤ 

Note that the parallel verse in Matthew 15:10 similarly but more concisely says, “Hear and understand.”

Luke 8:18  Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. ▤ 

Luke 10:39  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. ▤ 

John 10:27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ▤ 

John 18:37  Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” ▤ 

Acts 3:22  Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. ▤ 

Rev 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ▤ 

The first statement is a refrain used a total of seven times in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation (cf. 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). It is indicative of the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with Jesus Christ, being the source of the teaching and exhortations given by Christ in these chapters to various churches.

  • Those who hear and understand Jesus’ teaching are blessed:

Matt 13:16  But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. ▤ 

Pay attention to all Christian teaching

See also:

Prov 2:1-2  My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; … ▤ 

Often in Proverbs the teaching is presented as that of a wise father instructing his son (cf. Prov 4:1, 20 ; Prov 5:1 ; Prov 8:32 ). Just as the son is exhorted to do, we should listen and pay attention to what is taught.

Prov 4:1, 20  Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gainy insight, ▤ 20My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. ▤ 

y Hebrew know

Prov 5:1  My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, … ▤ 

Prov 8:32-34  And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. 33Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. ▤ 

Here the teacher speaks as Wisdom personified.

Isa 42:23  Who among you will give ear to this, will attend and listen for the time to come? ▤ 

Here the prophet Isaiah himself is speaking.

Acts 2:14  But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. ▤ 

Acts 10:33  So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord. ▤ 

Cornelius is speaking of hearing all that Peter had been commanded to say by the Lord.

Jude 1:17  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

Heb 2:1  Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. ▤ 

Heb 13:22  I appeal to you, brothers,z bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. ▤ 

z Or brothers and sisters

The writer asks his audience to “listen patiently” (AMP, GNT, NCV) to what he has to say.

2Pet 1:19  And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, … ▤ 

The latter part of the verse is understood to be speaking of the coming of the day of the return of Jesus Christ – “the morning star”.

Luke 2:46  After three days they found him [Jesus] in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. ▤ 

  • Gain and hold to knowledge of the truth:

2Pet 1:5, 12  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,a and virtue with knowledge, ▤ 12Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. ▤ 

a Or excellence; twice in this verse

Verse 5 indicates that believers are to make every effort to increase their “knowledge” of Christian truth. Verse 12 indicates that believers should hold firmly to Christian truth, becoming entrenched in it.

Receive and believe God’s word

See also:

We must receive (i.e. accept) and believe God and Jesus Christ’s word – both their commands and other truths of the faith.

Job 22:22  Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. ▤ 

Ps 119:66  Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. ▤ 

This appears to speak of believing in the validity of God’s commands – in their truth and wisdom – and accordingly trusting in them (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV).

Jer 9:20  Hear, O women, the word of the Lord, and let your ear receive the word of his mouth; teach to your daughters a lament, and each to her neighbor a dirge. ▤ 

Jer 15:16  Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. ▤ 

In saying that he “ate” God’s words, Jeremiah indicates that he accepted and absorbed them.

Ezek 3:10  Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. ▤ 

Mark 4:20  But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. ▤ 

This refers to God’s word, primarily Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God. Accepting God’s word produces great spiritual results.

John 2:22  When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. ▤ 

John 5:46-47  For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? ▤ 

Jesus rebuked the Jews for their failure to comprehend and believe what Moses had written about him.

John 17:8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. ▤ 

Acts 24:14  But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, … ▤ 

James 1:21  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. ▤ 

  • Those who receive spiritual truth will be given more – in contrast to others:

Matt 13:11-12  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. ▤ 

Note: Not listening to God and his word has ill consequences

2Ki 18:11-12  The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened nor obeyed. ▤ 

2Chr 36:15-16  The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. ▤ 

Neh 9:34, 37  Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. ▤ 37And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. ▤ 

Isa 30:9-13  For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, 11leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” 12Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, 13therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; … ▤ 

Isa 42:20-22  He [Israel] sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. 21The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious. 22But this is a people plundered and looted; they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become plunder with none to rescue, spoil with none to say, “Restore!” ▤ 

Presumably the people’s circumstances (v. 22) were a result of their failure to pay attention and listen to God (v. 20).

Isa 65:12  I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in. ▤ 

Jer 6:10, 17, 19  To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. ▤ 17I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’ ▤ 19Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it. ▤ 

The trumpet (v. 17) refers to warning of war and approaching judgment (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV).

Jer 26:4-6  You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, 6then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’ ▤ 

Heb 12:25  See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. ▤ 

We must ensure we do not “refuse to hear him” (GNT, cf. NCV).

Mark 4:24-25  And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” ▤ 

This appears to indicate that those who do not carefully consider Jesus’ teaching and so gain spiritual understanding, even the little they have will be taken from them (cf. Matt 13:11-12 ). However note that some scholars interpret v. 24b at least as referring to measures we use in our treatment of others (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV).

Acts 3:22-23  Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

How to Obey God

See also:

The previous section largely looked at learning God’s words and commands, which is necessary in order to know what God wants us to do in obeying him. This section discusses how, on learning God’s commands, we should set about obeying him.

Note also the supplementary teachings in the above cross references, which indicate that obedience to God is produced by such things as love of God, fear of God and faith in God.

Do what you learn of God’s and Jesus Christ’s word . . .

See also:

Ezra 7:10  For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. ▤ 

Matt 7:24  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. ▤ 

Luke 8:21  But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” ▤ 

Luke 11:28  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” ▤ 

John 17:6  I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. ▤ 

Rom 2:13  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. ▤ 

Rev 3:3  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. ▤ 

Phil 4:9  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ▤ 

Rev 1:3  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. ▤ 

Matt 11:29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ▤ 

This associates taking on the “yoke” of living according to Jesus’ teaching (cf. NCV) with learning from him. True learning involves putting teaching into practice.

Deut 33:9b  For they observed your word and kept your covenant. ▤ 

. . . Do not just listen to God’s word

Matt 7:26  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. ▤ 

James 1:22-25  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ▤ 

The comparison with a man looking at himself in the mirror is used to illustrate how pointless and foolish it is to simply listen to God’s word without obeying it.

Ezek 33:30-32  As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and playsb well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. ▤ 

b Hebrew like the singing of lustful songs with a beautiful voice and one who plays

Ps 50:16-19  But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? 17For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. 18If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. 19“You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. ▤ 

Further to listening to God’s word or laws, the wicked may even recite them (v. 16), but this is pointless as in practice they discard them (v. 17), acting contrary to them (vv. 18-19).

Heb 5:13-14  … for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ▤ 

In describing those still feeding on the basics of the faith as “unskilled” with the teaching about righteousness, the writer may be meaning that they are inexperienced and unskilled in applying such teaching based on God’s word to what they do, implying that they merely listen to it. In contrast there are those who have trained their “senses and mental faculties” (AMP) – presumably through putting into practice such teaching – to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong.

  • As a whole, the Jews who had been given the Mosaic Law had not obeyed it:

Acts 7:52-53  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. ▤ 

Ask God to help you follow his ways and commands

See also:

Ps 25:5  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. ▤ 

“Lead me in your truth” appears to be a request from David for God to guide him to live according to God’s truth (cf. GNT).

Ps 27:11  Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. ▤ 

A “level path” probably means a path that is smooth, so as not to cause David to stumble into sin – a “right path” (CEV; cf. NCV, NLT). However, especially in view of David’s reference to his “enemies”, it could instead be meaning a “safe path” (GNT). (The same can be said of “level ground” below in 143:10.)

Ps 86:11  Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. ▤ 

The second half of the verse is in effect a request by David for God to enable him to walk in God’s ways, as reflected in the first half of the verse.

Ps 119:10, 33-36, 80  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! ▤ 33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.c 34Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. 36Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! ▤ 80May my heart be blameless in your statutes, that I may not be put to shame! ▤ 

c Or keep it as my reward

Ps 143:10  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! ▤ 

1Ki 8:57-58  The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. ▤ 

  • David’s expressed desire for God to give Solomon wisdom to keep God’s law:

1Chr 22:12  Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. ▤ 

Submit yourself to God

To persistently obey God, we need to first submit to him.

James 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ▤ 

Eph 5:22-24  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ▤ 

Heb 12:9  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? ▤ 

Being “subject to” God – including to such things as his discipline (cf. vv. 3-11) – means that we submit to him.

2Chr 30:8  Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. ▤ 

Job 22:21-22  Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. 22Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. ▤ 

Ps 81:11  But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. ▤ 

Matt 26:38-39, 42  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watchd with me.” 39And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ▤ 42Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” ▤ 

d Or keep awake; also verses 40, 41

Submitting to God involves submitting to his will – as Jesus does here, in order to obey and serve God. Such submission is further illustrated below by Mary (Luke 1:35, 38), and Laban and Bethuel (Gen 24:48-51). Other examples of submitting to and accepting God’s will can be found in: Note: Accept God’s discipline for sin; and Accept hard times from God. Also note Acts 21:14 – ‘And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”’

Luke 1:35, 38  And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borne will be called holy—the Son of God. ▤ 38And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servantf of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. ▤ 

e Some manuscripts add of you

f Greek bondservant; also verse 48

Gen 24:48-51  Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right wayg to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. 49Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.” 50Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” ▤ 

g Or faithfully

Laban and Bethuel understood that what Abraham’s servant proposed was God’s will and so rightly felt that there was nothing they could say to query or qualify it (v. 50). Instead they submitted to it (v. 51).

  • The mind controlled by the sinful nature does not submit to God’s commands:

Rom 8:7  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. ▤ 

Our minds need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit rather than the sinful nature (cf. vv. 1-9), so that we can submit to God and his commands.

Obey God wholeheartedly

See also:

Deut 26:16  This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

1Ki 8:23  … and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, … ▤ 

1Ki 14:7-8  Go, tell Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over my people Israel 8and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, and yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes, … ▤ 

2Ki 23:3, 25  And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. ▤ 25Before him [Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. ▤ 

Ps 119:69, 106, 112, 167  The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; ▤ 106I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. ▤ 112I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. ▤ 167My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. ▤ 

h Or statutes; the reward is eternal

The psalmist’s wholeheartedness in obeying God’s laws (vv. 69, 112) is reflected by: him taking an oath to do so (v. 106; cf. Neh 10:29 ); his inward desire to keep them (v. 167a); and by his love for them (v. 167b).

Rom 6:17  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, … ▤ 

The phrase “the standard of teaching” refers to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles, inclusive of the OT law as interpreted by Christ.

Eph 6:5-6  Slaves,i obey your earthly mastersj with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servantsk of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, … ▤ 

i Or servants; Greek bondservants; similarly verse 8

j Or your masters according to the flesh

k Or slaves; Greek bondservants

Num 32:11-12  ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, 12none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord.’ ▤ 

Note Caleb’s later reminder to Joshua of what he had done – “I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Josh 14:8b).

Deut 5:27  Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it. ▤ 

Such willingness to obey God is associated with wholehearted obedience.

Neh 10:29  … join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes. ▤ 

Acts 22:12  And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, … ▤ 

Ananias was “a devout observer of the law” (NIV®) – indicative of wholehearted devotion to observe it.

2Chr 25:2  And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart. ▤ 

Amaziah is an example of half-hearted obedience (cf. Num 32:11 ).

Delight in God’s commands

See also:

Ps 1:1-2  Blessed is the manl who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the lawm of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. ▤ 

l The singular Hebrew word for man (ish) is used here to portray a representative example of a godly person; see preface

m Or instruction

Ps 112:1  n Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! ▤ 

n This psalm is an acrostic poem, each line beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet

Ps 119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 111  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. ▤ 16I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. ▤ 24Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. ▤ 35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. ▤ 47for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. ▤ 111Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. ▤ 

Jer 15:16  Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. ▤ 

God’s words that “were found” may here refer to God’s law, or to the message/s that Jeremiah was to proclaim to the people which included commands of God.

Rom 7:22  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, … ▤ 

Ps 40:8  I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. ▤ 

  • Rejoice in God’s word:

Ps 119:162  I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil. ▤ 

Be careful to obey God

See also:

Deut 5:32  You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. ▤ 

Deut 7:11  You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. ▤ 

Deut 12:32  o “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. ▤ 

o Ch 13:1 in Hebrew

Deut 28:1  And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. ▤ 

Josh 22:5  Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

Judg 2:22  … in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” ▤ 

2Ki 17:37a  And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. ▤ 

Ps 119:4  You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. ▤ 

Zec 6:15  “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.” ▤ 

1Ki 8:25  Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ ▤ 

  • Not being careful to obey God leads to sin:

2Ki 10:31  But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin. ▤ 

Jehu is an example of careless, half-hearted obedience.

Note: God’s and Jesus Christ’s commands are not too difficult or burdensome

Deut 30:11-14  For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. ▤ 

By saying that God’s commands were not “far off” (v. 11), Moses is indicating that God’s commands are very accessible, as illustrated in the subsequent two verses. Verse 14 reinforces this concept. “It is in your mouth and in your heart” suggests that the people could verbalize it and that they understood it – and as such they could obey it. God’s commands are not too difficult to know or to follow.

1Jn 5:3-4  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. ▤ 

Those born of God overcome all that is in the world – by faith – things which would otherwise entangle them and make his commands burdensome to obey.

Matt 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ▤ 

The “yoke” referred to was probably that which lay across the necks of oxen. In saying that the “yoke” and “burden” of following him is “easy” and “light” (v. 30), Jesus may be alluding to the fact that as he is “gentle and lowly in heart” (v. 29) he will not require anything that is beyond us. Also, in contrast to the requirements of the religious leaders, his demands are not burdensome. Far from being tiresome, his “yoke” of discipleship is the way of life that best fits us – the most comfortable and suitable “yoke” – and it benefits us in many ways. Rather than weighing us down, it is actually uplifting.

  • God’s laws are in fact wonderful:

Ps 119:129  Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Blessings of Obeying God

See also:

General promises of blessing

Luke 11:28  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” ▤ 

John 13:17  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. ▤ 

Ps 119:1-2  p Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, … ▤ 

p This psalm is an acrostic poem of twenty-two stanzas, following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; within a stanza, each verse begins with the same Hebrew letter

Prov 8:32  And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. ▤ 

Prov 13:13  Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. ▤ 

Prov 29:18  Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,q but blessed is he who keeps the law. ▤ 

q Or the people are discouraged

Ps 1:1-3  Blessed is the manr who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the laws of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ▤ 

r The singular Hebrew word for man (ish) is used here to portray a representative example of a godly person; see preface

s Or instruction

Obedience to God’s word is implied in vv. 1-2, resulting in the blessings of v. 3.

Ps 19:11  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. ▤ 

Ps 112:1-2  t Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! 2His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. ▤ 

t This psalm is an acrostic poem, each line beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet

Deut 5:29, 33  Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendantsu forever! ▤ 33You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. ▤ 

u Or sons

The material prosperity of the old covenant is referred to in v. 33, and alluded to elsewhere in this subsection (cf. By obeying, the Israelites would have life and prosperity in the promised land; and the introductory comment on If the Israelites disobeyed the law and broke the covenant, there would be dreadful consequences . . .).

Deut 10:12-13  And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? ▤ 

Deut 15:4-5  But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. ▤ 

Josh 1:7  Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successv wherever you go. ▤ 

v Or may act wisely

Rev 1:3  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. ▤ 

  • Keeping God’s commands is a blessing:

Ps 119:56  This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. ▤ 

God’s and Jesus Christ’s love

Deut 7:9  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, … ▤ 

Ps 103:17-18  But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ▤ 

Ps 25:10  All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. ▤ 

John 14:23  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. ▤ 

John 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ▤ 

Jesus underlines the correlation between obeying him and remaining in his love by drawing a comparison to him obeying God and so remaining in God’s love. God’s love for him because of his obedience is further illustrated immediately below in 10:17, where Jesus speaks of his obedience to God to the point of laying down his life.

John 10:17-18  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. ▤ 

The last statement is generally understood to indicate that Jesus had been commanded to lay down his life by God – which he obediently was willing to do (vv. 17-18a). (It may also allude to the fact that God had given him the aforementioned authority to do this.) As such, these verses speak of God loving Jesus because he was obedient.

1Jn 2:5a  … but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. ▤ 

The second clause is referring to either God’s love for a believer, or a believer’s love for God. If the former is intended, then the verse appears to mean either that obedience leads to a deep realization of God’s love for us, or that obedience is evidence of this love being a reality.

God’s help

Ex 23:22  But if you carefully obey his [an angel’s] voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. ▤ 

1Ki 8:59-61  Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day. ▤ 

Ps 81:13-16  Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! 14I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. 15Those who hate the Lord would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever. 16But he would feed youw with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. ▤ 

w That is, Israel; Hebrew him

Prov 16:7  When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. ▤ 

Here “he” could refer to the Lord or to the man whose “ways are pleasing to the Lord”. Either way it asserts that living in line with God’s will, obeying him, is a positive factor in our relationships with others. Note that some commentators rightly make the point that like many proverbs this is a generalization, to which there are exceptions (cf. Following God and Jesus Christ results in persecution . . .; . . . It brings all kinds of hardships and suffering).

Isa 64:5a  You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. ▤ 

This is often understood as saying that God comes to the help of those who do what is right and remember God’s ways for his people to live (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).

Ezra 7:9-10  For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. ▤ 

Lev 25:18-22  Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives. ▤ 

God protects and provides for those who obey his commands – including commands that may initially appear to be to one’s detriment (vv. 20-22), the reference being to allowing the land to lay fallow for one year or possibly two.

 

  • God shows mercy and compassion to those who obey him:
  • Deut 13:17-18  None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God. ▤ 

    Note that the first clause in v. 17 is speaking of not hanging on to or keeping any such “devoted” things.

    The realization of God’s promises

    Gen 18:19  For I have chosenx him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. ▤ 

    x Hebrew known

    Deut 6:18  And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers … ▤ 

    Deut 28:9  The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. ▤ 

    1Ki 2:1-4  When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lacky a man on the throne of Israel.’ ▤ 

    y Hebrew there shall not be cut off for you

    1Ki 6:12  Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. ▤ 

    The promise referred to – “my word” – appears to be that spoken of by David in 2:4 above. However with the reference to the temple, God’s presence with his people (cf. v. 13) may be in view – in conjunction with or instead of the aforementioned promise.

    2Cor 7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of bodyz and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ▤ 

    z Greek flesh

    This implies that for the promises (cf. 6:16-18) to be fulfilled, we must purify ourselves and be holy – which obviously involves obedience to God.

    Eph 6:2-3  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” ▤ 

    Heb 10:36  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ▤ 

    • Parallel to his promises for obedience, God threatens judgment on those who do not obey him:

    Josh 23:15-16  But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, 16if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you. ▤ 

    Peace and rest

    Isa 48:18  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; … ▤ 

    Gal 6:16  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. ▤ 

    By “this rule” Paul may be referring to living in accordance with “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14), or living as a “new creation” (v. 15). Both interpretations involve living according to “this rule” and so are indicative of obedience to God – by which one receives God’s peace, and mercy.

    Jer 6:16  Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ▤ 

    The “good way” or “godly way” (NLT) corresponds with God’s way.

    Matt 11:28-30  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ▤ 

    Here Jesus effectively promises rest to those who live according to his teaching.

    Other present-day spiritual blessings

    Note also the cross references listed at the beginning of this section.

    Luke 8:21  But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” ▤ 

    Those who obey God’s word are like Jesus Christ, who was exemplary in doing this. As such they are in a sense his kin, part of the family of God.

    John 8:31-32  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ▤ 

    In v. 32 Jesus is referring to freedom from sin (cf. v. 34).

    John 15:7  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ▤ 

    Being in Jesus Christ involves knowing, believing and obeying his words. This produces prayer that is consistent with Jesus Christ’s purpose and will – prayer that will be answered.

    John 15:10-11  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ▤ 

    Acts 16:4-5  As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. ▤ 

    One can infer from this that obedience to godly instruction – which is ultimately instruction based on God’s word – strengthens people in the faith.

    Deut 11:8  You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess, … ▤ 

    This promise of military strength to the Israelites if they were obedient can be applied to spiritual strength that believers have or gain in being obedient.

    John 7:17  If anyone’s will is to do God’sa will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. ▤ 

    a Greek his

    Doing what one knows of God’s will, leads to the realization that Jesus’ teaching does come from God. Obedience leads to spiritual discernment.

    John 11:8-10  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” ▤ 

    In v. 9 Jesus appears to be meaning that those who work or act in the light of God’s will – as he intended doing, despite apparent danger (v. 8) – will not stumble. This is in contrast to those who do not act in the light of God’s will (v. 10).

    Future blessings

    See also:

    Matt 5:19  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ▤ 

    The future form of God’s kingdom may be referred to here, hence the verse’s inclusion in this subsection.

    Matt 7:24-25  Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. ▤ 

    If a person obeys Jesus Christ’s words, they will withstand the storms of life. They will also survive God’s final judgment, which may be primarily in view (cf. vv. 21-23), the reason for the verse’s inclusion here.

    Rev 2:26-28  The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28And I will give him the morning star. ▤ 

    Verses 26-27 may well be speaking of the reign of believers with Jesus Christ (cf. God’s people will reign with Jesus Christ). The “morning star” (v. 28) may refer to the dawning of the resurrection age – and possibly also the accompanying glory – following the night of this life (cf. CEV text note). The term could also allude to the return of Jesus Christ, who is called “the bright morning star” (22:16).

    Isa 56:4-7  For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. 6“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” ▤ 

    These promises appear to be primarily eschatological. Verse 5b may well be alluding to eternal life. Verse 7 speaks of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem of all peoples at the end of the age, perhaps a depiction of the afterlife.

    Rev 22:7  “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” ▤ 

    This speaks of holding to God’s words of prophecy in Revelation, believing them and acting in accordance with them – which involves obedience (cf. GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT). In view of the first statement, the blessedness referred to in the second would appear to primarily at least encompass blessings following Christ’s return.

    Note: Ill consequences of not obeying God

    See also:

    Num 14:41  But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed? ▤ 

    Disobeying God’s commands will typically end in failure of some form. Ultimately it ends in eternal destruction.

    Num 32:23  But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. ▤ 

    The final clause is implying that sin brings its consequences – it “catches up with you”.

    2Ki 22:13b  For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us. ▤ 

    Ps 119:118  You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain. ▤ 

    Ps 119:155  Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. ▤ 

    Those who do not obey God will not receive salvation.

    Jer 32:23  And they entered and took possession of it. But they did not obey your voice or walk in your law. They did nothing of all you commanded them to do. Therefore you have made all this disaster come upon them. ▤ 

    Hos 9:17  My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations. ▤ 

    Hos 14:9  Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. ▤ 

    Transgressors “stumble” by not following God’s ways.

    Matt 5:19  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. ▤ 

    This may have in view the time of the consummation of the kingdom and its reign that will envelope all creation. If this is the case, being “called least in the kingdom of heaven” may refer to such people being deemed as the least of all people – in effect condemned. However note that the phrase “in the kingdom of heaven” suggests that such people may still be accepted into the kingdom rather than being shut out and in hell. Another interpretation is that with “these commandments” probably referring to the OT law, Jesus may be speaking of these commands being incorrectly downplayed by some teachers under the new covenant, in the present form of God’s kingdom that he introduced.

    Pray for persecuted Christians

    Epilogue: Follow Jesus Christ

    See also:

    To follow Jesus Christ involves not just simply following his commands, but also following him and his example. In doing so, we follow Christ not only as our leader, but also in companionship with him. This concept is an important aspect of discipleship.

    Follow Jesus Christ . . .

    See also:

    Matt 4:18-22  While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. ▤ 

    Matt 9:9  As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. ▤ 

    Mark 8:34  And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ▤ 

    To “deny” ourselves involves setting aside our own desires, no longer having ourselves as the focus of our life. For a person to “take up his cross” implies a willingness to bear any cost – even to give up his/her life – in order to follow Christ as his disciple.

    Luke 9:59-62  To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60And Jesusb said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” ▤ 

    b Greek he

    The man in v. 59 may well have been meaning that he wanted to wait until after his father had died. In saying, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead”, Jesus was indicating that such tasks as burying the physically dead could be left to the spiritually dead; proclaiming the kingdom was more important. Verses 61-62 appear to be emphasizing the need to be fully focused on doing the work of the kingdom; nothing should be allowed to obstruct the work.

    John 10:3-5, 27  To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” ▤ 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ▤ 

    Jesus illustrates the intimate relationship between him and his followers by drawing a parallel with the close relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. His disciples and other followers listened to him and followed him and his teachings. Likewise today believers follow him – his example, his teaching and even his promptings through the Holy Spirit – discerning between teaching and leading that is of him and that which is not.

    John 12:26  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. ▤ 

    The context (cf. vv. 24-25) suggests that Jesus’ challenge to follow him and be with him had in view his example of sacrificial living, to the point of death (cf. John 21:19b, 22b ).

    John 21:19b, 22b  And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ▤ 22… You follow me!” ▤ 

    Note that in both of these verses Jesus is speaking to Peter.

    Rom 15:5  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, … ▤ 

    This is effectively speaking of following Christ (cf. CEV, GNT, NIV), possibly in particular of acting according to Jesus Christ’s example (cf. GNT).

    . . . Be a disciple of Jesus Christ

    A disciple is a learner; one who seeks to learn and follow the teachings of another, even to the extent of becoming like the teacher (as reflected in the following subsections).

    Matt 21:6  The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. ▤ 

    This illustrates that being a disciple of Jesus Christ requires one to follow his instructions (cf. Matt 28:19-20 ; John 8:31 ).

    Matt 27:57  When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. ▤ 

    Matt 28:19-20  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inc the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ▤ 

    c Or into

    Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” (v. 19) reflects the fact that we should all be his disciples, obeying all his commands (v. 20).

    John 8:31  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, … ▤ 

    John 15:8  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ▤ 

    The term “fruit” probably denotes either personal spiritual characteristics (cf. Gal 5:22-23) or wider spiritual outcomes of quality work for God’s kingdom. Arguably the latter is more likely (cf. v. 16). By bearing such good “fruit” we bring glory to God, showing ourselves to be disciples of the One sent by him.

    Luke 14:26-27  If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. ▤ 

    This speaks of the great cost involved in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. In v. 26 Jesus is speaking of the need to love him more than anyone or anything else, including our own lives (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT) – in order to be his disciple.

    Matt 11:29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ▤ 

    This verse indicates that learning Jesus’ ways – as a disciple or follower of his – is to a large extent a practical experience. We learn from him by accepting his teachings (cf. NCV) and putting them into practice (i.e. taking his yoke upon us).

    • Disciples are called “Christians”:

    Acts 11:26b  And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. ▤ 

    The term “Christian” (cf. Acts 26:28; 1Pet 4:16) implies that one is a follower of – or belongs to – Jesus Christ.

    Follow Jesus Christ’s example

    See also:

    John 13:15  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. ▤ 

    1Cor 11:1  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. ▤ 

    1Thes 1:6  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, … ▤ 

    1Jn 2:6  … whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ▤ 

    Luke 6:40  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. ▤ 

    As referred to earlier, a major goal of being a disciple of a teacher is to become like them. Here Jesus speaks of his disciples becoming like him (cf. Matt 10:25a ).

    Matt 10:24-25  A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servantd above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they maligne those of his household. ▤ 

    d Greek bondservant; also verse 25

    e Greek lacks will they malign

    Verses 24-25a reflect that Christians should desire to be like Jesus Christ and/or be “satisfied” (GNT, NCV) with this. But given the context (cf. vv. 16-31), it may more specifically be alluding to Jesus’ followers sharing his fate in being persecuted (cf. NLT).

    Rom 13:14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. ▤ 

    The expression “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” quite possibly is referring to immersing oneself in one’s union with Christ – surrounding oneself with Christ, acting in line with his purposes and for his glory, and in reliance on him. However, it has also been interpreted as a call to take on or adopt his character and example – an interpretation which would make the verse pertinent to this subsection.

    Eph 4:21  … assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, … ▤ 

    The “truth … in Jesus” most likely refers to teaching based on Jesus’ life and words. As such this speaks in part of being taught to act in accordance with Jesus’ example.

    Follow Jesus Christ’s example of love and service of others

    See also:

    John 13:34  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. ▤ 

    Eph 5:2, 25  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. ▤ 25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, … ▤ 

    1Jn 3:16  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. ▤ 

    Matt 20:26-28  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,f 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,g 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ▤ 

    f Greek diakonos

    g Greek bondservant (doulos)

    John 13:14  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. ▤ 

    Generally this is understood as Jesus urging his disciples to follow his example by humbly serving each other (cf. Matt 20:26-28 ), rather than introducing foot washing as a practice for believers.

    Rom 15:1-3  We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” ▤ 

    We should please others, as opposed to ourselves, just as Christ did not please himself. In the quotation from Psalms 69:9 (v. 3), the psalmist speaks of pleasing God rather than himself by faithfully suffering the insults that his association with God brought. It is used here to illustrate the point that Christ – who is paralleled with the psalmist – did not please himself, but put God’s will first despite the suffering involved. In view of v. 2, Paul may also be implying that Christ did this for the good of others – effectively in service of them.

    2Cor 8:7, 9  But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for youhsee that you excel in this act of grace also. ▤ 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. ▤ 

    h Some manuscripts in your love for us

    Paul later refers to “this act of grace” in meeting the needs of fellow believers as a “service” (cf. 9:12-13). Like Jesus Christ (v. 9), we should be prepared to give of ourselves and our resources in the service of others.

    Further aspects of Jesus Christ’s example to follow

    John 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ▤ 

    Col 3:13  … bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ▤ 

    Phil 2:5-8  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,i 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,j being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ▤ 

    i Or which was also in Christ Jesus

    j Greek bondservant

    As made more obvious by the alternative rendering in the text note on v. 5, Paul implies here that we should follow Jesus Christ’s example of service, humility and obedience.

    Phil 3:10  … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, … ▤ 

    The final clause possibly means that Paul wanted to become like Christ as exemplified in his death, perfectly submissive and obedient to God. A somewhat different interpretation is that, following on from the preceding clauses, Paul is indicating that he was prepared to suffer for Christ’s cause even to the point of dying like he did (cf. CEV).

    1Pet 2:20-21, 23  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. ▤ 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. ▤ 

    Heb 12:3  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. ▤ 

    Consider Jesus Christ’s example of endurance so as to follow his example.

    1Jn 3:3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. ▤ 

    It is debatable as to whether “he” refers to Jesus Christ or God. Often it is taken to be speaking of Christ (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT). As such, one implication is that believers ought to be pure just as Jesus Christ is pure.

    • Identify with Jesus Christ in not being of this world:

    John 17:16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. ▤ 

    Make Jesus Christ your Lord . . .

    See also:

    We are to make Christ our Lord, sovereign in every aspect of our lives. As such we are to be fully obedient to him – living according to his will and for his purposes.

    John 13:13-14  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. ▤ 

    John 20:28  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” ▤ 

    1Cor 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: … ▤ 

    Jude 1:4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ▤ 

    Rom 10:9  … because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ▤ 

    Note that the confession “Jesus is Lord” is primarily an acknowledgement of Jesus’ lordship over all creation. In accordance with this we should make him the Lord of our own life.

    Col 2:6-7  Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. ▤ 

    Some modern translations interpret Paul as speaking of receiving or accepting Christ as one’s Lord (cf. CEV, GNT, NIV, NLT), as per the theme of this subsection.

    1Pet 3:15  … but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, … ▤ 

    Other modern translations render the phrase “honor Christ the Lord as holy” with the sense “sanctify Christ as Lord” (NASB, NRSV; cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT), making the verse more pertinent to this subsection.

    . . . Live for Jesus Christ, pleasing him

    See also:

    Rom 14:6-8  The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. ▤ 

    Speaking in regard to contentious issues, in v. 6 Paul says what we do should be done to honor Christ – for we are to live for him (v. 8a). The comment that “if we die, we die to the Lord” appears to mean that even on the other side of death, Christ is still our Lord (cf. v. 9) – and so even then we should be trying to please him. In v. 8 Paul correlates living for Jesus Christ with belonging to him. As we belong to Jesus Christ, we should live for him.

    2Cor 5:14-15  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ▤ 

    As well as living for Jesus Christ because he is our Lord, we should also live for him because he died for us.

    Phil 1:21  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ▤ 

    Here Paul is probably meaning more than just that he lived for Christ. Christ was the essence of his life, permeating throughout it and controlling it. This involved Paul fellowshipping with Christ, working for his purpose and glory, and depending on him.

    2Cor 5:9-10  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ▤ 

    Eph 5:10  … and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ▤ 

    Col 1:10  … so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. ▤ 

    Col 3:20  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. ▤ 

    1Cor 7:32  I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. ▤ 

    • It is pointless to call Jesus Christ “Lord” if you do not do what he says:

    Luke 6:46  Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? ▤ 

    Be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus Christ

    See also:

    Mark 10:21, 28-30  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” ▤ 28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. ▤ 

    Jesus command to “sell all that you have” (v. 21) is given here to “the rich young ruler” whose main spiritual problem was that he loved his riches. However, arguably it is applicable to all Christians – to some degree at least – particularly in the light of Peter’s claim (v. 28) and the references below. In v. 29 Jesus mentions some things that his followers may be required to forego. The promised resultant blessings of this present time (v. 30) are primarily fulfilled through the new relationships in the family of God’s people, to which Jesus’ followers belong.

    Luke 5:10-11, 27-28  … and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. ▤ 27After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. ▤ 

    Luke 9:57-58  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” ▤ 

    Here Jesus warns that to follow him means that like him one will have “no place to rest his head” (NCV™) or no “place to call his own” (CEV). It involves foregoing not only the comforts of life, but at times at least even things generally considered as basic to one’s well being.

    Luke 14:28-33  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. ▤ 

    Someone wanting to build a tower should first estimate the cost (vv. 28-30) and a king going to war should first consider whether he is able to oppose his adversary (vv. 31-32a). Similarly one who is thinking of following Jesus Christ should first count or weigh up the substantial cost in order to decide whether they are willing and able to do so. For to follow Jesus Christ one must give up their hold and claim on everything they have.

    • Paul discarded all things for Christ:

    Phil 3:7-9  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— ▤ 

    In v. 7 Paul refers to things (cf. vv. 5-6) that he had valued and done for his own benefit – in the context, particularly in regard to achieving righteousness (v. 9). In retrospect Paul considered them “worthless” (CEV, NLT), even detrimental, for the sake of Christ – and all that one has in him (v. 9; cf. vv. 10-11). In v. 8 Paul says that in fact he viewed all things of this world as such.

    Blessings of following Jesus Christ

    See also:

    Matt 11:29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ▤ 

    Matt 20:26-28  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,k 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,l 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ▤ 

    k Greek diakonos

    l Greek bondservant (doulos)

    Following Jesus Christ’s example of servanthood leads to greatness in God’s kingdom.

    Luke 6:40  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. ▤ 

    The more we follow Jesus Christ, the more we will become like him.

    John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ▤ 

    John 8:31-32  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ▤ 

    As noted earlier in this chapter, in v. 32 Jesus is referring to freedom from sin (cf. v. 34).

    John 15:8  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ▤ 

    This indicates that being a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ will lead to one bearing such “fruit”.

    1Jn 2:5-6  … but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ▤ 

    Those who follow Jesus’ exemplary way of life, live in union with God.

    Note: Follow God and his commands . . .

    Along with following Jesus Christ and his example, we should follow God and imitate him. Following God involves following his commandments in the Bible and his directing of our lives.

    Josh 14:8-9  But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. 9And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ ▤ 

    1Ki 18:21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. ▤ 

    2Ki 18:6  For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. ▤ 

    Jer 2:2  Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. ▤ 

    2Chr 34:31, 33  And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. ▤ 33And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. ▤ 

    Deut 13:4  You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. ▤ 

    Job 23:11  My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. ▤ 

    In speaking of holding to God’s “steps”, Job is referring to following “God’s paths” (NLT), “the road he chooses” (GNT) for his people.

    . . . and imitate God, as children of God

    See also:

    Imitating God is essential for believers, being children of God. For as God is our spiritual Father we ought to grow to be more like him, with our character and actions reflecting his.

    Eph 5:1  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. ▤ 

    Matt 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sonsm of God. ▤ 

    m Greek huioi; see Preface

    The “peacemakers” (v. 9) are people who “work for peace” (GNT, NLT, cf. NCV) – probably inclusive of reconciling people with God and making peace between people. They will be deemed children of God because they demonstrate that they partake of his nature, with their actions reflecting God’s.

    Matt 5:44-45  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ▤ 

    Luke 6:36  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. ▤ 

    1Pet 1:14-16  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ▤ 

    1Jn 1:5, 7  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ▤ 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ▤ 

    In v. 5, as reflected in v. 7, “light” is used as “a symbol of God’s goodness or truth” (NCV™ text note).

    Phil 2:15  … that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, … ▤ 

    This and 1 John 3:10 immediately below do not specifically speak of imitating God, But they both speak of displaying godly characteristics and actions as children of God and so point to the theme of this subsection – that we should imitate God as his children.

    1Jn 3:10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. ▤ 

    Children of God, like God, practice righteousness and show love – particularly for their brothers and sisters.

    • Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God:

    Rom 8:14  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsn of God. ▤ 

    n See discussion on “sons” in the Preface

    Acting in accordance with God’s Spirit is indicative of an intimate relationship with God and that one in fact is a child of God. For further comment see Living by the Spirit brings life – in contrast to living by the sinful nature and to the law.

    Pray for persecuted Christians