- 2 Kings 15-16; Matt 21
- Isaiah 1-3; Matt 22; Psalm 9
- Isaiah 4-6; Matt 23;
- Micah 1-4; Matt 24; Psalm 10
- Micah 5-7; Matt 25
"Obedience" is one of those words that we don't like to hear, when it's applied to ourselves. Oh, we parents like to use it, when we're telling our kids how to relate to us. Or, teachers (as this new school year begins) might expect it from their students. Employers may say they demand it from their workers. But for ourselves, obedience is a difficult concept. Especially when it comes to our relationship with God. Parents have ways of disciplining disobedient children, and teachers can send kids to the office. Employers might dock your pay, but it seems like God has no enforcers to guarantee your obedience. So, we prefer our warm and fuzzy idea of God our buddy, over the notion of God who demands obedience. Yet, Jesus says that God demands obedience from His people.
In Matthew 21:18-22, Jesus cursed a fig tree that bore no fruit. Bible scholars debate whether or not it truly was fig season, but this is irrelevant. The Creator of the universe can demand figs from a tree, no matter what season it is. If Jesus approached a fig tree, desiring in His heart to eat a fig, then regardless of the season it should have produced for Him on the spot. And yet, because of the tree's disobedience, Jesus cursed it so that it withered and never produced again. Am I anthropomorphizing the tree too much, to say that it was disobedient? I'm not sure. If the trees of the field can clap their hands, if the heavens can declare the glory of God, if winds and waves can calm themselves because of the Lord's rebuke, then certainly a fig tree can be obstinate. Jesus was demonstrating something important in this visual parable. If God demands obedience from a fig tree, how much more does He expect obedience from His people?
To further illustrate this point, Jesus criticized the religious leaders for pretending obedience, when their hearts were completely disobedient to God. In verses 28-32, 43 (ESV), Jesus says:
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him...Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
So, which son more closely represents your relationship to God? Do you say "yes" to the Lord, only to turn around and disobey His Spirit's promptings? Or, do you, albeit sometimes reluctantly, step into God's will? Remember the fig tree, and don't make excuses when God asks you to do something for Him. It's no good saying, "Lord, it's just not the right timing," because the right timing is whenever God says it's the right timing. If we want to be friends of God, then we need to obey Him. In John 15:14 (ESV), Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." I pray that today, both you and I will follow His commands.