Careful Obedience – Part I
Key Verse: Luke 1:6-13
Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
Additional Reading: Luke 1:26-56
You have probably heard of John the Baptist; he was picked by God to prepare the way for Jesus to come and preach the Good News of the Gospel. Our Key Verse today is about John’s parents Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a Jewish priest serving in the Jewish Temple. Elizabeth was unable to conceive and because of their old age, they had long since given up on having a child. We all know the heartbreak of any couple wanting children but find out they will never be able to have them. Our scripture makes it clear that God was not punishing Zechariah and Elizabeth. Luke 1:6a tells us that they were “righteous in God’s eyes.” Our scripture continues to tell us the reason God felt that way toward them, they were “careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations” (Luke 1:6b).
Let’s explore that phrase, “careful to obey” so that we also can have confidence that God is pleased with us. Before I do, let me clarify that we are saved by our faith, not our obedience. However, we see throughout the New Testament a great emphasis on a believer’s obedience after they are saved. The Apostle Paul wrote: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27). If you read your Bible, you know that the Apostle Paul was a great advocate of being saved by faith. Yet, he also believed in doing all he humanly could do to be obedient to the Lord in response to God’s gracious gift of Salvation.
With that said, let’s investigate this idea of careful obedience. If you are a parent, I think you can understand the difference between “careless obedience” and “careful obedience”. A child that doesn’t listen carefully to instructions, ends up obeying in part. A child that doesn’t really put forth energy to obey in all the details of a parent’s instructions, ends up obeying in part. We’ve all heard our kids say, “I did obey, I did…” and then try to justify their lack of really being careful to obey.
My guess is we’ve all been less than careful to obey God at times. This careless obedience ranges from not obeying the intent of God’s instructions to only partial obedience, falling short of truly obeying everything that we know to be God’s Will.
God knows the difference between falling short of full obedience because of human weakness and falling short because we just were not careful to listen and careful to do all we could do. We’ll never be perfect in our obedience, but we can be careful to do all we know to do.
For example, suppose a toddler decides to bring a class of water to his mom. While toddling over to mom, she sees how often he spills the water, yet was trying so hard to please her. Her response is very different if she sees the toddler giggling, enjoying splashing water along the way. Our Father sees the difference between real effort on our part, and sloppy laziness in our obedience.
Father, help me to see the reality of my walk with you. As I experience my failures in obedience, give me discernment to know the reasons behind these failures. Thank you for your love and patience with me; keep growing me into a faithful disciple! In Jesus’s Name, amen.