Monday, January 4, 2021

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” —Deuteronomy 5:29

For some reason, when someone tells me to do something (or even politely suggests that maybe I ought to do something), it makes me not want to do it. I’m a grown-up (supposedly), but, for example, if Jade mentions that I might want to put on a warmer coat because it’s frigid cold out, I will generally pause, pondering the suggestion. Jade will then (rightly) hypothesize, “You don’t want to put on a warmer coat because I suggested it?”

It’s not that I don’t trust my wife’s understanding of winter outerwear or the Fahrenheit scale. It’s true that she’s a bit zealous about bundling up, but fair enough—it gets really cold in Chicago. This is just one manifestation of a lifelong instinct I’ve had to question advice and authority: “I’m not saying I won’t put on a warmer coat, but I’m not going to do it just because you said to!” The author Gretchen Rubin would call me a “Questioner.”

We’re not all wired quite like this (thank God!), but we all have times when we bristle at authority. People who cheerfully give away thousands of dollars to charity bristle at small tax increases. Students who love reading refuse to read the novels assigned by their English teachers. The posted speed limits mainly serve to remind us what speed we should be sure to exceed.

We often bring this same attitude to our obedience to God. In the Garden of Eden, the very first humans chose to do the one thing they’d been commanded not to. We hear that God calls us to obey, and we get antsy before we even know what God’s commands are.

Pastor Andy Stanley often emphasizes that God doesn’t so much want something from us as he wants something for us. In this verse from Deuteronomy, you can hear the longing from God. He’s just established a covenant with Israel after liberating them from slavery. They are to be his people, and he is to be their God. He’s laid out a good rule of life that will bless their life together with each other and with him. And he longs for them to keep the commands, not because God gets something from it but because God longs for his beloved children to thrive.

If you’ve had good parents or known good parents or been a good parent, you know that—however imperfectly—human parents guide their children toward right-living not for the parents’ sake, but for the children’s sake. In an even better way, God teaches us how to live because he really wants us to live. So open your ears to his good instruction, so that life may go well.

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