Confusing Commands: When obedience doesn't make sense
I’m certain you’ve noticed in our confusing culture that we all are having a harder time than ever choosing obedience. And so… how do we teach our children obedience? As the culture has grown more evil, and the phrase, “trust and respect your authorities” is now only spoken in mockery and sarcasm, do you ask yourself the question, how does God expect me to teach my children to honor and obey those who are, and will be in leadership over them? We consider their teachers who may teach secularism, and eventually their bosses who run a compromised business, and sadly even some pastors and spiritual leaders will continue looking to profit rather than preach the Word. As the world grows more rebellious, are there still reasons to hope that we can produce spiritually mature adults who can live in this spiritually bankrupt world? How will our morally disciplined children thrive and survive in a world that has become so wickedly advantageous, and antithetical to the customs of Christianity?
Now, more than ever we must make sure our children are growing up with a firm understanding of right theology in that our God is pure, he is holy and he is faithful, as perfectly reflected through the Bible. Therefore, regardless of the corrupt condition of the world around us, as Christ followers we too must be pure, holy and faithful. To accomplish this, we must be committed to the complete word of God. Cover to cover. Even the toughest books and chapters in the Bible bring us surprising glimpses of his faithfulness born of obedience by those who walked even more treacherous paths in centuries gone by.
May I share an example? As I was reading through the book of Numbers (admittedly, not the most exciting book of the Bible), and specifically chapter 4, the duties of the Kohathites (Are you still with me? Lol!). The directions were being given to Moses and Aaron regarding the taking down of “the tent of meeting”. It’s so easy to trail off the tiny details of a chapter like this, and take a little mental-vacation. By God’s grace I was able to stay focused and discovered a small little detail that has been encouraging my heart ever since I spotted it. I love it when that happens!! Don’t you?
The text tells us how every section and item of the “most holy things” in the temple are to be obediently packed up by the Kohathites (the Levites) as they prepare for another leg of their dessert journey. They were responsible to obey every minute instruction to the smallest detail, and not to question why. Literally, if not done faithfully, their lives could be at stake. This was serious! I was noticing how they were commanded to cover each vessel of the tabernacle with a specific colored cloth, according to the degree of holiness. Biblically, blue represents Heaven or the place that God resides (such as the Holy of Holies), so as these items were wrapped in blue, this made sense to me, as I’m sure it was very obvious to the Kohathites, therefore eliminating any question as to why. Then I came to Numbers 4:7—
“…the table of the bread of the Presence with the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering: the regular showbread also shall be on it.” which would also be covered with a cloth of blue.
However, this one time, the instructions went on to say in verse 8,
“Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet...”
Scarlet? Biblically scarlet might represent blood (or safety through sacrifice), or sin (Is. 1:18) which of course to those of us who understand Christ’s work on the cross immediately relate to this. I couldn’t help but spend time dwelling on that verse and thinking about John 6:41:
“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
Or Luke 22:19-20, at the Lord’s supper, Jesus lifts the bread and said, “this is my body, which is given for you”
And then Jesus took the cup...
“this cup which is poured out is the new covenant in my blood.”
Though sacrifice was at the center of their relationship to God, it is so interesting that Aaron and the Kohathites obediently followed instructions with minimal understanding. Did they truly understand the significance of covering items with a “blue” cloth? And, what’s more… why was only the table of Presence, with the bread and drink offering to be covered additionally with a cloth of scarlet? For some reason this struck me so deeply regarding God’s expectation that these men called to these duties were to obey without question, and even without complete understanding. Is God trying to speak to you and me on this? Because we are living in AD rather than BC, we understand the Great Mystery. God’s secret message that Jesus, the Bread of life, the Drink Offering which was to be poured out for us stiff-necked and faithless people, would come, and has! It was God’s tiny opportunity to display a vignette of His salvatic plan using the physical symbols of the Savior to come. Who were the intended witnesses to this vignette? Maybe not as much them as us! Because of their commands to obey, we witness this in the Scriptures. And here we are thousands of years later, pondering this possibly confusing act of obedience buried in a passage that if read carefully, shows us the scarlet message that God himself provided throughout the entire Bible leading us to the Cross. We have the privilege of knowing that God had a plan, and his plan was fulfilled. And even the one smallest act of obedience in using a scarlet cloth by the priests preparing the temple for the next leg of the journey, had to be obeyed. Yes… for their own sake as they exercised obedience to God, but also for our discovery of one more biblical message by God that his long view plan was faithfully established for all who would believe.
Why is God asking us to obey his commands? We want answers when it doesn’t seem to make sense, right? And yet, we have this tiny little moment displayed in God’s word showing us, that though we may not understand why he commands us to do something, it does not negate God’s faithfulness to fulfill his plan in our lives, in our children’s lives and in this chaotic, confusing, sinful world. And that all he requires is that we, like the Kohathites, perhaps even without understanding, choose obedience and trust him completely.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15
Everyday we parents encounter opportunities to do what God has instructed us to do in his word, specifically in regards to parenting our children. So many times we understand and happily obey; like teaching our children to consider others better than themselves (the blue covering), going on a blessing hunt (the blue covering), or teaching them about the circle of blessing (the blue covering). But often times in our day we are instructed to do with our children what is not comfortable or does not make sense, such as…
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24
Maybe this might be an example of the blue covering with the scarlet covering. This is often the time that we are to be sacrificially obedient just because God said it, and we know he is fulfilling his faithful plan! We can trust that He loves us and our children... even more than we do! We can obey his instructions to us, because though we may not understand perfectly, we do know he is pure, holy and faithful, and these acts of our obedience may be symbols of his faithful plan to be revealed in a life that goes well for our children (Luke 6:1).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Just a note about Proverbs 13:24... There is a specific plan that THfJ teaches in recognition of who we are to God as his children, and the approach that is taken by God with his children. It is motivated by love, not wrath, by discipline not punishment. We as parents are to act in the same manner. To learn how and why, please sign up for our Training Hearts for Jesus biblical parenting class.