I do not know a single person who likes being wrong. Taking it one step further, most people like others telling them they are wrong even less. So when God tells mankind through his Word that there are directions that need to be taken, or changes that need to be made in our lives, how do we respond? It does not mean that we have been intentionally making the wrong choices or doing the wrong things, it could be simple ignorance or a misunderstanding of what needed to be done.
When consideration is given to the Scriptures, there are many different examples showing how man reacted to God’s directions. However, all of the examples can be placed into one of three different categories. Let us examine these categories by considering a prime example from each of them.
The example of Saul (open rebellion). Saul was not one who was ignorant of God’s commands; he simply did not care to comply with them. Whether it be offering sacrifices himself without Samuel’s presence and officiating (1 Sam. 13); or his willful disobedience to God’s commands regarding the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15); Saul proved it did not matter what God said, he would do what he desired. He even went so far as to speak to Samuel of “the Lord your God,” indicating he did not even accept God as his any longer (1 Sam. 15:30).
This example is one that is often followed by men. When God has given explicit instructions pertaining to a certain action or decision, many will simply ignore it, dismiss it, or revile it. This attitude of rebellion is like a cancer, continuing to spread and infect the life of the rebellious soul until no room for God is left. When this happens, man decides what he will do and how he will go: a situation that never turns out well eternally.
The example of Jonah (grumbling obedience). Jonah was a man who was sent on a mission he did not want to complete. When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he first exhibited rebellion by going the other direction (Jon. 1). After God gave a little exhibition on why Jonah needed to listen to him, Jonah goes to Nineveh and fulfills the command, but he is by no means happy about his work. In fact, when the people of Nineveh repent as God commanded, Jonah gets angry because he wanted Nineveh destroyed (Jon. 4:1-3). Jonah did as he was told, but his attitude was filled with grumbling and complaining.
There are some Christians who exhibit this response to God. They do what God requires; but the entire time they are fulfilling their task they are grumbling (sometimes audibly, sometimes silently) about what is being done, how it is done, why it should not have to be done, etc. Then when the task is accomplished successfully there is no satisfaction or happiness to be found, but only more complaining. Paul said, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation; among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phi. 2:14-15). We certainly cannot keep Paul’s directive and carry this response to God’s commands.
The example of Josiah (humble obedience). Josiah reigned over Israel at a time where there had been a great deal of uncertainty and neglect when it came to the Law of God. While Josiah was on the throne, he commanded repairs to be made to the temple in areas that had been sorely neglected in previous generations. While those repairs were taking place, the high priest, Hilkiah, found a copy of the book of the Law of Moses (2 Kin. 22:8). He brought it to Josiah and it was read before him, something that had never been done to this point. When Josiah heard the reading of the Law he tore his clothes and immediately told the priest to inquire of God as to the truth of the book, because the people had not been doing what the Lord had commanded. Immediately, proper worship to God was reinstituted in the country of Judah.
Josiah is the perfect example of the individual who hears God’s Word, desires to do it, and takes whatever steps are necessary to accomplish that task. The heart is overcome with humility and a desire to do what is right. There are no excuses, no hesitations, only simple obedience to the expectations of God.
Having seen the examples of man’s differing responses to God’s Law, one question remains: after whose example will we follow? Will we disregard God’s commands or treat them as though they don’t really matter? Will we do what is commanded, but constantly show our inward distaste for what God expects of man, thereby violating the attitude of service God expects? Or will we with humble sincerity, strive with all our might to serve God acceptably in every way commanded? Two of these three examples will leave one short of being pleasing and acceptable to God. Will we make the right choice? It is entirely up to us.