Obedience isn’t my favorite subject. When I wrote the outline for my Numbers Bible study last year, I looked forward to talking about contentment in times of deliverance or preparation. After reading through the wilderness account several times, I couldn’t miss the resounding truths revealing that discontent is often coupled with disobedience. God longs for His people to obey Him.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” He said the outflow of our love would be obedience. He asks us to obey because like a good parent, He knows what is good for us and what isn’t. He created us to walk in close relationship with Him. When He says things are off limits, it is because He understands the harm they can bring us. Whether emotional, spiritual, or physical ramifications, God calls us to obey Him for our protection and ultimate good. He loves us and wants the very best for His children.
Yet He knows how hard this obedience thing is for us. The Psalmist said, “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14) So in Numbers, the Lord gave His people tangible reminders to help them obey. God wasn’t unclear in what He was asking them to do. God gave them detailed instructions which included the Ten Commandments. In addition the Lord spoke through His servant Moses to give clear direction in specific situations. The Lord assured them of victory if they would go in and take the Promised Land, but they failed to obey and listened instead to their own fears. The consequences were grave including the death of an entire generation and wilderness wandering for 40 years.
We too often find our promised lands occupied with enemies like fear, disorganization, difficult people, and uncertainty. We will never find contentment playing it safe instead of believing God. Like the wilderness wanderers, we too can struggle to obey the Lord in the midst of daily decisions. After the drama of disobedience, the people faced a journey where they would learn to make wiser choices when it came to believing God. They knew the location of the Promised Land, but they had lessons to learn in their wandering. This reminds me of the famous line from J. R. R. Tolkien’s poem in The Lord of the Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.” The Israelites weren’t lost, instead they were learning obedience as they waited on God’s timing.
Along the journey, the Lord used physical illustrations to help His people remember spiritual truths. He wanted His people to remember who He was and the importance of obedience so He instructed them with a tangible reminder. In Numbers 15: 38-41 we read:
“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!”
God knows we are prone to wander. We forget His love and care as well as His instructions for living. As new generations grow up, God’s deeds of the past seem to fade with modern ideas replacing God’s instructions. To help the children grow up remembering God’s decrees, He asked them to use blue cords to attach tassels to the edge of their garments. I’ve found physical objects have helped me embrace spiritual truths as well. What are some physical reminders that have helped you in the past not to forget spiritual concepts?
I’ve written verses on notecards or sticky notes and put them in places like my bathroom, kitchen or car to help me focus on God. Reminders in my phone, special items from a women’s retreat, or just seeing my Bible in my purse or on my couch have served to help me think more about God. For the upcoming contentment project on September 4-10th, I’m inviting women from all over the country to join me for a week of a tangible contentment reminders.
We will wear a bracelet that says, “content,” on it and move it from one arm to the other every time we grumble. Then we will state one of God’s blessings related to our complaint. This tangible reminder will help us obey Phillipians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.”
Other parts of the project include focussing on God for five minutes each day and reading a contentment devotional from God’s Word delivered via email. If you haven’t signed up already, I hope you’ll consider joining us. You can get all the info here: http://melissaspoelstra.com/contentment-project/ The tangible reminder of the bracelet can be a tool much like the tassels in Numbers to help us obey. You can order one and support an awesome organization here: www.mudlove.com/contentment. (If you need some morning contentment, you’ll also find some cool mugs that say “content” on them as well!)
While obedience isn’t my favorite subject, it’s something we need reminders about often. When we stray from God’s clear commands, we find discontent welling up in our souls. By getting off the wrong path of complaining, we can pursue satisfaction in Jesus and focus on loving Him.