Psalms 81:13-14 “If my people would but listen to me,
if Israel would follow my ways,
how quickly would I subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!”
The only difference between the English and the Japanese here is that the NIV puts this as a future conditional promise, while the Japanese continues the past tense of the previous verses. In either case, the whole passage, at least from verse 8, is talking about the consequences of failing to be humble before God, in contrast to the benefits of humble obedience. Every parent has experienced times when their children have insisted that they knew better than their parents. With human parents that is sometimes true, but we never know better than our heavenly Father. Again and again throughout the Bible we see the benefits of listening to God and the consequences of failing to do so. God’s rules are never to restrict us, to be mean to us, they are to protect us and enable us to realize our full potential. John nailed it when he said that God’s commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) Rather, His commands are to lift the burdens of sin, guilt, and their consequences from us. Life is so much easier when we’re following God! That’s not to say we don’t have problems; Jesus assured us quite to the contrary. (John 16:33) However, when we are listening obediently to God, we can indeed rejoice even in the middle of our problems, again just as Jesus said, because we will walk in the victory of Jesus Christ.
I’ve had times of listening obediently to God and I’ve had times of being like a kid in the “terrible twos.” There’s no question which is better! As a pastor I deal constantly with people who are in fixes of their own making, because they failed to listen obediently to God. The first step out is always repentance, but it’s amazing how resistant we can be to that most basic step. As long as people insist that their circumstances are entirely someone else’ fault, I can’t help them. That’s actually a principle I was taught in Counseling class in seminary, but it’s certainly true. I’ve also learned the hard way that as long as I am closed to the idea that I might be wrong, I make very little progress no matter what I’m dealing with. That’s not to say I’m never right, but it is to say I must always be humble before my Lord and seek to listen to Him, even if He’s speaking through someone I don’t care for particularly. I know that God’s plans are always good, (Jeremiah 29:11) so for myself and for those around me I need to focus on listening obediently to Him.
Father, thank You for Your incredible patience with me. Help me extend that patience toward those I work with as well. May we all learn to listen to You more consistently and obey You more faithfully, so that all of Your plans for us may be fulfilled, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!