Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 9:38, Nehemiah 10:1-39, John 14:15, Hebrews 4:15
Find me managing a tantrum in the middle of the bread aisle and I might sing a different tune, but I want more from my children than blind obedience. I don’t want them to toe the line based strictly on fear of consequences. Our home is not a police state, after all. I want my children’s obedience to reflect the condition of their hearts, for their actions to be a response to the love and care they’ve been given.
As I consider my role in the family of God, I know the Father wants the same from me. As an unbeliever, I couldn’t work up the oomph to care much about what God said about how I should live. At best, He seemed like an aloof father figure, and at worst, an unreasonable tyrant. Like a toddler determined to have her own way, I rebelled.
As a new believer, I swung the pendulum of obedience to extremes. I wanted to obey all the rules, do all the right things, avoid all the wrong ones. I saw God as a hyper-attentive helicopter parent. I lived in constant fear of disappointing Him. But I’ve been walking with Christ for twenty years now, and a beautiful shift has transpired. Much like what happened with my earthly parents as I hit my mid-twenties, I want to please God—not because of fear of consequences, but because He is so clearly worthy of my unequivocal devotion and respect. Rather than being motivated by fear, my obedience has become the way I say “thank you” for all He has done for me.
Here, in Nehemiah 9-10, we see God’s people growing up, maturing. They’ve been through a rebellious phase, and it has cost them dearly. In the eras preceding Nehemiah’s day, God’s people saw Him as an oppressive and unreasonable Father, and their warped view of Him fueled generations of rebellion. But because He is a loving Father, He graciously gathered them together again. He reminded them of His expectations and gave them another chance to get it right. They looked around at their scattered tribes, their rubbled city, their fallen comrades, and their perspective shifted.
God is good.
His ways are best.
Rebellion leads to destruction.
For all of chapter 10, God’s children declared what they would and would not do in response to God’s love. We’ve heard it all before, but the tone is different here. Just like the children I tuck into bed every night, they would not obey perfectly, but their hearts had changed. For the first time in a long time, they wanted to obey their Father. In all things, they were determined to “not neglect the house of God” (Nehemiah 10:39).
Love and obedience are tied together with a sacred cord. That’s why Christ cut to the chase with these words: “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). Author Paul David Tripp puts it this way: “Obedience is not what gets you grace. It’s the evidence that grace has gotten you.” Belief leads to obedience, because when we see who God really is, we want to live like He asks us to. It is our loving response to the God who is Love.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.