Study 4 - Learn to obey
As soon as Elijah had delivered his message to the king, God told him to go and hide in the Kerith Ravine. So Elijah ‘did what the Lord had told him’ (1 Kings 17:5). It was on God’s instruction that he’d confronted Ahab in the first place. Now there was a new word from the Lord, ‘Go.’ So Elijah went.
He didn’t question or murmur against the instruction. He didn’t say, ‘What, Lord? The ravine? You’ve commanded the ravens to feed me? But Lord, haven’t you ever read Leviticus 11:13-15? Look, here it is. It says, “These are the birds you are to detest…any kind of raven.” It’s an unclean bird, Lord. And how on earth are they going to feed me anyway? The whole idea is ludicrous. And if I do eventually decide to go, I’ll be taking a sandwich along – and some fruit, and maybe a few cakes and a couple of dozen packets of crisps and perhaps something cold to drink…’
No. We hear nothing of this. God spoke and there was no protest from his servant. Elijah accepted the word without question – a God-honouring characteristic often seen in the prophet’s story.
Obedience underlies power
Elijah’s obedience was one of the keys to his dynamic prayer life. The Bible says, ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16). God listens to those who listen to him. When you take seriously what God says to you, you can expect God to take seriously what you say to him. Jesus said, ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you’ (John 15:7). Does this mean that God answers those who have succeeded in memorising lots of Bible texts? No. That’s a good discipline, but Jesus is referring to a lifestyle that’s built upon his word like a house is built on rock.
When God spoke, Elijah acted and, later in the story, Elijah spoke and God acted. What a wonderful relationship! As you increasingly trust and obey God’s Word you’ll discover an increasing level of fellowship with him and a growing experience of his power.
Obedience to strange requests
God’s command to Elijah was unusual, but the prophet still obeyed it. Jesus gave the disciples some unusual instructions. ‘Go to the lake,’ he told Peter, ‘and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin’ (Matt. 17:27). And, ‘Go and prepare the Passover. As you enter the city you will meet a man with a jar of water. Follow him and he will lead you to the house where we will be eating’ (Luke 22:8-10). ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some fish there’ (John 21:6).
Why did Jesus instruct his disciples to do such strange things? He wanted to develop their obedience. He wanted them to live not by their own reason and wisdom but by his word. The more they acted on Jesus’ word, the more they trusted it. The more they trusted it, the more they acted on it. Jesus’ mother learned this lesson, too. ‘Do whatever he tells you,’ (John 2:5) she told the servants at the wedding in Cana, and their obedience brought about a miracle.
Sometimes God’s word to us is unusual. ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matt. 5:44). ‘Give, and it will be given to you’ (Luke 6:38). ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Phil. 4:4). Sometimes God may ask us to do odd things. He’s watching to see our reaction to his Word. Will it be, ‘That’s illogical, Lord. It doesn’t make sense, so I won’t do it’? Or will it be, ‘I don’t understand the reasoning behind this, but because you say so, I will let down the nets’ (Luke 5:5)? Only when you reach out with Peter’s faith and obedience will you enjoy the miraculous blessing.
‘Obedience is out of vogue in our culture. You can find classes that provide assertiveness training. Try to find classes in submissiveness training! Obedience is the willing submission of one person to the authority of another. It means more than a child doing what he is told. It means doing what he is told; Without Challenge, Without Excuse, and Without Delay.’
Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Shepherd Press, 1995, p.160