Do You Have “an Obedient Heart”?
WHEN Solomon became the king of ancient Israel, he felt inadequate. He therefore asked God for wisdom and knowledge. (2 Chronicles 1:10) Solomon also prayed: “You must give to your servant an obedient heart to judge your people.” (1 Kings 3:9) If Solomon had “an obedient heart,” he would follow divine laws and principles and would experience Jehovah’s blessing.
An obedient heart is not a burden but a source of joy. The apostle John wrote: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Surely, we should obey God. After all, Jehovah is our Grand Creator. To him belong the earth and all that is in it, even all the silver and the gold. So we cannot really give God anything materially, although he allows us to use our monetary assets to express our love for him. (1 Chronicles 29:14) Jehovah expects us to love him and humbly walk with him, doing his will.—Micah 6:8.
When Jesus Christ was asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, he said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:36-38) One way to express that love is to obey God. It should therefore be the prayer of each one of us that Jehovah give us an obedient heart.
They Had an Obedient Heart
The Bible abounds with examples of those who had an obedient heart. For instance, Jehovah told Noah to build a huge ark for the preservation of life. This was an enormous task that took some 40 or 50 years. Even with all the modern power tools and other equipment now available, it would be an engineering feat to build such a huge structure that could float. Moreover, Noah had to warn people who no doubt mocked and ridiculed him. But he was obedient to the last detail. The Bible says: “He did just so.” (Genesis 6:9, 22; 2 Peter 2:5) Noah showed his love for Jehovah by faithful obedience over many years. What a fine example for all of us!
Consider, too, the patriarch Abraham. God told him to move from prosperous Ur of the Chaldeans to an unknown land. Abraham obeyed without question. (Hebrews 11:8) For the rest of his life, he and his family lived in tents. After many years as an alien in the land, Jehovah blessed him and his obedient wife, Sarah, with a son named Isaac. How 100-year-old Abraham must have loved this son of his old age! Some years later, Jehovah asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:1, 2) The very thought of doing that must have pained Abraham. Nevertheless, he proceeded to obey because he loved Jehovah and had faith that the promised seed would come through Isaac, even if God had to raise him from the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19) When Abraham was about to kill his son, however, Jehovah stopped him and said: “Now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.” (Genesis 22:12) Because of his obedience, God-fearing Abraham came to be known as “Jehovah’s friend.”—James 2:23.
Jesus Christ is our best example of obedience. During his prehuman existence, he found delight in obedient service to his Father in heaven. (Proverbs 8:22-31) As a man, Jesus obeyed Jehovah in everything, always delighting to do his will. (Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:9) Thus, Jesus could truthfully say: “I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he did not abandon me to myself, because I always do the things pleasing to him.” (John 8:28, 29) Finally, to vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty and to redeem obedient mankind, Jesus willingly gave his life, undergoing a most humiliating and painful death. Indeed, “when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Philippians 2:8) What an example in manifesting an obedient heart!
Partial Obedience Not Enough
Not all who have claimed to be obedient to God have actually obeyed him. Consider King Saul of ancient Israel. God instructed him to wipe out the wicked Amalekites. (1 Samuel 15:1-3) Though Saul destroyed them as a nation, he spared their king and preserved some of their sheep and cattle. Samuel asked: “Why is it you did not obey the voice of Jehovah?” In reply, Saul said: “But I have obeyed the voice of Jehovah . . . The people [of Israel] went taking from the spoil sheep and cattle, the choicest of them . . . , to sacrifice to Jehovah.” Stressing the need for complete obedience, Samuel replied: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams; for rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and teraphim. Since you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he accordingly rejects you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:17-23) How much Saul lost because he did not have an obedient heart!
Even wise King Solomon, who had prayed for an obedient heart, did not continue to obey Jehovah. Contrary to the divine will, he married foreign women who caused him to sin against God. (Nehemiah 13:23, 26) Solomon lost divine favor because he did not continue to have an obedient heart. What a warning this is for us!
This does not mean that Jehovah requires perfection from his human servants. He ‘remembers that we are dust.’ (Psalm 103:14) All of us are sure to make mistakes at times, but God can see whether we really have a heartfelt desire to please him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) If we err because of human imperfection but are repentant, we can ask for forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, confident that Jehovah “will forgive in a large way.” (Isaiah 55:7; 1 John 2:1, 2) The help of loving Christian elders may also be needed so that we can recover spiritually and have a healthy faith and an obedient heart.—Titus 2:2; James 5:13-15.
How Complete Is Your Obedience?
As Jehovah’s servants, most of us undoubtedly feel that we have an obedient heart. We may reason, Am I not sharing in the Kingdom-preaching work? Do I not stand firm when such major issues as neutrality arise? And do I not attend Christian meetings regularly, as the apostle Paul urged? (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; John 17:16; Hebrews 10:24, 25) True, Jehovah’s people as a whole display heartfelt obedience in such important respects.
But what about our conduct in everyday affairs, perhaps in seemingly small matters? Jesus stated: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) Each of us would therefore do well to ask himself, Do I have an obedient heart when it comes to minor things or matters that others do not even know about?
The psalmist showed that even inside his house, where others did not see him, he ‘walked about in the integrity of his heart.’ (Psalm 101:2) While sitting in your house, you may turn on the television and start watching a movie. Right there, your obedience could be tested. The movie may become immoral in content. Will you keep on watching, rationalizing that this is the type of movie being shown these days? Or will your obedient heart move you to comply with the Scriptural injunction, ‘do not let fornication and uncleanness even be mentioned among you’? (Ephesians 5:3-5) Will you turn off the TV, even if the story is intriguing? Or will you switch channels if a program becomes violent? “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one,” sang the psalmist, “and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.”—Psalm 11:5.
An Obedient Heart Brings Blessings
There are, of course, many areas of life wherein we can profitably examine ourselves to see if we really obey God from the heart. Our love for Jehovah should move us to please him and do what he tells us in his Word, the Bible. An obedient heart will help us to maintain a good relationship with Jehovah. Indeed, if we are fully obedient, ‘the sayings of our mouth and the meditation of our heart will be pleasurable before Jehovah.’—Psalm 19:14.
Because Jehovah loves us, he teaches us obedience for our own good. And we benefit ourselves greatly by wholeheartedly paying attention to divine teaching. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Therefore, let us gladly accept the assistance our heavenly Father provides through his Word, his spirit, and his organization. We are being taught so well that it is as if we hear a voice behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it, you people.” (Isaiah 30:21) As Jehovah teaches us through the Bible, Christian publications, and congregation meetings, may we pay attention, apply what we learn, and be “obedient in all things.”—2 Corinthians 2:9.
An obedient heart will result in much joy and many blessings. It will bring us peace of mind, for we will know that we are well-pleasing to Jehovah God and are making his heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) A heart that is obedient will be a protection for us when we are tempted to do wrong. Surely, then, we should obey our heavenly Father and should pray: “Give to your servant an obedient heart.”
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From the Self-Pronouncing Edition of the Holy Bible, containing the King James and the Revised versions