263. CAN DISOBEDIENCE EVER BE JUSTIFIED?

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 7)

Is there ever a reason to disobey God? Could we ever be faced with a situation, where what we are going through or what we are dealing with justifies our acting in a manner contrary to the will of God?

The answer to this is a resounding NO.

We were born as children of disobedience but even after we came to the Lord Jesus, sometimes, this ugly flesh within us, the world and the devil without us, incites us to do things that displease God and therefore, to disobey him. Yet, this is never okay. No matter the situation, disobedience is ALWAYS wrong.

I was reminded of this fact this morning, as I read 1 Samuel 13.

In 1 Samuel 10, the Prophet Samuel, acting upon the instruction of God, anointed Saul to be captain over the people of Israel, meaning, he anointed him as king. After he did so, he prophesied as to what would happen when he (Saul) left. He told him that he would find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin and what they would say to him. He told him that after this, he was to continue on and that three men would meet him and he told him what would happen then. He further told him that after this, he would come to a particular hill where the garrisons of the Philistines were, that he would meet some prophets in the city and of what would happen then. Finally, Samuel told him:

  • And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee, for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do.” (1 Samuel 10:7-8)

Samuel, acting on behalf of God, had therefore given Saul a clear indication as to what to expect and clear instructions as to what he was to do. After all the things that Samuel told him would happen, had happened, Saul was instructed to:

  1. Go down to Gilgal before Samuel got there;
  2. Wait for seven days until Samuel arrived, at which point, he (Samuel), would offer burnt offerings and sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings and would show Saul what next to do.

In verse 9, it states that all of the signs that Samuel gave to Saul, came to pass that very day. Indeed, just as Samuel had prophesied would happen, in verse 10, it states that a group of prophets met Saul, that the spirit of God came upon him and that he (Saul) even prophesied among them. All of the signs having come to pass and Saul having obeyed up to that point, there was only one part of Samuel’s instruction that remained to be carried out. This involved Saul going down to Gilgal and waiting for Samuel to arrive to burn offerings and sacrifice peace offerings and to give Saul further instructions then.

Notably, all of the signs that occurred and instructions that Saul followed, took place before Saul became king. After this, Samuel made it known to the people that Saul was God’s choice for king and in chapter 11, Saul’s kingship having faced some opposition before by the children of Belial, Samuel and the people formally renewed Saul’s kingdom. Verses 14-15 states:

  • “Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.”

Saul therefore became king but the last part of Samuel’s prophecy, where Saul would go down before him to Gilgal, had not yet occurred. In fact, it was only after Saul had reigned as king for two whole years, that the time came for Saul to do as Samuel had told him to do, in Gilgal.

In 1 Samuel 13:1-7, it reads:

  • Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent. And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear. 
  • And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal. And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven. 
  • When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.”

Jonathan, Saul’s son, had therefore killed a group of the Philistine’s troops which were stationed in a place to guard and protect the Philistine people and this incited a war. When the Philistines found out, they assembled themselves together and came out against Israel with a whooping “…thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude.”

They were therefore a formidable army and the sight must have been intimidating to look at. Not surprisingly therefore, the Word of God states that when the Israelites saw them, they were in a strait, meaning perplexed and distressed. Out of fear, they even hid themselves in caves, thickets, rocks, high places and pits, hoping to escape what looked like sure death.

In the midst of all this, the Word of God states that Saul, who was still in Gilgal, had called the Israelite people together and all the people followed him trembling (vs. 4,7).

It was only at this point, two years later, that what Samuel had instructed Saul even before he became king was to come to fruition. He (Saul) understood this and that he was to wait, based on the instruction given to him more than two years prior, until Samuel arrived to burn the offerings and to sacrifice the peace offerings. Verse 8 states of him: “And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.”

Commendably therefore, Saul waited for the seven days that Samuel had directed that he wait. However, after the seven days had expired, Samuel did not arrive! Worse yet, the Philistines had come up and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven. They were ready to fight but it did not seem as if the Israelites were! They were not prepared spiritually for the battle. They were scattered and scared and trembling. Saul therefore reasoned within himself, that action needed to be taken, for danger was imminent. Verse 9 states: “And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.”

Saul therefore did what Samuel was supposed to do and he seemed well-intentioned. It also seemed harmless and a small matter. After all, offerings and sacrifices were being made to the Lord, so surely, he would be pleased, wouldn’t he? The reason Saul took matters into his own hands also seemed justifiable, understandable and necessary. For, he had waited seven days and Samuel still had not come! Undeniably, danger was imminent and the Israelites were seemingly not in a position to secure a victory. YET, as soon as Saul had done what he had done, Samuel came and Saul’s act was not commended but condemned! While it seemed justified, Samuel defined it for what it really was which was DISOBEDIENCE.

The scripture states:

  • “And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
  •  And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast NOT kept that which the Lord commanded thee.”

To my mind, when it comes to OBEDIENCE, there are many lessons to be learned or reminded of, in this story. Some of these are as follows:

ONE – DELAY does not justify disobedience.

Samuel told Saul to wait seven days, after which, he would come. Yet, after seven days, he had not shown up. He was therefore undeniably delayed. It was expected that he would come as soon as the days had expired, maybe on the eighth day but to Saul’s surprise, he did not.

YET, Samuel’s delay in coming did not make it okay for Saul to take matters into his own hands. Samuel’s delay, did not give Saul a reason to disobey the instruction.

Similarly, in our own lives, even if we have waited on God up to a point where we taught that surely, by then, he would intervene in our situation, if he is seemingly delayed, this does not justify us taking matters into our own hands. It does not give us licence to disobey God and his Word. His commands remain sure. If, for example, he has told us not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, not to engage in fornication or adultery and not to marry or be involved in a relationship with anyone that is a divorcee, then our biological clock ticking or hormones raging or heart panting, does NOT justify our going out on our own, stepping outside of God’s will and DISOBEYING HIM.

TWO – Even where the instruction or command was given A LONG TIME AGO, God still expects us to obey.

In Saul’s case, Samuel gave him the instruction two or more years prior and even before he had become king! So much had happened between then and so much had changed. It may have been easy to reason, given that so much time had passed and Saul’s circumstances had so changed, that Saul, who had now been elevated to king was no longer expected to comply with it completely or that it no longer mattered, whether he did or not. Yet, God still expected him to completely obey the instruction and time did nothing to remove the duty that Saul had before him.

The chilling lesson for us today is this: God’s Word and his commands are UNCHANGING. It does not matter how long ago his instructions were delivered or how things in this world have since changed or how we have changed. God’s Word is not archaic, outdated or irrelevant as some seem to think.

Everything he has told us to do remains and will remain throughout all generations. He therefore still expects complete obedience, even if he delivered the instructions thousands of years ago. If he said NOT to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever as far back as in the New Testament times, he expects modern-day believers to STILL carry out the instruction. If he said back then, that women are to remain silent in the Church and not usurp authority over men, although so much time has passed and so much has changed in the world and our situation is so different, God still expects us to OBEY.

THREE – Even when the instructions seem simple and like it will NOT BE A BIG DEAL if we twist them a bit, it is still disobedience.

Saul clearly did not think it would be a big deal if, after having waited the instructed amount of time, he took matters into his own hands and did what Samuel was coming to do anyway. It did not seem like a big deal but it was. It was ugly disobedience, that which God hates.

Similarly today because our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), we often convince ourselves that if we bend God’s rules a bit or change a few things or just do what we want here and there, on small matters, that it will be no big deal. God will not make a big fuss and we will not be held to account.

Surely, neglecting to tell others about how they can be saved and how God expects them to live, cannot be considered disobedience, can it? Surely, ignoring God’s call on our lives or to separate ourselves from something, even pretending we do not hear it, is not disobedience, is it?

Praying and prophesying as women with our heads uncovered or putting something on our heads just for putting sake, while ensuring that our hair is still out and can be seen because our hair and hairstyle is so beautiful, that we want it to be seen, surely, this will not be frowned on upon by God, will it? This is not rebellion is it?

Allowing women to just get up during a Church service for only a short time and say what is on their heart which can be a blessing to the rest of the congregation because they are so articulate and have so much to share, cannot be disobedience, can it?

God says not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, so if we go after an unbeliever with the intention of marrying them and bring them to Church with the intention of marrying them and give them the gospel with the intention of marrying them and pressure them, every opportunity we get, to make a so-called ‘profession’ and they finally do (because they want to marry us) and we get married, surely, we did not disobey God, did we? Surely we have not acted outside of his will and out of self-will have we?

As Saul learned the hard way, even on what seems like the most simple of matters or where we delude ourselves into thinking that something is okay or not a big deal because deep down we are a rebellious people and want our own way, God expects us to wholeheartedly obey. There is no middle ground between obedience and disobedience. You have either obeyed entirely or disobeyed entirely.

FOUR – Being well-meaning or WELL-INTENDED is not a reason to disobey God.

In this day and age, people come up with all sorts of reasons which seem noble, to act outside of the Word of God and therefore, to disobey his instructions. Yet, as Saul learned, even if you mean well and genuinely wanted a good outcome, even when what you decided to do seemed like it was for a noble cause, God is never pleased with disobedience. It is ALWAYS wrong.

The lady who believes that she must stay in a relationship with a man and give him sexual favours, (although she claims to have come to know Jesus Christ as Lord) because this will keep the man giving her money for their children, might be well-meaning but it is still disobedience. A Church that decides to put women on the pulpit and allow them to teach the congregation because the men are so few and feeble and some of the women are seemingly so ‘gifted’ and we are in the age of feminism, is a Church operating in DISOBEDIENCE.

We are not allowed to rationalise or reason why it is okay to disobey. It is not our place to try to solve the problem we see before our eyes. It is our duty to OBEY. All disobedience, including those that we convince ourselves that we are doing for some good, is sin. There are no ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’. No situation can justify it. There are NO exceptions to this rule. Wrong is wrong and absolutely NO circumstance renders it acceptable. NONE.

FIVE – Feeling PRESSURED or facing what looks like IMMINENT DANGER and may even be danger, does not justify disobedience.

Saul may have genuinely felt pressured to do something because he thought that the Israelites were in imminent danger, as the Philistines were advancing and they were not prepared. Yet, what he did was still without excuse.

When Peter, in the New Testament, thought that his life was in danger, he lied, by denying that he knew Jesus, not once but thrice. Yet, although it was a fact that his life may have definitely been in danger as they had captured Jesus and was about to kill him, Peter knew in his heart that what he had done was still wrong. Hence the reason that he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62).

No kind of danger that we may face, not even danger of death, gives us a reason to act in contravention of God’s Word. Even if the Philistines had come up and seemed fierce, even if the war had started before Samuel put in an appearance and the Israelites ended up defeated, Saul’s duty was to obey. The instruction stated that he was to wait until Samuel came and that is exactly what he was supposed to do. This called him to walk by faith, not by sight but he failed.

The God who knew all things and was able to call the end from the beginning, had delivered an instruction to him through his representative, Samuel and therefore, surely the God of all creation had already factored in what would be happening at that time with the Philistines. It did not take him by surprise. He knew what Jonathon would do and that the Philistines would gather themselves in a great army against the Israelites. Yet, in his foreknowledge, he still instructed Saul, through Samuel his earthly agent, to wait until Samuel arrived. He therefore had a plan and it was Saul’s place, not to try to figure it out or to exert his own effort to try to solve what seemed like a problem. It was his place to stay put. It was his place to OBEY.

SIX – Disobedience never pays but always brings adverse CONSEQUENCES.

When Adam disobeyed God, seemingly to please his wife, he learned this. King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, who, although godly, disobeyed God in his pride by going into the temple to burn incense when this was a function for the priests, learned this the hard way. Like Saul, he thought he was doing something honourable but really, it was transgression against the command of God. He therefore reaped the consequence, which was leprosy, for his sin.

Disobeying God is never a light matter. It is sin and is therefore laden with detrimental consequences.

SEVEN – Disobedience FORFEITS OPPORTUNITIES for blessing.

Like Adam and Eve who were cast out of the garden of Eden, a place of blessing, Saul’s disobedience resulted in his kingdom being forfeited. God decided to take it away from him and give it to another.

Similarly, when we disobey God, no matter the reason that motivated us to do so, we lose out on wonderful blessings from the Lord. As someone who has been guilty of disobeying God in different ways over the years, I can personally attest to the fact that this is true. When we choose to disobey, we also choose to let go of blessings that the Lord may have wanted for us.

When this happens, we have none but ourselves to blame in the aftermath. For, it was our own decision (not anybody else’s), to be foolish. Crying like Esau did, after he had cast scorn on his birthright and was reaping the consequence for his own foolishness, will not necessarily reverse this. God is merciful yes but there are some blessings that we lose out on permanently because of our disobedience. When we disobey, we don’t get to choose how God will requite it and what we will reap for it.

EIGHT – Every act of disobedience and every inaction that amounts to disobedience, is FOOLISH.

Samuel told Saul that in deciding to disobey, he had acted foolishly. Notably, Adam also acted foolishly when he decided to disobey and so did Uzziah, when he decided to disobey God’s standard for worship.

Every act of disobedience or inaction that amounts to disobedience, is an action or inaction in which we have been foolish. This is true, no matter what we may feel drives us to disobey. Even if we feel so compelled (as Saul said he felt) and give in, we act us fools.

We act us fools because we forget in those moments, that all disobedience will receive a just recompense. We act as fools because we forget that, even if things seem to be working out and in our favour now, that there will be ‘hell’ to pay later. We forget that under no circumstance is God ever pleased when we act outside of his Word and his will. Alas, we act foolishly because we don’t consider that there will always be a consequence, a painful consequence for our actions or inactions.

Whether we have chosen disobedience therefore because we found that the Lord was taking too long and we were tired of waiting on him or we wanted our own stubborn will or because we thought that we were smarter than God and therefore reasoned that what we decided to do, needed to be done, it is foolishness.

If we engaged in some form of sexual immorality or pursued after riches or participated in gossip and badmouthing of others or promoted disunity, drama and discord among God’s people or refused to forgive others or we have failed to do our part in fulfilling Jesus’ commission by going out and telling others about the gospel and using our gifts, resources and talents for the Lord or we have done something, anything that the Word of God tells us NOT to do, in a nutshell, we have CHOSEN to disobey God and for this, we are without excuse and will NOT be held guiltless.

Even if we repent, as we saw with David in the story of Bathsheba and in the story of Miriam, when she and Aaron had badmouthed Moses, God is gracious and forgives but sometimes, he still allows the punishment or a degree of the punishment. Repentance while necessary, is therefore not a ticket to escaping earthly punishment from the Lord.

CONCLUSION

In light of all this, although it comes as second nature to us and is so prevalent in the Churches today to the point where it seems okay and even cultural, disobedience, any kind of disobedience is a serious matter. No matter what is coming against us: the world, the devil and our own wicked flesh, we must endeavour by the grace of almighty God, to OBEY God. His standards and his precepts are clearly spelt out for us in his Word the Bible, so we must make sure we meditate on it and hide his Word in our hearts, so that we will not sin against (meaning disobey) him.

No matter who does what, what we face or how we feel or think, our duty is to obey. You may say, “Well you don’t know what I’ve been going through or what I’ve been up against.” It matters not. Your duty is to obey. You may say, “I felt like I was placed in an impossible situation” or “I didn’t want to let so-and-so down.” Or you may say, “They said this or that about me or provoked me sore or treated me despicably” or “I felt afraid or tired or weak or pressured.” My dear friend, the answer remains the same: Your duty, our duty is to obey.

All that we claim to do for the Lord, if we are doing it through disobedience, it amounts to nothing and is not accepted by God. Many people claim to be doing God’s work today but yet disobey his Word in order to do it. Yet, as Samuel told Saul on yet another future occasion when he disobeyed God:

  • Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Disobedience and blessing have never gone hand in hand and never will. You cannot do as you please and reap God’s blessings. He may choose to be merciful to you in your disobedience yes and there may be areas in your life where you seem to be thriving but God will never bless disobedience. As sure as night follows day, wherever there is disobedience, it is guaranteed that there will be a consequence to pay. There is some area or areas in your life, where, what you have sown (which is disobedience) will be manifest. It may be in the area of your singleness. It may be in the area of you or your husband’s barrenness. It may be in the form of sickness or financial hardship or intense oppression or it may manifest in some other way.

While this does not mean that every single Christian desiring to marry or who desires a baby in a marriage but has not been successful thus far or who is sick or suffering financial trouble, is going through what he or she is going through because of disobedience, sometimes this is indeed the culprit.

At the end of the day, to attract God’s blessings (and not curses), to avoid a life of sterility and stagnancy and instead embrace a life filled with God’s favour and good success, we must make the decision in all spheres of our lives, to OBEY. This does not mean that life will be a breeze and we will get all that our hearts desire and when we want it. No. What it means, is that whatever God wants for us, we will have in his timing and his favour will be operating in our lives, upholding us through everything that we may encounter or face.

(Written on 16th November, 2022)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, you may also be interested in reading the following:

  • Note 133 – ‘Were You Deceived Or Disobedient?’
  • Note 152 – ‘Symptoms Of A Person Outside The Favour of God’
  • Note 186 – ‘There Is Beautiful Provision In Obedience’
  • Note 199 – ‘Dear Christian, Disobedience Does Not Pay’
  • Note 264 – ‘Partial Disobedience = Complete Disobedience’

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