When to Obey God, Instead of Man

Daily Devotional: Day 121

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives . . . “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:15-17, NKJV).

The Israelites lived peacefully with the Egyptians for about 400 years. But all of this changed when a certain Egyptian king ascended the throne, who felt threatened by the increasing number of the Israelites. He, therefore, adopted a policy of hostility and enslavement to subdue God’s people. This is the background for our Scripture reading today. The king of Egypt ordered the Hebrew (Israelite) midwives to kill all Hebrew sons whose birth they assisted. But the midwives disobeyed the king. As I often like to stress, pay attention to the detail. The midwives did not disobey just for the sake of disobeying.  They did not disobey because they were arrogant and rebellious. Notice this: The midwives disobeyed the king, because they feared God.

On several occasions the Bible admonishes us to honor and submit to civil/political authorities (cf. Mark 12:13-17Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17). When, however, you are ordered to commit evil, deny your God, or violate your Christian conscience, then you must object, and if necessary, disobey that human authority. In other words, whenever you are put in a situation where you must choose between obedience to God’s Word and obedience to men, God wants you to obey Him rather than man. God alone must be feared. I have said this in one of my Daily Devotionals, and I’d like to repeat: You cannot fear God and fear man at the same time. You must choose whom to fear.

God rewards those who fear Him and respect His commandments (See Exodus 1:20 for the blessings God bestowed on the midwives for their bold stance). When the Hebrew midwives disobeyed the king of Egypt, they were putting their profession and even their life on the line. But because they feared God, they did not fear what the king could do to them. They’d rather die than disobey God. This is the meaning of fearing GodBeing willing to rather die than sin against God. If you are a ‘people-pleaser,’ you can’t be a ‘God-pleaser,’ or vice-versa. Likewise, you cannot be a ‘God-fearer,’ if you are a ‘people-fearer.’

I’ll share a personal story with you. About 15 years ago, I was a senior at a seminary in Ghana where I was training to become a Catholic priest. As president of the student council, I had several responsibilities, and often I had to make important judgment calls. I’ll spare you the details, but one day there was a shortage of food at lunch time. Three professors (who were my superiors) ordered me to break into the food storage room to make food available to the students. But in good conscience, I disobeyed the order. I was fully aware that these professors were taking advantage of the temporary crisis to use me as their pawn to further their political agenda against the Rector of the seminary. I refused to play along. At the end of the day, God vindicated me. 

The point is this: You have a God-given right under the Bible to disobey a human law that commands you to violate the law of God or your Christian religious conscience. Whom or what you fear says a lot about you. Do not compromise your loyalty to God’s law because of your fear of human power. Your sole desire as a Christian is to do what pleases the Father, following your Bible-trained conscience, regardless of what people think about you or threaten to do to you.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you today. Amen.

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study: Daniel 3:1-30

Faith Is a Risk

Daily Devotional: Day 36

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Hebrews 11:8, RSV).

Faith in Christ isn’t risk-free. This shouldn’t surprise us. If you hate risk, following Jesus would be an unpleasant experience for you. Jesus will take you places that can make you uncomfortable. Consequently, following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. When we trust someone, we assume a degree of risk; that’s the nature of trust. Risk can take many forms, including but not limited to, disappointment, financial loss, grief, broken heart and betrayal. We haven’t seen God with our eyes, yet we believe that he exists. That’s a big risk. We didn’t see Jesus rise from the grave, yet we believe and boldly proclaim that he’s risen from the dead. We haven’t been to heaven, yet we’re convinced that after this life, we shall be with the Lord and see him face to face. We’re, for the most part, relying on the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures. This means we’ve taken the risk to believe what the Bible tells us about God and his dealings with people. Where there is trust, there is risk. The fact is, if we’re afraid to take risks, we can’t trust anyone – not even ourselves. And if we cannot trust people – even a little – then we need our own planet, for there’s no risk-free relationship.

It takes faith to even obey God, as we can see from today’s Bible verse. Abraham obeyed God by faith, when he was instructed to relocate. The Bible says that Abraham started out, not knowing where he was going. He took a big risk when he moved his family and headed to an unknown destination. God rewards simple obedience. And when we obey him, he shows himself faithful. The Bible is full of individuals and groups of people who took risks in the exercise of their faith in God. Take, for example, Moses: God called Moses to lead the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. At that time, Moses was a fugitive – having fled Egypt after he killed an Egyptian. The last person Moses wanted to meet was Pharaoh. He thought that returning to Egypt would be a suicide mission. Overwhelmed by the potential risks of the divine assignment, Moses came up with several excuses to convince God to look for someone else: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. But he [Moses] said, “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person” (Exodus 4:12-13, RSV). You, too, may have your own reasons why you want to avoid something you know God wants you to do. If so, what’s your fear? Can you trust God to have your back?

Pray:

Daddy, thank you for the honor of being called by your name. Thank you for believing that I can do what you want me to do. Open my eyes to see that you always have my back, and that your hands will always be there to catch me. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. (Enjoy this song by Hillsong United)

For further study: Luke 1:26-38