When you look at the men and women of the Bible, you see the best examples of what it means to be an obedient servant. When you examine their lives, you see that they faced internal and external struggles, persecution and, in some cases, physical harm or death. It is part of being God’s servant. Each faced temptation. Each, I am sure, may have had his or her moments of doubt, but those thoughts were quickly dismissed. Each refocused by keeping the prize in sight and continued to run the good race and fight the good fight.
As I was reading Isaiah 50, I began to see, with clarity, the required characteristics of an obedient servant who is willing to humble himself or herself before the Lord and do as He commands. Let us begin to look at those characteristics and examine them with some detail to see how we measure up in our lives.
The first thing I noticed is that the obedient servant receives his or her wisdom directly from the Lord. They do not seek the worldly wisdom of those around them but look to the Lord for guidance. That wisdom that they receive is not just to be used for personal advancement or kept quietly in their hearts. It is to be shared with others in order to bring them comfort or help them with problems that they are facing. Isaiah states this point very clearly, “4 The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.”
Each day, we should wake up and ask God to provide us with the words of wisdom to share with others and provide comfort to those in need of it. When we ask for those words, we are also able to see His will in our lives. He provides to us a purpose and a desire to fulfill it. When we begin to see God’s will working in our lives, we have a profound sense of responsibility not only to Him but also to His children. His will directs our every step and provides us with the right words to share with those around us.
Moses, in Exodus 4, is called by God to deliver His children out of bondage in Egypt. Moses questions the Lord and offers up excuses. He tells the Lord that the people may ask who sent him. They will demand an answer. God tells Moses, “14 I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you.’” God provided the answer to Moses so that there would be no question or doubt in the minds of the Israelites that God had sent him to lead them out of bondage.
Isaiah, in verse 5, tells us of another characteristic of an obedient servant, “The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.” An obedient servant of God listens intently to the words and wisdom of the Father and does not shirk their responsibilities or turn away from the Lord. Sometimes, we may try to avoid our responsibilities out of fear of persecution or even death, but, in turn, God brings conviction to our heart and we realize that what we need to refocus and concentrate on doing God’s will here on earth no matter what the consequences are.
Elijah, for example, fled to Horeb, the mountain of God, in order to escape the wrath of Ahad and Jezebel. Elijah feared for his life and felt that he was all alone. He took refuge in a cave and there the Lord spoke to him. God did not appear in a great wind, fire or earthquake. God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper. Let us look at 1 Kings 19. “11 The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” Elijah had to listen to God carefully as anyone would do if someone were whispering to him or her. God gave him specific instructions and provided him with the plan of action.
Listening and acting in accordance to God’s will and direction is different from hearing Him. It is all well and good to say that you have heard the Lord speaking to you, but as His obedient servant, you must listen carefully to His word and act as directed by Him. Elijah, after listening to God, followed His explicit instructions and continued down the righteous path God had for him.
But, what does it mean to listen to the Lord? Let us look to Samuel and how God called to him. Samuel was given to Eli, the High Priest of Shiloh, by his mother, Hannah. She prayed to God and asked Him for a son. As part of her prayer, she promised she would give her son back to God so that he could serve Him. God heard her prayer and she was with child. As she had promised, she gave her son, Samuel, to Eli so that he could be trained to serve the Lord. As he slumbers, God calls to Samuel. Samuel instead thinks it was Eli calling him. After Eli tells him that it was not he who called out to him, Eli realizes that God was calling Samuel. Eli gave Samuel explicit instructions on how to respond to the voice. In 1 Samuel 3, Eli tells Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” Samuel did as he was told to do.
As His obedient servants, we must actively listen to the Lord. We must open our hearts and minds to Him and His words. We cannot allow distractions to get in the way as He speaks to our hearts and provides us with the wisdom and direction we need. God speaks to us every day either through His Word or directly. I can safely say that I have heard the voice of the Lord as He directed me to preach His word and to start a ministry to serve in His kingdom. For nonbelievers, this is difficult to comprehend or even find credible. Some will scoff at the very thought of God speaking to individuals.
As we grow in our faith, there are certain things we can expect to occur in our lives. There will be those in the world that will mock or persecute us for our faith. They will call us, “crazy people who worship some bearded being in the clouds.” Others may even seek to imprison us for our beliefs. But, as obedient servants of God, we are to put those things aside and remain focused on the prize that lies ahead.
Jesus, when he came to live among us, left his exalted place on high with the Father to become human. He did not come into this world to judge us. He came to save us by providing a gift of salvation directly from the Father. Paul writes, in Philippians 2, about Jesus, “6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Part of being God’s obedient servants is to be humble even if means subjecting ourselves to ridicule, mockery, physical torture or even death as part of our service to the Lord. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, “12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus, in Matthew 10, reminds his disciples, “22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”
As we endure the mockery, ridicule and, in some case, much worse, we demonstrate our unwavering faith in the Lord and continue to be His obedient servants. As with Jesus, Paul and others in the Bible, it is part and parcel of being a servant to the Most High. We will find ourselves the punchline to jokes or standing alone in the midst of a mob who ask the question, “Where is your God now?” But, we should gain comfort in Jesus’s words in Matthew 11, “29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The other characteristic that I find striking is that an obedient servant of God knows that God is always near and is on his or her side. Isaiah writes, “8 He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to bring charges against me now? Where are my accusers? Let them appear! 9 See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!”
God is always there for His obedient servants and will provide whatever is necessary to overcome the overwhelming. At times, we may face problems that are so overwhelming and feel that there is no way to overcome them. God will always provide a way. There is nothing that will stand in your way when God is right there with you. God promises this in Isaiah 54, “17 But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Nothing will ultimately stand in our way as long as we remain His obedient servants. There are times when we question His direction and will in our lives, but we must not dwell on those thoughts. Those fears, uncertainties and doubts play directly into the hands of Satan. He will whisper into our ears and cause us to question or doubt God’s wisdom, will and direction in our lives. We must not listen to him. When those thoughts come into our mind, we must seek out God and ask Him for a hedge of protection. God is our refuge, fortress and shield. If God be for us, who can be against us? Satan has no power over us when we seek shelter in the everlasting arms of the Lord.
As we approach the end of our lives and we stand before the Lord, the words that we long to hear from Him will be our reward for our service, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together!”
As you go through the rest of this week, I ask you to take inventory of these characteristics and to be honest with yourselves. I find myself lacking in some of them from time to time, but I quickly realize my shortcomings and ask God to forgive me and direct my steps. When we do that, we will soon find it easier to be an obedient servant that can stand firm in His grace.
May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)