Ever been chased?
Sometimes, we play a game of chase with our children or grandchildren, even to the point of slowing down to let them catch us. In such a time, we desire for them to overtake us, finding great joy and satisfaction when they do.
The Bible speaks of something that will capture us in a very good way. In Deuteronomy 28:1-2, we read about what will overtake us when we live a life of obedience to God. Verses 1 and 2 read: “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” (NKJV)
We know in the context of this passage that Moses was speaking to the children of Israel prior to entering the Promised Land. He encouraged them to live a life of obedience to all that God commanded, in order to receive these blessings.
For us as Christians, this also correlates well with Christ’s teachings in the New Testament about obedience to God. I notice here in Deuteronomy some key points worthy of exposition and inquiry.
First of all, nowhere in verse 1 or 2 do I see the prerequisite of joy, desire, or pleasure in such obedience. It may be implied, but its omission can be quite encouraging.
I say that because sometimes obedience must be what I call “gut-level.” There are times when the Spirit of the Lord instructs us through His Word or through a direct unction from His voice to do a certain act of obedience, when that act may be completely opposite of what our flesh wants to do. Completely opposite of what our emotions desire, or what our will would choose on its own. In these instances, we have a choice: Do we obey in spite of how we feel or what we want? Or, do we give in to ourselves and disobey the Lord?
The encouragement to me found here in Deuteronomy is that “gut-level” obedience still counts as obedience! What I call “gut-level” obedience boils down to a CHOICE of the will – to simply obey, whether you want to or not, whether you like it or not! When we must overpower our own will, or “deny ourselves” as Jesus said, or ignore our emotions or desires, and simply do what it is that God speaks, He still accepts such obedience. Perhaps such yielding to His Spirit is priceless to Him, because of the sacrifice with which it is given. So, this encourages me to obey, even when I don’t want to or don’t feel like it. We can overcome such hinderances and achieve a level of obedience that glorifies the Lord.
Also, notice what verse 2 promises about these blessings: they will both come upon you AND overtake you when you simply obey the Lord! Both of these ideas need more consideration to understand their full meaning.
The blessings that “come upon” us literally go in, enter, or come inside to fill a void or to fill a space. This brings fulfillment and satisfaction to the yielded, especially when they have offered “gut-level” obedience. The emotions, will, or desires may feel like empty space in their heart, but by simply obeying anyway, God’s blessings come in to fill that void, leaving us with a sense of satisfaction for a job well done and pleasing to God.
By all means, it’s certainly optimal to obey from the whole heart with all emotions and desires in agreement. But, when that doesn’t happen in a particular situation, God’s blessings upon your “gut-level” obedience fill that void and give you satisfaction in knowing you have honored God with your obedience, even when it’s given sacrificially.
Notice also that these blessings will “overtake” you because of obedience. This suggests that they will “reach or take hold upon” you. It also carries the idea of being able to “secure” or “have enough.” Another word might be “sufficient.” To understand this more fully, let’s remember what “blessings” truly are.
Blessings signify God’s “endowments of power to succeed,” especially when used of God’s blessings toward mankind. Understanding this brings greater light when we examine the “overtaking” of these blessings upon us. In other words, the “endowments of God’s power to succeed” that pour into our lives, filling any voids and satisfying us, also are more than enough, able to secure and steady us, and suffice for whatever path of obedience we must walk.
I’m reminded of Paul’s testimony found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where he speaks of his “thorn in the flesh”, whatever that was. He recognized it as a situation used by God to keep him humble and to glorify God THROUGH walking this out in obedience and a life yielded to God for His glory. Paul testifies of hearing specifically from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you…”
Paul understood that God’s grace, or His endowments of power to succeed, His blessings, were sufficient, more than enough, to cover him through this walk of obedience and carry him through to the end. And God’s grace did just that.
The last part of verse 2 of Deuteronomy 28 indicates that a life of obedience results in the blessings of God, or His endowments of power to succeed, coming in to fill our lives with satisfaction of a job well done and pleasing to God, as well as securing us with more than enough ability and power to carry on in this walk of obedience as long as necessary.
I’ve found this to be true in my own life, as I have had times of “gut-level” obedience when my heart’s desire or my own will was nowhere to be found. I longed to go a different direction than what the call of obedience beckoned. Yet, when I chose to rely upon God and offer “gut-level” obedience, His grace has been more than enough and His joy and pleasure has filled that void in my heart. I know He can do this for you also.
Truly, optimal obedience involves heart-felt joy and agreement, including emotions, desires, and intentions. But when this seems out of reach and you make a “gut-level” choice to obey, God can work with that!
Even Jesus shines as an example of what we might call “gut-level” obedience in Gethsemane, where He submitted His preference to the will of His Father. Prior to that example, He clarified discipleship as a life of denying self, taking up your cross, and following His example of obedience. We know that Christ came to do the Father’s will in totality and this was never a question. However, in His humanity, He still made perhaps a “gut-level” choice in Gethsemane, setting a model for all His followers. It certainly seems that this decision contrasted with what His human flesh desired. Yet, He followed through and obeyed anyway.
Be encouraged today, especially if you are in a situation where all you can offer is “gut-level” obedience. You can trust God to fill the void in your heart and to secure you with His all-sufficient grace so you can keep living in obedience to His will in that matter. As I found Him to be faithful and true to His Word, so will you. By obeying His voice, His blessings can “come upon” you and “overtake” you, just like He promised.