Back in Egypt, the Israelites always had to listen to the words that Pharaoh said.
“Make those bricks!” “Build that wall!” “Feed those animals!” Day in, day out. Whatever Pharaoh said, they did. His words made their lives hard and unhappy. Then Moses came and said that God wanted them to be free so they could worship Him. Worship? Hmmmm. They only knew slavery. What would worship look like? It had been months since the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Life was rough. Arguments arose over which sheep was whose. Bellies grumbled for meat. Moses couldn’t grant all their wishes. God had said He wanted His people to go free so they could worship Him—but was this what He meant? Surely not! They reached the rocky base of Mount Sinai and watched Moses climb to the cloud-covered top and wondered what secrets God would share way up there.
The Israelites stared at the two weighty stone tablets that Moses had lugged down the mountain. Carved into each of them were ten important rules, or “commandments.” As Moses read them aloud, the people thought, These seem like good rules to live by! Not killing or stealing from each other. Being respectful to mommies and daddies and taking a nice rest once a week. Moses banged his staff on the ground to get their attention. “God loves us, so He gave us these rules! He rescued us out of our terrible slavery in Egypt. This is how we can worship Him! We can love Him by obeying what He says is best!” God had been waiting until now to explain worship. He hadn’t come to Egypt and whispered in their ears, “Obey, obey and I’ll come whisk you away. Pharaoh will be no more.” Instead, God had made the river bleed and the locusts swarm and He had torn open the sea. In mighty and miraculous ways, God had wrapped His strong hand around His people and plucked them out of Egypt. His great love for His people could not be questioned, and now that His great rescue was complete, He shared all the ways to obey. Freedom first. Obedience after.
This is what our story looks like. God didn’t come to us while we were still slaves to sin and say, “Do this! Do that! If you obey, then I’ll set you free!” Instead, while we were slaves to sin, He sent Jesus to save us. God made His Son bleed, let His enemies swarm, and then tore Him apart on the cross and raised Him back to life. With this mighty work, He set our hearts free and then He came to us and said, “Now, let me show you what it looks like to worship me.” Obeying God isn’t something we have to do so that God will save us. Obeying God is something we get to do because He saved us.
Slavery to Pharaoh was miserable. The work was hard and there was no joy in it. Pharaoh didn’t care about the people and didn’t want good things for them. Disobedience was severely punished. Obeying God is the same in the sense that we should follow all that He commanded and often the work will be hard. What should be different is that instead of making us miserable, serving God should produce joy in our hearts. God is a different Master because He loves us and wants what is best for us. When we disobey, instead of facing punishment, we look to Jesus, knowing that all of our punishment was poured on Him and we receive forgiveness from God.
To obey God means to trust Him. In the garden, Adam and Eve didn’t obey. They questioned God’s love for them and whether they would be happiest if they obeyed all He said. When we sin, it’s because we think there is something else that we need to make us happy outside of God. When we obey, we are saying to God, “I trust you. You love me and will make my heart happiest.”
* Corresponding Jesus Storybook Bible story: "Ten Ways to Be Perfect"