Defining “disobedience”

Leviticus 26:14-16 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.”

Blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience: this is God’s message to Israel in Leviticus 26. And just as God chose to use a variety of words to give us a deeper understanding of what obedience consisted of in the opening verses of Leviticus 26, in the verses above He chose a variety of words to give us insight to the nature of disobedience, i.e., not listening to God, not doing all He has commanded, spurning His statutes, abhorring His rules, and breaking His covenant. 

The word “listen” is translated from a Hebrew word that means “to hear intelligently, with an implication for attention or obedience.” In other words, what God has called us to is to listen carefully to what He has told us in His Word.  His Word is never to be something that passes in one ear and out the other. As we listen, really listen to what His Word says, we should be asking ourselves what God wants from us. Is He telling us something about our attitude or actions that we need to change? Am I examining His Word as one looks at his face in a mirror for the Word of God is a mirror that reveals what’s on the inside like nothing else can? 

But then “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like (James 1:23-24).”  And note that God describes disobedience in Leviticus 26 above as not doing “all” His commandments.  As we are told elsewhere, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10).”  It’s not enough to go to church, put our money in the offering plate, and sing beautiful worship songs, if at the same time we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts towards a brother.  As Jesus told us “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).” 

But from here the Lord uses increasingly more severe language to describe disobedience.  He warns against “spurning His statutes.” So, what does that mean?  To “spurn” means “to reject with disdain or contempt.” Here we have mention of those who are openly hostile to God’s Word.  They mock it.  They see it as irrelevant to them, and speak down to it. They foolishly place themselves in a position of superiority over God’s perfect law, and proudly render their own judgments against the Law of the Righteous Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25).  Surely those are the actions of a fool. 

Another description of acrimony against God’s righteous commands from the verses above is the “abhorring of His rules.”  This describes one who “loathes or casts away as if unclean or impure.”  Here a person is not only hostile to God’s Word, but actually views it as evil.  Of these the Bible warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).”  The world is filled with this sort of thing today with those who call murder a “choice” and fornication “love.”  It’s a world gone mad by using language that means the opposite of the truth. 

And finally, is the term “breaking His covenant.”  This means to “make void or bring to nothing” good counsel.  You see God has promised wonderful blessings to those who obey Him.  And the most important promise He has bound Himself by is the promise to give eternal life to all those who will believe the gospel. In perhaps the most well-known verse in all the Bible, Jesus told us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  And then He said this “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  It’s a wonderful promise, a covenant of life for all those who would turn from their sinful disobedience and simply believe.  But, tragically, this wonderful promise can all be made void by the disobedience of unbelief.   Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:18-20). 

Disobedience: God would have us to know that it comes in many forms and its consequences are always bad.  May God help us to “listen” to His Word, and “do” what it says, not the least of which is to “believe” on Him Who alone gives eternal life.

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