Understanding Faithfulness – Part 3: Careful Obedience
5. The obedience that characterizes our covenant life must also possess certain attributes if it is to be recognized by God as faithful.
5.1. Careful (Deu 28:1b) – “If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments”
Being careful (שׁמר)[shamar]: 1) being cautious to watch, protect, or guard against risky/questionable persons, places, or things // 2) being mindful to keep the minor details or practice precision/strict observance in re: to God’s commands.
5.1.1. Careful as watching, protecting or guarding against risky/questionable persons, places or things: (e.g. Gen 2:15, 41:35; Exo 10:28; Deu 7:1-11, 12:29-32; Jos 23:1-13; 2Ki 6:10; Psa 121:7; 2Co 6:14-7:1; 1Pe 1:14-17 [“conduct yourselves w/fear” = Be careful!] w/1Pe 5:8 w/2Pe 3:11, 17 [Holiness/godliness are terms of association – i.e. who/what we have contact w/ – which means is not just about bad influence. Bad company can also be sin]; God places such people and opportunities in our life as a test – Jug 2:18-23).
Practical Examples: The people we consider our closest friends or those we constantly hang out w/ or go out w/ or spend time w/on vacations (2Co 6:11-13 and 7:2-3 as the context for 6:14-7:1 = Paul’s point: it is the faithful who God wants us spending time and building close relationships w/ – not pagans – Psa 16:3; Psa 101:6, 139:21-24; Consider also Eph 5:1-16; Pro 13:20 – e.g. Tit 2:3-5). // The places we frequent or go for fun. Don’t go unless you know for sure that it is not a place people associate w/sinful activity – e.g. nightclubs, karaoke bars, dance halls, most music concerts [you cannot control the music set or people in attendance and so wb associated w/ them and whatever they sing/say in the same way you wb associated w/a false church if when they begin to speak against the gospel [i.e. preaching a false gospel], you don’t get up and leave [again – 1Jo 1:9-11]. There is also the danger of collateral damage – that by your attendance in such places, you encourage the weak that they can be Christians and still indulge in the sinful practices associated w/such places) (1Co 8:1-12; consider also Eph 5:1-16).
// The tv shows, movies or music we watch/listen to. We sb engaging in nothing we are not confident – thru our investigation – is okay (1Th 5:21-22)// The clothes we choose to wear. The fashion or styles we choose sb respectful (versus simply acceptable) being careful not to draw undue attention to ourselves. This is most especially true for women (1Ti 2:9-10; This is your responsibility fathers w/your daughters, husbands w/your wives).
5.1.2. Careful as precision or attention to details/strict observance: This aspect (attention to detail) is the most common use/meaning associated w/God’s call for careful obedience in the OT (e.g. Exo 23:21-22; Deu 5:32 [not turning to the right or the left], Deu 6:3, 24-25 [it wb righteousness], Deu 7:9-12 [faithfulness = keeping cov. thru careful/strict obedience], Deu 12:1 w/8, 13-14 w/28 w/32 w/15:5 [strict obedience = attention to the minor details, precision, by the book, every jot and tittle, no sloppiness], Deu 17:10 [in re: to the church’s decisions], Jos 1:7-8 [not turning to the right or the left], Jos 22:3-5 [careful/precision = loving God] ; 2Ki 17:37-38 [careful/precision = not forgetting the covenant], 2Ki 21:8 w/1Ch 22:13 w/2Ch 33:8 w/Eze 18:19, 20:19-21 [key to AL!]; Eze 36:27 w/37:24 [saints empowered to do; key feature of Christ’s NT ministry]). NT also alludes to such careful obedience as necessary to faithfulness (e.g. Mat 5:18-20 w/Luk 16:16 [not one jot or tittle, no relaxing]; Luk 8:18 [take care! = lack of precision will mean damnation]; Act 22:3 w/26:4-5 [Paul saw strict observance as a good thing]). Such attention to detail or strict obedience includes paying attention to the little things versus thinking only the big stuff matters (Luk 16:10 = Being characterized as faithful [“faithful in the much”], requires careful obedience in the little things [“faithful in a very little”]). This is where Moses failed and it cost him going into the Promise Land (Num 20:8-12). This is also where king Saul failed and it cost him his throne (1Sa 15:1-24 = The cause of Saul’s lack of precision/strict observance is revealed in v24 = A desire to please everyone; Notice also what such sloppiness reveals about Saul’s assessment of self – v20 = He was a revisionist. Lack of precision in obedience promotes a poor/inaccurate assessment of self). An aid to careful obedience is revealed in James (Jam 3:1-2 = Carefulness w/in our actions starts w/carefulness in our speech; Why carefulness in our speech should matter – Mat 12:33-37; Ecc 5:6).
Practical Examples: Expressing concern versus accusing someone of sin (Jam 4:11 [“I do not like or agree w/the way they treated me vs. they betrayed/unfaithful to me”]). // How we are to treat people [in general] versus false teachers and false Christians (1Co 5:9-13; 1Jo 1:9-11 [guilt by association]) // How we handle our finances (Pro 27:24-27) // How we care for those under our charge (e.g. placing our children in unnecessary and dangerous situations – Eze 16:20-21) // Elements used in the LT (Exo 12:20 w/1Co 5:7-8 w/Luk 22:1-20) // Prayer (1Ti 2:8; 1Co 11:1-16) // The gospel (1Co 3:10) // Repentance (Luk 19:1-27 = Verse 11 makes it clear that Jesus intends us to connect the teaching in the parable to Zac’s commitment to repentance and Jesus’ stmt regarding salvation. As such, the parable is meant to add further qualification to the kind of repentance required for salvation. Such repentance must not only verbally commit to justice/making the wrongs-right, but more importantly, be careful to do exactly what God/Christ commands to rectify the former wrongs. Otherwise, when Christ returns and we are brought to judgment, we wb deemed unrepentant and no different from those who denied His Lordship during their lives – e.g. Amo 5:21-25; Mal 2:13-15).
BOTTOM LINE= Because God requires carefulness to achieve faithfulness, Christians cannot be risk-takers or reckless.