Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?
I, like most folks, heard the phrase “for your own good” often while I was growing up. Sometimes, it came in its variant form of “it’s good for you.” I think that most people have probably heard this phrase used in some form many, many times. In these verses, the phrase is not applied to eating some vegetable I don’t like or doing some chore, but to fearing, loving, and serving God.
I find it interesting that God, through Moses, says that obeying God, a healthy fear of God, love of God, and service to God are all for our good. The implications of that boggle my mind. I mean, that means that the Ten Commandments are given for my own good, that following those rules would result in a better life for me. It also means that all those laws in the book of Leviticus are also for my own good and would result in a happier, more contented me if I obeyed.
That is the implication that Bible teachers so often miss and believers in general just seem not to know about. I mean, people go around beating people ensnared by various sins with the commands against those sins, but don’t stop to think about the heart behind the command. Sure, God commanded that people not engage in all sorts of sexual behaviors — incest, beastiality, homosexuality, pornography, fornication, adultery, the list is pretty extensive — but He issued those commands for our good. He wasn’t trying to withhold something good from us; just the opposite, He was trying to keep us from something deleterious; something that would damage our ability to relate to our God and our fellow human beings.
God’s heart is that we have a healthy fear of Him. By “healthy fear”, I mean the same kind of fear that a child has for a loving parent. My parents are pretty awesome (thank God, for that) and I grew up with a healthy fear of them. I knew that my da’s promised consequences would come. I was tempted to call what my da did “threatening’, but it was never a threat, it was a promise of what would follow if I continued down the path I was on. And that is precisely how God works. He does not threaten, but promises that actions have reactions and every step in a sequence has a consequence. God also wants me to be obedient; to walk in His ways. Time was that most boys wanted to grow up to be just like their dad — to walk in his footsteps. That time is fading into memory, but that is precisely what God wants for me; that I would look up to Him as boys used to look up to their dads; that I would want to emulate Him and His behavior because I see something admirable and worthy of emulation in His conduct and character. God wants love. It seems odd that the One Who is love (see 1 John) would want love, but He does. He wants love in a way that I cannot describe and therefore will not try to. God wants my service. I once heard this compared to a dad mowing the lawn and his small son coming out to “help” dad mow the lawn. Dad could have gotten the job done quicker, better, cleaner without his son’s help, but his son’s desire to be a help; to be a part of what his dad was doing was an expression of love. God does not me or anyone else to serve Him. If He had need of anything, He wouldn’t ask me for it. I don’t have it. What I do have is the ability to show God my love in my desire to be a part of what He is doing. And all of that — that multifaceted and complex heart for me and every other person — is for my own good.
God wants good for every person. Every, Single. One. To that end, He gave His Word. I need to stop looking at God’s commandments as a list of DOs and DON’Ts and see them for what they are: guidelines for my