Today in many churches around the world, most are worshiping YHWH in their own ways and according to their own desires. Many follow some of the instructions/commandments but yet most people leave many out, thinking they can follow some and omit others at their own discretion. This is a result of what has been taught through church theology instead of what the scriptures actually say. In this teaching, we would like to look at a few examples we have been given in scripture to see if we can obey YHWH “half way.” First, we need to look at the most common phrase used to defend some of these ideas, “He knows my heart!” This is a very true statement found in 1 Samuel 16:7, “man sees what is visible but YHWH sees the heart.” However, let’s look at some other scriptures that talk about the heart to see if we should be following our hearts and desires.
And YHWH smelled a soothing fragrance, and YHWH said in His heart, “Never again shall I curse the ground because of man, although the inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and never again smite all living creatures, as I have done. Genesis 8:21
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely is delivered. Proverbs 28:26
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable — who can understand it? I, YHWH, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve. Jeremiah 17:9-10
We can see that scripture tells us that our hearts are deceitful, wicked, evil, incurable, and he who trusts in his own heart is a fool! Not only do we not want to be labeled a fool, but being a fool is also unacceptable to YHWH when it comes to worshiping Him. To keep from being a fool YHWH has given us His wonderful instruction booklet called Torah. These instructions tell us how to live a healthy, loving life with the ones around us and more specifically with Him. They also tell us what He expects us to do and not do. Over and over we see examples of man falling away from YHWH’s instructions in order to follow after their own hearts and desires.
In some cases, it wasn’t completely out of rebellion but was done with the intentions to please YHWH. After reading the above three scriptures, we should be considering the fact that following our hearts may not be the best solution in how we live for and worship YHWH.
Let’s look at a few examples of when man decided to worship YHWH in their own way and how it worked out for them.
First, let’s look at Nadab and Abihu. They were sons of Aaron, who were ordained as priest of YHWH. They were charged with burning incense on the altar every morning and evening, and it could not be unauthorized incense!
Aaron must burn fragrant incense on it; he must burn it every morning when he tends the lamps. When Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he must burn incense. There is to be an incense offering before YHWH throughout your generations. You must not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt or grain offering; you are not to pour a drink offering on it. Exodus 30:7-9
The instructions YHWH gave were specific instructions that He intended for them to follow. What we see in the following verses are Nadab and Abihu offering the incense, but not doing it the way YHWH had instructed them.
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before YHWH, which He had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from YHWH and burned them to death before YHWH. Leviticus 10:1-2
Because they chose to do it in their own way, it cost them their lives. Let’s look at another example in 1 Samuel 15. Saul, whom YHWH appointed king over Israel, was given instructions to attack the Amalekites and COMPLETELY destroy EVERYTHING they had.
This is what the YHWH of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt. Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.” 1 Samuel 15:2-3
Saul was told not to leave or spare anything but to destroy it all completely, but Saul decided to do things slightly different by destroying the worthless and unwanted things, but keeping the best things.
Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and choice animals, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. They were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things. 1 Samuel 15:9
Saul did not follow YHWH’s instructions exactly the way He had given them. With the people’s influence, Saul intended to take these things and sacrifice them to YHWH. Let’s look a little further into the chapter to see what YHWH thought of this gesture.
Samuel continued, “Although you once considered yourself unimportant, have you not become the leader of the tribes of Israel? YHWH anointed you king over Israel and then sent you on a mission and said: ‘Go and completely destroy the sinful Amalekites. Fight against them until you have annihilated them.’ So why didn’t you obey YHWH? Why did you rush on the plunder and do what was evil in the YHWH’s sight?” “But I did obey YHWH!” Saul answered. “I went on the mission YHWH gave me: I brought back Agag, king of Amalek, and I completely destroyed the Amalekites. The troops took sheep and cattle from the plunder — the best of what was set apart for destruction — to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” Then Samuel said: “Does YHWH take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying Him?” “Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of YHWH, He has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:17-23
What Saul did was considered evil and disobedient in the eyes of YHWH and He wasn’t pleased with him. Samuel stated that paying attention and being obedient to YHWH is the most important part. He goes on to say that rebellion is like the sin of divination (Deuteronomy 18:9-13) and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry which are all considered to be abominations before YHWH. Even though Saul had good intentions, it was still wrong. If we keep reading, we see in verse 24 that Saul sees that he had sinned or transgressed YHWH’s commands. His excuse was because he was afraid of the people, so he obeyed them. This not only cost Saul his kingship, but his disobedience was the beginning of what caused YHWH’s spirit to leave him and an evil spirit to torment him.
Many people will argue that this was an Old Testament concept, let’s briefly look at the New Testament and what it has to say about being obedient to YHWH’s instructions. First of all, we have Y’shua who walked out and taught these principles of obedience and how important YHWH’s instructions are for us. For the sake of brevity, we are only going to pick out a few of the many available, but most of Y’shua’s parables were warnings of disobedience. Consider Mathew 13:24-30 the parable of wheat and tares, Mathew 13:41-43 where the disobedient were thrown into the furnace, Mathew 5:27-30 along with 18:8-9 telling us to remove something that causes sin or disobedience, Luke 11:28, John 14:15-24, and John 15:9-10 are all about obedience and how we love Him.
The most interesting is Mathew 7:13-23. This is where we are told to enter through the narrow gate and also that many that call him Lord or Master will hear the words “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” These people call Him their Lord and Master just as Saul, Nadab, and Abihu did, but they come before Him in their own manner, using profane things in the worship to Him, and letting the people around them influence the decisions they make.
Let’s look at a few examples of the message of obedience the disciples gave after the death, burial, and resurrection of Y’shua. A good place to start would be all of 1 John but to be verse specific consider 1 John 2:3-11, 3:4-10, 3:24, 5:2-5, and 5:18 which are about obedience and how we show our love for YHWH. We also have Paul in Romans 2:13, 3:31, 6:15-23, 1 Corinthians 7:19, and 1 Timothy 6:12-16 urging us to paying attention to, keeping doing, and obeying the instructions of YHWH.
There is so much we can learn from the examples that have been made with the people before us. Nadab and Abihu tried to come before YHWH in their own way with something unauthorized, and it cost them their lives. Saul thought he would pick and choose which part of the instructions to follow. Saul thought since he was doing these things for YHWH it would be acceptable, and it cost him everything. Thousands of years later we still haven’t learned from their mistakes. We are still trying to come before YHWH in our own ways, using profane things in worship to Him, and letting the people around us influence the decisions we make.
YHWH means what He says! He is a specific and jealous God that laid out everything we need to be pleasing to Him in His Torah. It is this instruction book that will be written on our hearts in Jeremiah 31:33. It should lead our every thought and decision along with being our guide for every action just as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. If our hearts are guiding us against these instructions of YHWH then, we need to remember what the scriptures say about our hearts before acting so that we do not become a fool. We cannot “pick and choose” what we want to follow nor can we “half way” follow His instructions and expect things to work out in our favor.
All Scripture is inspired by YHWH and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
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