On several instances in the Bible, God spoke through a messenger—anyone from a prophet to an angel---as He sent them on specific assignments. He spoke with a thunderous voice. (John 12:29) The first time Moses heard it, he fell flat on his face and “... was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6)
It was in this manner that God gave instructions to all His messengers who carried out His assignments – beginning with Abraham. “The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ ” (Genesis 12:1) In obedience, Abram left, ‘as the LORD had told him.“ (verse 4)
Something about the instruction and the tone of His voice must have sufficed to assure Abram of His personality. He did not question the instruction which was rather imprecise with regard to the direction he should take and his final destination.
Imagine someone at age seventy-five years having to pack his belongings to set out on a journey without a clue as to where he was heading. That must have been the start of Abram’s faith-walk with God to earn him the venerable title of ‘the father of faith.’ “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)
In the case of Moses, he received clear instructions from God. “The LORD said: ‘I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.....Now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7.9-10)
Moses did not feel qualified for the task and wanted to opt out. He claimed his inability to speak fluently, adding that he stammered. Every excuse he advanced God countered. In the end, Moses plainly said to God: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:13) The choice of Moses was not merely accidental. Remember he was brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter in the palace. He was therefore at home with the language, culture and customs. It was for such a day that God had raised him up to defend the cause of His own people—the Children of Israel. God had invested in him and would not have let him off on such a flimsy excuse. There was no suitable emissary but him. Assisted by his brother Aaron, as his mouthpiece, God asked him to use his shepherd’s staff with which he would perform miraculous signs.
Prophet Nathan was charged by God to transmit a message to King David. “The LORD sent Nathan to David.” (2 Samuel 12:1) He had to tell him to the face that God was aware of his despicable behaviour-- killing Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, -- after committing adultery with her; and that He disapproved of it. Now, David, you will recall is the highest authority in the land. That lot fell on Nathan, a prophet of God.
What would you have done? Sure the prophet was nervous but God gave His servant the wisdom to break the news to the king without stirring up his anger. The prophet broke the news to King David by telling him a story. A rich man abused the rights of a poor man by taking his only ewe and slaughtering it for his guests when he had a flock to choose from. Straightaway, the king incensed, declared it unfair. “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die...” Nathan quickly interjected: “You are the man!” (1 Samuel 12:7) Then the verdict fell. Nathan neither lost his head nor was he imprisoned. God who sent him made a way out for him.
The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1) The prophet Samuel was hesitant because Saul was still king so how could he anoint David also as king. He feared Saul would hear about it and that would get him into trouble. His fears were allayed when God assured him “I will show you what to do.” ( verse 3)
After Saul was made king, God sent the prophet Samuel to him again. “Listen now to the message from the Lord. ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’ ” (1 Samuel 15:2-3) King Saul accomplished the task his own way. He saved the king, Agag, and brought back the best of the sheep and the cattle, the fattest calves and rams – everything that was good.” (verses 8,9) When the prophet Samuel questioned his disobedience, he lied about it. God spoke through His servant Samuel: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” (1 Samuel 15:11)
Saul lost his kingship as a result. “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you.” (1 Samuel 15:23b) What lesson are we being taught? “To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15: 23)
Jonah, another of God’s Old Testament prophets, was sent to Nineveh, a pagan city known for its wicked ways, so he could preach against it. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) Jonah was not pleased with the instruction given. He would rather God had punished them. So he jumped into a boat and went in the opposite direction.
He faced enormous setbacks on the way. The ship in which he sailed nearly capsized under a raging storm. He confessed he was the cause and asked to be thrown overboard so the waves would subside. When the sailors threw him overboard, peace returned. “... God provided a great fish to swallow [him] and he was in the fish’s belly three days and three nights. He was later vomited ashore after he prayed to God fervently for mercy. Subsequently he complied with God’s instruction and went to Nineveh. Thereafter God had compassion when the Ninevites turned from their wicked ways.
All these instances demonstrate God’s unflinching resolve for the realisation of His work in this part of the vineyard. He calls us to a life of commitment to His word under any circumstance. Rather than interpret meaning into or seek to modify His word, let us obey completely. He expects us to comply with the letter and spirit of His command.
Prior to His ascension, Jesus gave us these instructions. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Just do it!