OBEDIENCE … PART ONE
Well, we left off last week’s discussion in Hebrews chapter 5 when we got to the passage that mentioned obedience, and you referred to a need for understanding what obedience really means. Are you suggesting that there is some kind of hidden definition in the Greek that can put obedience into a better grace context?
While definitions certainly play an important role in the consideration of the truth behind obedience, they are not the end-all of understanding, they simply provide a good starting point …
A starting point for what?
… for breaking through the illusion created by the universally accepted wisdom of man, so that the dots can be reconnected.
Those interlinking aspects that have been separated by the logical mind. I’m talking about the stuff that seems reasonable to humans world-wide. Now, this might seem totally unrelated, but I’d like to share an insight I learned as a cat owner.
We’ve had a few cats in the past, and, especially with the last one, I had a lot of fun playing a cat-and-mouse kind of thing with her. It got to the point that when she heard me coming home, she would go jump in the bath tub and hide behind the closed shower curtain … waiting for the game to begin. When I would peek behind the curtain, I could see her all crouched down as if she were on a hunt. Her eyes were huge, like Puss N’ Boots on Shrek. I would move my hands across the back of the curtain, along the outside of the tub, and up and down the wall where she couldn’t see them. But when I would run my hand behind the curtain where it lays against the inside of the tub, that’s when she would strike. I would often watch her from where the curtain didn’t touch the wall. It was so funny to see her get all riled up as waited for her chance to attack. She really loved it when I would poke my hand through the bottom of the curtain so that she could see it. And I had to move quickly to keep from getting caught.
Now, here’s my point. You see, it didn’t make any difference if she saw me watching her, as long as she didn’t see the connection between my hand and the rest of me. I often experimented to see how she would react at certain stages. If I drew the curtain back far enough so that she could see the connection between my hand and the rest of my body, she lost all interest. But … as soon as I re-established the illusion, she got right back into her stalking mode. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Are you suggesting that the world’s understanding of obedience hangs upon an illusion of some kind?
Yes, I am. You see, the truth is that simplicity confuses the logical mind of man in the same way that full awareness destroyed the mystery that kept my cat’s curiosity and attention.
For simplicity to cause confusion, it would have to be something that runs contrary to a basic premise of one’s beliefs or logic … is that what you’re getting at?
Indeed it is. Although it’s easy to simply pass something like this off as inherent among the more ignorant sector of a society, history reveals that simplicity has also confused the intellectual element of past societies.
Do you have any examples?
One thing that sticks out for me has to do with the Hungarian doctor who first postulated the theory that if doctors at the maternity ward were to simply wash their hands between deliveries, it would cause the mortality rate to drop. The man was eventually labeled “insane” by his collegues and was fired. His research ended after he was ostracized by the all-knowing medical community. He eventually died in an insane asylum. If you need more examples, just read some old science books. Examples abound in today’s world as well, but unfortunately too many people are so enamored by the prevailing wisdom that the point might get lost.
So, according to your example … if we were to postulate a totally different viewpoint of obedience, one that is contrary to the accepted understanding of this world — not only of the religious world, but also of the world in general — we might be viewed as insane as the guy who disagreed with the medical community. Is that what you’re suggesting?
And then, somehow, the actual meaning of the Greek word for obedience should provide some kind of connection … some kind of clues that are ignored … or overlooked … by the natural mind?
The natural mind simply cannot accept the connectedness of true life, for its very existence hangs so desperately upon isolating everything so that it can categorize everything according to its own logic. I’m aware of the propaganda of the so-called intellectual mind that believes itself to stand upon only the facts. No doubt the intellectual community of today is swimming in a sea of facts and figures that has dispelled many myths and superstitions, however, how it arranges those facts is bound by the limits of its own prison of perception. And tomorrow’s world will be sorting out a multitude of erroneous theories that had seemed so believable because everybody believed them.
So, how about we jump right into that passage in Hebrews where the matter of obedience comes in?
Okay, let’s do it.
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:7-10
So, what can you tell us about the meaning of the Greek words for obey and obedience?
—obedience (“he learned obedience”) G5218 ὑπακοή hupakoē; from G5219; obedience
—obey (“to all those who obey”) G5219 ὑπακούω hupakouō; from G5259 and G191; to listen, attend to
—heard (“and He was heard”) G1522 εἰσακούω eisakouō; from G1519 and G191; to listen, to obey
—G5259 ὑπό hupo; a prim. prep.; by, under
—G191 ἀκούω akouō; from a prim. word mean. hearing; to hear, listen
There’s also the Hebrew word to consider. Let’s take a look at a passage from the OT:
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. Deuteronomy 29:2-4
If that last sentence sounds a little familiar, it might be its relation to 1 Corinthians 2:9, where Paul uses an “it is written” that seems to be a compilation of a few different OT references. We’ll get back to that passage in 1 Corinthians in a bit because it really brings out the deeper meaning of what it is to hear. But getting back to the Hebrew word for hear in Deuteronomy 29:4 is:
Hear (“nor ears to hear”) H8085 שָׁמַע shama (1033b); a prim. root; to hear:–
hears(33), heed(5), heeded(2), indeed obey(1), listen(226), listen obediently(2), listened(52), obedient(1), obey(32), obey*(14), obeyed(21), obeyed*(5), obeying(6), obeys(1)
Now, something tells me that some of you who are listening to this audio may be having a little difficulty with this repeated connection between hearing and obeying, for I also learned to separate one from another. I remember back in my early years when I had to learn a Bible verse to quote during a Christmas play. As it had something to do with obedience and the coming of Jesus, I think it was:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.Genesis 49:10
I mean, I was frantically trying to get this quote down so that I wouldn’t mess it up on stage. I wonder how many of you can relate to this. Here I was repeating it over and over before we headed to the church for the program — in between non-stop bickering and fighting with my sister while we were getting ready … and this was despite numerous rebukes from my parents. Anyhow, I guess it was the last straw, because during one of my practice quotes, my dad reacted when heard me say the word “obedience.” I can’t remember the wording, but it was something to the effect of pointing out the hypocrisy of a disobedient child speaking the word. Oh yeah, I learned early on that hearing was not the same as obeying.
So how do we explain how the very same words got translated in such way as to mean two different things? Who decided stuff like that?
Perhaps our conflicted meanings come from the conflicted mind of man. After all, our world is filled with people — of which we understand from both sides — who spend a good part of their days pointing out everybody else’s hypocrisy while justifying their own. For many, it’s a game to see how many people they can fool. Like I say, I fully understand why hearing and obeying should not be linked to the same word … for I came to realize that hearing and obedience were two totally different concepts. And when I really got involved in my religious zeal, I learned to build upon the same basis of thinking and living … only this time around, I was doing it for a much higher purpose.
So, how did that approach work out for you?
Not so good. To tell you the truth, I became increasingly aware of how often I didn’t obey what the Bible said. The more Bible classes I attended or audio tapes I heard only confirmed my worst suspicions.
What suspicions were those?
That I was an unfruitful hearer. Can you relate to that fear?
Yesterday, I searched the phrase “To hear is to obey” and I found numerous entries.
Here’s an article from a blog I found, entitled “To Hear Is To Obey”:
Yeshua (Jesus) said in Matthew 11:15 : “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (KJV) Shaul (Paul) wrote in Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (KJV) Remember that although you read these verses in English, they were originally spoken from a Hebraic world view. Regardless of the translation, to understand these verses you must think in Hebrew. The word for “hear” in Hebrew is shamea. it means to listen, to hear and obey, to understand, and to cause to hear, and that with acceptance. The word for “obey” is shama. It means to listen and to understand distinctly. We can see that hearing is tied to obeying what you heard. It is not passing a hearing test. It is not that you heard an audio sound. It is acting on what you have heard. Yeshua says in effect: “He that hath the ability to hear and obey, let him obey.” Shaul is saying: “Faith comes by hearing and obeying the word of God.” You have not heard the word unless you obey it. It must impact on your life. Article source
Adam … maybe you could describe your reaction to his version of Matthew 11:15 where he wrote: “Yeshua says in effect: ‘He that hath the ability to hear and obey, let him obey.’”
Yeah, and his reinterpretation of Romans 10:17 is just as bad!
Faith comes by hearing and obeying the word of God?
Gimme a break! Look, the connection between hearing and obeying might be recognized by the fleshly mind, but as seen here, the fleshly, religious mind also leaves out the miraculous work of the Spirit — a connection that might give a clue as to how our life in Christ is so far removed from anything we learned in this world. How else do we end up reinserting that old-mind reasoning back into the mix so that we might keep the sharp distinction between the two so clearly separate?
I’m sure by now that our listeners have got to be asking how hearing and obedience could possibly come out of the same Hebrew and Greek words. I mean, doesn’t grace mean that we don’t have to do anything to receive it, that Jesus has done the obeying for us? Doesn’t this seem to enforce a mixture of Law and grace?
Hey, I know what it is to desire clear cut distinctions between Law and Grace, but all too often I painted myself into a corner by the accumulation of some of those so-called grace statements. I say “so-called” because many of our more radical statements merely seem to promote freedom, when in reality, some of them might just be candy-coated versions of this world’s wisdom. I remember a grace slogan that some good friends of mine used in their grace email that went “If it sounds too good to be true, it must be the gospel!”
But is that actually the basis upon which we can recognize the difference between Law and Grace? A lot of things sound too good to be true simply because they are false promises.
Yeah, I have people, as well as companies, offering me things that seem to good to be true almost every day. Maybe most of these too-good-to-be-true things only have an appearance of being good in the first place. I mean, such offers only pertain to the stuff of this temporary world. If we think that the stuff of this world is what the kingdom of God is made from, we’re looking in the wrong direction.
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; Romans 1:1-6
Obedience of faith is not presented here as some kind of human accomplishment, but instead is connected with the power of the resurrection from the dead. This grace we received from Jesus Christ brought the obedience of faith to us.
I mean, we’re just looking at the very opening statements made by Paul regarding obedience. After all, it’s not like he left us to wonder what he meant, for he posed some very provoking questions as he continued to build grace upon grace in his letter. His conclusions have caused much controversy among Bible students, especially those who work so hard to prove that Paul didn’t mean to say what he so boldly said.
Once you get past chapter one, you can see Paul making the absurd case that some who were without the Law would be judged as having been obedient, while those under the Law would be shown as disobedient. And he doesn’t stop there. Instead, he seems to indicate that … (notes end here, sorry)