14. Obedience Via 2 x 4


It’s just your basic piece of 2’x4′, a scrap left over from the ongoing construction project I was doing around the house.  Yet somehow it became a profound personal object lesson. Let me give you a little background, and then I’ll explain the significance of the 2’x4′.

.A few years back I taught a class on Exodus at the church where I was serving. As we’ve moved through the first 10 chapters of this account, the class members and I were all somewhat amazed at how stubborn and rebellious the Pharaoh really was. I mean this guy just didn’t get it! There was no way he was going to win this “war of wills” with God. Each time Moses came to him with the request to let the Israelites go, Pharaoh arched his back like a 2 year old pouting in the corner! “No, I won’t let you go” or “I’ll let you go, but only on these conditions”. Moses warned him of the consequences of refusing, but the Pharaoh was more concerned with exercising his own power of control. He was one of the world’s first real “control freaks”.

Unfortunately, every time he refused, the consequences were worse for him and the entire nation of Egypt. First came the plague of blood, then frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence, boils, and hail! By the time God sent the 8th and 9th plagues (locust & darkness), even his own advisors were astounded at Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to admit he was wrong. God had given him a multitude of chances to change, but he had rejected each opportunity or reneged on the agreement he made with Moses.

A simple request didn’t do it for Pharaoh. A gentle nudge didn’t move him. A reprimand didn’t have any effect on his actions. A direct confrontation was met with stern opposition. God had poked, prodded and pleaded with Pharaoh to listen, but he refused. So God had to get out a 2’x4′ and bring a more substantial consequence….the plague of locust, then darkness, and finally the plague of the firstborn. Wow!

Sometimes I think we’re all a little bit like Pharaoh.  We’re busy doing our own thing, working on a plan we think is best!  When it comes right down to it we pretty much don’t want anyone to tell us what to do…..not even God.  We want to be in control, call the shots, and decide how to move forward.  Call it self-determination, strong will or downright stubbornness, but the bottom line is that we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it! We may not think we’re being obstinate, but in reality old Pharaoh has nothing on us!

When we’re in that mode God often intervenes with a new idea.  Sometimes God only has to nudge us to get us to listen. Other times He may need to shout or put a few obstacles in our way. But there are times when we force him to pick up a 2’x4′ and whack us good before we will stop, listen and obey.

If I read my Bible correctly, obedience isn’t an option. Our stubborn refusal to listen can lead us into “2 x 4” territory if we’re not careful.

I was reminded of this today in my personal devotions. My habit is to systematically read a passage from the Old Testament, then the New Testament, and finally something from Psalms or Proverbs.   Today they all had the exact same message on avoiding “2 x 4’s” by being obedient.

Leviticus 26 is broken into three sections:

  • “If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, …..” 3-13
  • “But if you refuse to obey me and won’t observe my commandments….” v.14-39
  • “On the other hand, if they confess their disobedience….” 40-46

Matthew 7: 21-23 reminds us that “knowing the correct password – saying ‘Master, Master’ for instance – isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience – doing what my Father wills…..”

Psalms 119:1-8 is an ode to the value of obedience, ending with the words, “ As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should.  I will obey your decrees.  Please don’t give up on me.” 

The concept of obedience to God is simple….but it isn’t always easy, is it?   Sometimes we actually may need God to pick up a 2 x 4!  

 “2 x 4” moments –  I’ve had a few of those experiences…..and I suspect you have too! So will your kids! Doesn’t that bless you? The point is, we need to learn how to listen better and obey.  And, we need to learn how to teach our children how to avoid making the same mistakes.

Unless I’m mistaken, we may still need a 2/x4′ every once in a while, but hopefully we can be a bit more pliable than old Pharaoh so that God can get us to do what we need to do without getting “whacked”.

Experienced at taking a few lumps,


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