When a board or card game in our house wasn’t exciting enough, or maybe wasn’t going the way that someone wanted it to, my kids – especially when they were younger – would often suggest changing the rules. They typically phrase this in the form of a question, like, “What if we let someone who rolls doubles get extra money?”, or “How about if the person with the least points gets to take an extra card?”.
Although the other players will occasionally yield to a suggestion by a very young child, the standard position in our house has become that, “Rules must be defined at the beginning of the game, and remain constant throughout a play session”. We are willing to try a variation in a future round, but rules can’t be changed in the middle of a game.
Having said that, there can still be great debate over what the existing rules mean. A review of the instruction leaflet is sometimes the final arbiter of the correct way to play, but then there are questions as to whether failure to enforce a rule previously in a round means that it should be ignored for the remainder.
Asking about the rules isn’t a new idea. In fact, the prophet Moses anticipated this when he spoke to the Israelite people centuries ago:
“In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the Lord our God has commanded us to obey?’
Deuteronomy 6:20 NLT
It’s OK – and maybe even normal – to ask why a rule is in place. In a society of man-made laws, one may ask where unusual statutes came from. In my opinion, this is usually because someone did something that they obviously shouldn’t have done, or because a lawmaker had an agenda. Still, we can be entertained by lists of funny laws; in my country, at least, we seem to have no shortage of them!
Moses didn’t leave this question unanswered when it came to God’s instructions, though. A few verses later, he elaborated on the reason for God to provide direction to His people:
And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day. For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.’
Deuteronomy 6:24-25 NLT
Today, although not everyone is called to the ceremonial law that identified God’s chosen people as unique, there are still many people who question God’s rules:
- Why does God instruct people to tell the truth (Exodus 20:16), when lying often seems like an easy way out?
- Why does the Bible tell believers to think of others above themselves (Philippians 2:3-4), when our fallen bodies and sinful nature want so much to be selfish?
- Why did Jesus call us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45) when they sometimes make us so angry?
And, I don’t think that questioning God’s instructions is unique to those who remain in rebellion against Him. Yes, there are those who stay far away from God because they don’t want to follow His leadership. On the other hand, though, even followers of Jesus can find themselves scratching their heads and wondering why God called them into something that doesn’t seem to make sense (from a human perspective).
What did Moses say, though? God gave his commandments so that He could bless his people, and preserve their lives. When we follow God, we give Him the opportunity to show His favor to us, rather than allocate punishment in order to guide us back onto a healthy path. Later accounts of the Israelites after they moved into the Promised Land confirm that they gave God opportunities for both, as they alternately tried to follow God and rebelled against Him. And, although I suspect that this passage in Deuteronomy is relating blessings with preservation (i.e, allowing the Israelites to remain undisturbed in their new land), it is also true that our bodies, minds, and souls are all generally healthier when we follow the plan outlined by our Creator (who loves us and wants the best for us).
So, whether you are railing against God and His authority over you, or just perplexed by what God asks you to do as His follower, consider the logic that Moses provided. God isn’t trying to make us puppets for His entertainment, or try to steal our joy. He is genuinely seeking to make us reflections of the divine image into which we were created (and, most things work best when applied correctly!), and this allows Him to reward our behavior. For Him to bless offensive choices on our part, or decisions that lead towards our destruction, would be contrary to His love for us. After all, what good parents encourage behavior that will harm their children?
Be blessed by walking today in the path that God has shown you to be the best. After all, He has already seen the outcome, and set up the rules for life, accordingly. In doing so, you can reap the benefits, and glorify the God who gives them to you!