When Joseph was considering divorcing Mary, Matthew 1:20-25 tells us how “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Joseph, the early father of Jesus, didn’t obey God in part. He obeyed fully. He may not have liked the idea of marrying someone that already had a kid that wasn’t his…He may not have liked the idea of waiting until after Mary had her baby to consummate the marriage…He may not have like the name Jesus. But Joseph didn’t pick and choose what to obey based on his personal preferences. He fully obeyed.
May God help us all to be like Joseph, for Scripture teaches us that God views partial obedience as complete disobedience. For example, God told Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3, “…go, attack the Amalekites and totally [everyone say “totally”] destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Saul attacked the Amalekites (15:7) but spared Agag [the king of the Amalekites] and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These Saul was unwilling to destroy, but everything that was despised and weak he totally destroyed (15:9). When Saul runs into the prophet Samuel a couple verses later he greets him saying “I have carried out the Lord’s instructions” (15:13). But Samuel replies “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (15:14) Why did you not obey the Lord? (15:19) “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than presenting sacrifices… (15:20-22) Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (15:23)
Saul was guilty of picking and choosing which of God’s instructions he would obey. Saul practiced what I call “Cafeteria Christianity.” In a cafeteria you get in line and say “yes please” to the stuff you like and “no thanks” to anything you find unappetizing, unpalatable or offensive. This is how some people approach God’s instructions in the Bible. If they come across anything unappetizing, unpalatable or offensive, they say “no thanks” but this is the opposite of submission. So here’s the question this passage implores us to consider: Where are we doing the same thing as Saul? It’s not “Are we doing the same thing?” rather “Where are we doing the same thing?” God has set parameters on who you can date and marry as a Christian (only another believer). God has set parameters on when you can enjoy a sexual relationship with another person (only in the context of marriage). God has given us specific instructions in how to order our finances. When we reject the parts of God’s Word we find unappetizing, unpalatable or offensive, we’re guilty of partial obedience, which God makes clear is complete disobedience. As King, we owe Jesus our submission and obedience – not partially, but fully!