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Blessed Obedience

A parable from Elisabeth Elliot

Some of you will have noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet lately, I’m sorry to say. I’ve been moving and have had a few other priorities take over, but hopefully things have settled down enough for me to get back to a more regular rhythm. In place of my regular Friday post, I’m instead going to share some words from Elisabeth Elliot.

To hear her entire message, you can listen to this video. Though I found the entire thing super impactful, if you’re short on time I’ve written out a transcript of a part I found particularly helpful and have posted it below. Whichever way you choose to take in her words, I hope you are as blessed by them as I have been. Happy listening/reading!


The Glory of God's Will

By Elisabeth Elliot

High in the mountains of North Wales lived a shepherd name John Jones with his wife Marie and black and white dog Mac. I stood one misty summer morning at the window of their farmhouse watching John on horseback herding sheep with Mac. A few cows were quietly chewing their cud in a nearby corner while perhaps a hundred sheep moved across the dewy meadow toward the pen where they were to be dipped. Mac, a champion Scottish Collie, was in his glory. He came of a long line of working dogs and he had sheep in his blood. This is what he was made for, this is what he had been trained to do, and it was a marvelous thing to see him circling to the right, circling to the left barking, crouching, racing along, herding a stray sheep here, nipping a stubborn one there, his eyes always glued to the sheep, his ears listening for the tiny metal whistle from his master which I couldn’t hear. Marie took me to the pens to watch what John had to do there. When all the animals had been shut inside the gate, Mac tore around the outside of the pen and took up his position at the dipping trough, frantic with expectation, waiting for the chance to leap into action again.

One by one John seized the rams by their curled horns and flung them into the antiseptic. They would struggle to climb out the side and Mac with snarl and snap at their faces to force them back in. Just as they were about to climb up the ramp at the far end, John caught them by the horns with a wooden implement, spun them around, forced them back under again, eyes, ears and nose, and held them for a few seconds.

I’ve had some experiences in my life which have made me feel very sympathetic with those poor rams. I couldn’t figure out any reason for the treatment that I was getting from the shepherd that I trusted, and He didn’t give me a hint of explanation. As I watched the struggling sheep, I thought, If only there were some way to explain! But such knowledge is too wonderful for them. Its high; they cannot attain unto it. So far as they could see, there was no point whatsoever.

When the rams had been dipped, John rode out again on his horse to herd the ewes which were in a different pasture. Again I watched with Marie as John and Mac went to work, the one in charge, the other obedient. Sometimes tearing at top speed around the flock, Mac would jam on four wheel brakes, his eyes blazing but still on the sheep, his body tense and quivering, but obedient to the command to stop. What the shepherd saw, the dog could not see. The weak ewe that lagged behind, the one caught in a bush, the danger that lay ahead for the flock.

“Do the sheep have any idea what’s happening?” I asked Marie.

“Not a clue,” she said.

“And what about the dog?”

I can’t forget her answer. “The dog doesn’t understand the pattern, only obedience.”

(She goes on to discuss how the animal is most in its glory when in complete obedience to its Master, living out the purpose it was created for.)

The ancients were commended for a solid faith full of hope and based on a strong certainty. As we contemplate unknown moments, days, and years ahead, we might take an invaluable lesson from them: obedience to God is our job. The results of that obedience are God’s.

Did Noah have private misgivings about constructing that preposterous vessel? I should think he had, but his trust outweighed his doubts. He simply obeyed. When the Lord told Abraham to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household, was he astounded? Fearful? Rebellious? He obeyed and went, not knowing where he was going. When called to make the supreme sacrifice of his son Isaac, did his heart leap from his chest? He reasoned that God could (and perhaps might) raise the dead. He got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two servants and his son, cut enough wood for a burnt offering, and set out on a three-day journey, every step of which must have been agony. When all was prepared (including his heart, surely), he raised the knife, his trust and obedience perfected—whereupon God sent an angel with a message, “Because you have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you …because you have obeyed me.” Following the stories of more heroes in Hebrews 11 who are named, are heroes unnamed who were tortured, jeered at, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two (think about that one!)— and on and on.

Verse 39: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

That stuns me. Their perfection awaits ours. Their names are to be linked with yours and mine.

So what on earth shall we do (if we’re still here on earth) in preparation for those unknown moments, days, and years ahead? The answer is given:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

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