The Story Precedes the Command

Parent: “Do this."

Child: “Why?"

Parent: “Because I said so."

Maybe this conversation has happened in your household before. It’s bound to at some point, especially when children are not at a level of maturity at which they could understand an answer to the WHY question. In your reading of the Bible, perhaps you have run across commands from God that you question the WHY of and are still looking for sufficient answers for those…which by the way, you will never answer all of those why questions, at least on this side of eternity. As God spells out powerfully out of a windstorm to Job, sometimes the answer is to trust in the divine wisdom and goodness.

But sometimes God anticipates the WHY questions. And so He answers them before they are even asked. Here’s a couple of technical grammar terms to explain a Scriptural pattern of how: The INDICATIVE occurs right before the IMPERATIVE. What does that mean? It means the language of story…verbs indicating what has happened, more specifically what God has done…forms the basis of the commands that follow. Check out these 3 examples in which I’ve put the narrative in bold and capitalized the command:

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed OBEY MY VOICE AND KEEP MY COVENANT, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples…” (Exodus 19:4-5)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME. YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FOR YOURSELVES AN IDOL…” (Exodus 20:2-4)

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. GO therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL THE NATIONS…” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The first example comes at Sinai after the Exodus. The commands are part of a conditional statement of continued blessing based on the reality of what God has already done. The second example introduces the 10 Commandments, all connected to what God had done in the Exodus. And the third example is the introduction of the “Great Commission,” where our command for mission is based on the reality of Jesus proving His possession of all authority over all things, including the death He had recently died. The point is that the WHY questions we might ask God are wrapped up in the grand narrative of Scripture. The commands are the product of the story. Look at what God has already done. Now do you trust what He says to you in order to participate in the rest of the story?


To His Glory,

Caleb Cochran

Photo credit: amboo who? via / CC BY-SA