There are several words in the New Testament that are translated "obey." One word simply means to obey. One word means to submit to those in authority. One word means to "listen to" or "listen under." It is used of the winds and waves in Matthew 8:27 and Mark 4:41. When Jesus speaks the wind and waves listen. In Mark 1:27 the unclean spirits listen when Jesus speaks. In Ephesians 6:1 children are to listen to their parents, and in Colossians 3:22 slaves are to listen to their masters. In 2 Thessalonians 3:14 the Thessalonians are to listen to these words penned by Paul. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5 they are to listen to the gospel.
In Hebrews 5 we find this last use of the word. It literally means to "listen under." It is the idea of placing yourself under what you are hearing. In Hebrews 5:8 Jesus "learned obedience through what he suffered." The word learned carries the idea of learning by experiencing. By experiencing suffering Jesus learned to bring himself under what he was hearing from the Father. Having learned by experience to listen to the Father he becomes the source of eternal salvation to those who listen to him.
This raises a significant question: What does it mean to listen to or obey him in this verse? This passage cannot be separated from the priesthood of Jesus nor from the discussion of Sabbath Rest in the previous chapter. We can draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace because Jesus is our high priest. It is in mercy and grace that we find rest. Jesus was appointed as our high priest. He suffered all the way to the cross even though he could have been delivered. To obey then does not carry the idea of keeping God's rules. Rather it is about bringing ourselves under what he has told us. What he told us was that the disobedience of the Jews in the wilderness resulted from unbelief. What he told us was to fear lest we fail to enter his rest. What he told us was to strive to enter his rest. What he told us was to come confidently before the throne of grace to find mercy and grace. What does it mean in this passage to obey? It means to come confidently to the throne of grace believing that we will receive mercy and grace. It means to trust Jesus just as he trusted the Father in the midst of suffering.
Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, "Not my will, but yours be done," demonstrated that he trusted the Father. Similarly we are sometimes called to suffer. We are sometimes faced with uncomfortable situations. We are sometimes called to experiences we would rather run from. We are even tempted to ask the questions: Where is God? Has he abandoned me? Is he not real? But we can trust him. In our darkest hours we remember that Jesus chose and was appointed to go through the "valley of the shadow of death" for us. Because of that he understands our weaknesses. He identifies with our pain. He is nearest to us when we have the most difficulty sensing his presence. He offers grace and mercy in time of need. We can trust him.
Father, forgive me for my unbelief. Forgive me for constantly defaulting to the idea that a relationship with you is somehow dependent on me. Today may I rest in your grace and trust you in the darkness.
By His grace,