We’ve all experienced rules and regulations in life that do not have clear reasons behind them. While they may have had some logical justification at some point, that time has gone.
There are also laws in this world that may not be any better than another way of doing things, but they are enforced because there needs to be some sort of consistency. Think about what side of the road you drive on. The left or right side of the road is no better or worse; one is not a more morally superior option. All that it is really important is once a decision is made you stick with it.
Sometimes we see the path God lays out for us and we wonder, “Why?” Is there a good reason to follow? Is it just arbitrary? Does God just want me to follow his way, yet any other way could be fine, too? But he just wants me on his side?
While we do not always know the full benefits of following God, for we do not always see what is around the corner and we never can see what might have been, God doesn’t want us to think following him is arbitrary. He doesn’t want his people to worship him and him alone just because that is the way he happens to prefer us to act. God desires that we follow because his ways are good and true. And that doesn’t mean just for him. When we follow it is good for us.
That’s why when we read a psalm like Psalm 81, we get a clear tone from God. He says listen to my voice, remember what I have done, turn to me so I may provide! He is grieved when we turn away because he knows it won’t go well for us.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
God is pleading with us because he wants what is good for us. He’s not a hall monitor yelling at us, merely upset we’re not presenting our hall pass. He’s not demanding we retake some test because we used the wrong pencil. He’s certainly not trying to put up countless hoops of bureaucracy and paperwork, like we navigate to complete our taxes. He’s not looking to make life more frustrating or painful or arbitrary. God loves his people and he knows his ways are best. Let that help guide your reading and give you a sense of the tone we see in the words of God.