What Does It Mean to Observe Something?

David Osteen

“To take notice of” is often what we associate with being observant.  That you are keen to identifying and perceiving (perhaps deeply) your surroundings. 

And while we do use the word “observe” today in the sense of merely “looking upon” (observation), the word itself has a more potent history.

“Observe” originated from the idea of “attend toward”.  That is, you don’t just see or notice something, but you go attend to what you notice. 

Whether it be something you hear, taste, touch, smell, see, feel, or perceive—you act in service accordingly.  That is, after all, the root of “observe” – “serve”.

What “Observe” Meant According to Jesus

Jesus commanded the Apostles to go out and disciple the nations, baptizing them, and them teaching them to “observe” all that the Lord commanded.  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus was the one with all authority.  What did Jesus mean by “observe”? 

Well, it certainly wasn’t to merely/only take notice of the commands, but to act upon them fully.  To be a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, a Christian (Acts 11:26), is to serve the Lord, and you do that by OBserving His commands.  Are you observant?

What Does it Mean to Observe a Holiday?

Many times we think of observance as relating to festivals/events. 

For example, the first place we see the use of the idea of “observing” in the Old Testament was when the Lord was giving the instructions for the Passover Feast, “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children…“ (Exodus 12:24) 

Again, not just taking notice of the feast, but practicing all of the commands and ordinances related to the feast.  Would Israel truly be observing the feast throughout the generations if they were not strictly following the commands related to the feast? (Ezekiel 20:21) 

God’s people were to be observant.  Look at their history? Were they?

Likewise, as Christians under the New Covenant, we speak of “observing” the Lord’s Supper. But we must understand that if we are not observing it how the Lord gave instruction then we are truly not observing it at all. (I Corinthians 11:23)

Are we truly being observant if we do not observe it every first day of the week according to our ability? (I Cor. 11:18&20; Acts 20:7) 

Are we truly being observant if we do not use unleavened bread and unfermented fruit of the vine? (Luke 22:19-20)

Are we truly being observant if we are not examining our heart before the Lord? (I Cor. 11:28)

What Does It Mean For Us to Observe God’s Laws?

Hopefully we can observe from these scriptures that there is a proper way to observe, and to observe any other way is not really observing at all. Are we observant?

When Ezekiel prophesied of the church to come, the Lord declared, “And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them.” (Ezekiel 37:24) 

So as the people of the Lord (I Peter 2:10) serving under the One Shepherd, Jesus Christ, (I Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20) we are a people that is without excuse from observing the ways of the Lord. 

To not observe His ways, is to not be His people.  We must be observant! 

We must be on guard against the great self-deception: that because we observe/see things in the scriptures we are therefore a spiritual people of God. 

The Lord instructs through the prophet Isaiah, “You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.” (Isaiah 42:20) 

We can hear and be deaf. 

We can see and be blind. 

We are blind if we see what the Lord instructs and yet do not observe what the Lord instructs. 

We, as God’s people, must be observant!  Not deceived!

Observe the Ways of the Lord!

There is great value in observing the ways of the Lord.  There always has been. 

Go all the way back to Adam and Eve. If they had just been observant (Genesis 3:2-3), rather than deceived (3:13), their blessing would’ve remained (2:16-17), rather then being replaced with a curse (3:17). 

There is blessing in hearing the word of God, don’t get me wrong, but the true blessing is in the faith to trust and obey (the doing/observing) as the Jesus explicitly taught, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it.” (Luke 11:28)

Not just observing a “plan of salvation”, but a way of living!

To the blind, the bible never commands mankind to be observant, but to the observant, it clearly teaches we are to be.

Are you observant?  Are we observant?  May we ever be dedicated to that pursuit!  For that is the way of a dedicated Christian/Disciple/Follower. (Matthew 28:20) 

We prove ourselves as His servants… by being observant.