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DON’T BLAME GOD

DON’T BLAME GOD

“What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly, they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear to this very day.”

And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

And again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Romans 11:7-11.

Paul is adamant that, although most of the Jews forfeited their place in the New Covenant because of their unbelief, God still has a remnant, as He had throughout their tragic history, who have not “bowed the knee to Baal.” Scattered throughout the earth today there are many Jewish people who have recognised and embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah. They are counted among God’s people as the spiritual sons of Abraham and members of the “Israel of God” because of their faith.

There is a serious warning in Paul’s words about the Jews. Before God endorsed their choices, He gave them many opportunities to listen to His entreaty and to return to Him, but they refused. He sent prophets time and again to both the southern and the northern kingdoms, calling the people back to God and warning them of the consequences of their stubborn unbelief.

They had the example of their ancestors who perished in the wilderness because they refused to trust God and obey His instructions. Their unceasing complaints and rebellion angered Him so much that He withdrew His protection, and left them to suffer the ravages of the desert. Fiery serpents bit them and many died until they cried out to God. In His mercy, He delivered them and healed those who looked in faith at the brass snake He had commanded Moses to make.

No amount of miraculous intervention could convince them that God was real and that He meant what He said. They cried for help when the chips were down, only to pursue their old ways as soon as things were back to normal. As then, so now, miracles do not produce faith. Faith produces miracles. God purposely put them to the test, allowing them suffer hunger and thirst to see whether they would trust Him or not. Their hardships exposed their wicked hearts of unbelief. They tried God’s patience until He gave them what they confessed – death in the desert.

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:16-19.

In all of Paul’s discussion about the fate of the Jews, let us not miss the message meant for his readers. The Jews chose unbelief and hardness of heart in response to God’s grace. They could hardly blame God for the outcome since He confirmed their choice, not His, with blindness and deafness. We too, cannot blame God for what we get because the invitation is His but the initiative to believe is ours.

Yet, for the Jews, the door of grace still stands open and will remain open until Jesus comes. As we read on, we shall learn of God’s purpose for them. But what of us? The Word of God assures us that, as long as it is still “today”, we have an opportunity to turn away from our man-made beliefs and receive, by faith, the gift of righteousness. There is still a rest from our own self-effort into which we can enter and receive what Jesus did for us. “It is finished!” He declared, on the cross. Everything God promised in the Old Covenant was completed at that moment.

“Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:1; 3:13; 4:9-11.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Whose Fault Is it?

WHOSE FAULT IS IT?

“Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.

This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said this because He saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.” John 12:37-41 NIV.

This is John’s commentary on the ways of God.

Perhaps, after years of reflection on the life of the Master whom he had followed for three and a half years, heard, watched and puzzled over during the years of His public ministry, grieved over when He died and rejoiced over when He rose again, John began to understand the truths of the sacred Book he had come to love. The pieces of the puzzle were fitting together as he studied and meditated on the Scriptures and, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, understanding began to grow.

Why were the Jews so stubborn in their unbelief? The many miracles that Jesus had done, which John called “signs”, had failed to convince them that He was their Messiah. No matter what He said or did, they remained unmoved. Like their ancestors, they resisted God’s love, rebelled against His covenant and rejected Him as their God, preferring their own ways in spite of the disasters it had brought on them, to the ways of God which would have brought them peace.

John realized that the prophet Isaiah had spoken of this phenomenon which was evident in the history of his people from the time that they were delivered from slavery in Egypt right up to his day. It was not God who had forced them to choose the way of disobedience. It was their choice, time after time, which led them down the path of war, destruction and exile.

How significant that John identified the Lord, whom Isaiah had seen in a vision while he was in the temple grieving the death of the king Uzziah, as Jesus, the second person of the Trinity! Throughout the Old Testament, it was the pre-incarnate Jesus, sometimes identified as “the angel of the Lord” and sometimes as God Himself, who had direct dealings with His people. Even the patriarch Abraham had glimpsed the Messiah by faith and rejoiced; and Moses had met Him at the burning bush and was introduced to Him as the “I AM”.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not fifty years old,” they said to Him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” John 8:57, 58 NIV.

The same Jesus whom their forebears had rejected then was the one they rejected now even though He had come in person to reveal the true nature of the Father. Like Pharaoh who had been given every opportunity to acknowledge the Hebrews’ God and submit to Him but persisted in disobeying until God hardened his heart, these people were in the same boat. Their hardness of heart was the consequence of their own choice. God was simply confirming in their hearts what they wanted.

This is a sobering fact. God gave and honours every person’s right to choose. Even if we choose to believe lies and follow the way of death, He will continue to confront us with the truth but He will not force us to choose against our will. We choose our own path and our own destiny even if it is to walk away from God and be separated from Him forever.

It  grieves His heart to see people going to their own doom because He has created us for better things but He will not violate the most priceless but risky gift He gave to mankind. It is up to us to heed His word, believe the truth and submit to His love — but if we don’t, He will confirm our choice so that it will be impossible in the end to change our minds.

And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.