"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Does God allow Himself to look weak?

This is likely disjointed, but I can't make my trailing thoughts come together into something neat and pretty right now. Thoughts are flowing so I'm just gonna write as they come.  Maybe you can help me pretend I'm not crazy and put some order into what I'm getting at here.  :)

I remember a few months back Amber made a comment on one of my posts about each land having its own gods.  Like if you traveled through ancient Egypt, you'd be moving into the territory ruled by Re or Osiris whereas if you passed through Canaan you may have to contend with Dagon or Baal.  For a nomadic people this could get complicated, huh? 

So if you were supposedly a monotheistic people with a God who claimed to be the God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Sustainer, the Sovereign Almighty One who goes with you where ever you go and leads and guides you... well, that would be pretty special.  That God wouldn't be bound by territory.  He wouldn't have to park His deity at the borders and subordinate Himself to the gods of Egypt or Canaan or Babylon or Assyria. Right?

So what if God's people really believed that. And for good reason. You'd seen miracles - manna delivered from heaven, a pillar of fire to lead, the sea parting so you could cross on dry land, water from a rock.  Stuff like that.  But then, what if this same God who had been a wonderful caretaker gets angry because well, you decide to worship other gods. So like a good, loving parent, He has to discipline you.

Have you ever heard parents tell their children "this hurts me more than it hurts you" when they have to discipline their children? 

Well, what do you think about this quote in relation to all I've tried to say here plus the quote below in red?  The God of the Bible did wonderful miracles and took care of the children of Israel, yet they often turned their backs on Him to worship other gods.  So there were prophets sent to warn the people to repent, but when they refused God would punish them.  Often times this involved other nations conquering them.  I read this in a book the other day and it is what got me to thinking along these lines. The author is talking about the books of the Bible containing visions of the doom that was going to come upon the holy city of Jerusalem.

"In order to sustain the faith of Israel through all these overwhelming reverses -- the complete devastation of cities and farmlands, and the destruction of the temple -- it was necessary to furnish an absolutely decisive proof that these events had taken place by the permission and plan of the God of Israel, rather than because He was a puny god overcome by the more powerful deities of the Chaldean empire (a conclusion which all heathendom would invariably draw after the fall of Jerusalem.)"   pg. 336  A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. 

So maybe God wanted to let His people know that He was still in control despite the fact it may seem otherwise.  I mean the Temple was a place the Israelites worshiped God! So His "house" essentially was going to be destroyed...how would this look?  This would be like Mecca being destroyed today along with the Kaaba!  Can you imagine?   Did God not care about His reputation among the nations? among His own people?  Was disciplining His people of more importance to Him than how He looked to surrounding nations?  What does this say - if anything - about God and His ideas of relationship and parenting His children?

Do you know people right now who claim to be the people of God? Whether they designate themselves as followers of Christ, God's chosen people, submitters to Allah, people of the Book, covenant people -- whatever they choose to say regarding themselves.  Essentially they believe themselves to know the Truth that will lead them to salvation -- even if they aren't assured of it, they have pretty high hopes that they are following the correct path to God.

OK, got someone in mind? Maybe it's me or you or both of us. Anyway...what happens when these people of God are punished by God? What happens when bad things happen to them when they have done nothing wrong? Do we wonder "aha, you probably aren't God's person after all...see what you are going through?"  Or do we think, "they must have made God angry and He is punishing them for their wrongdoing"? 

I guess I'm wondering what people of God think when bad things happen to them as individuals or collectively to their people.  And what about those who are outside of that people group -- do they mock, wondering why Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, I AM has forsaken the ones who are supposedly His?  Or do we think their god must be weak because he can't even care for his own...see the earthquakes that hit them?  see the famine, disease, unrest among the people? Surely this is not how the True God's people would act. Surely this is not what The Chosen would have to experience.

Does God put Himself into a position to look "puny" or weak when bad things happen in the world or to those who truly are in relationship/good standing/following Him? If so, why would He do this?

What do you think? 


Anonymous said...

I can assure you that the minions of Satan and those in heaven would never think God is making himself look puny. Jesus Christ while on Earth cast out many demons. He "looked" puny to our eyes as "just" a man, but if you recall, the demons begged him not to send them into hell. Jesus sent them into pigs for whatever reason. I am pretty sure you don't beg a puny insignificant person for mercy. God only looks puny to us humans. We seem to have trouble understanding his greatness and power with our finite minds.

God is Love. God is not puny nor does he make himself appear that way. God is not tempted by vanity and does not have to prove himself. He demonstrated his love for us through Jesus Christ.

David T. said...

If God looks weak, it is because of the arrogance of the man or woman who see Him as such.

The first three OT commandnments are pretty clear about how God's creation should look at Him. #1: Have no other gods, #2:Do not make nor bow down to other images, #3: Don't use My name in vain.

Continue on through the prophets and, if looking weak were part of God's plan, He would have revealed it and the prophets would have disclosed it. The Bible is very candid, showing both the victories (good) and the defeats (bad) of his people.

Enter Jesus and the summation of the commandments into two. The first requires that we devote our entire heart, mind, body, and strength to God. This leaves no room, in God's plan, for man to look upon him as weak.

elizabeth taylor said...

Hi Susanne,

Interesting Thoughts!
The Psalms are full of this kind of working out our understanding of God.

This is an applicable verse:

1 Corinthians 1:27 (New International Version)
27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

I think of Job, also. His friends said that God was against him and he was suffering for wrong-doing.

So I guess it ends up being a "faith" thing.
God will not be accountable to man or explain himself to humans.
The things He does sometimes fail to make sense to us.

I skimmed your post. Was the OT story about how the Ark of the Covenant was captured in there?
Remember how the Israelites thought they could not be defeated because they had "the ark". It appears as though they had made an idol out of the Ark of the Covenant!

God caused them to lose it to the Philistines who put it in their temple but it was a suffering curse for them, so they gave it back. God was still revealing his power and sovereignty through the loss, even to the Philistines.

God controls history and he cares about the Egyptians, Philistines, Ninevites, Babylonians, etc knowing him He reveals himself to them too. Eg - During the plagues he says to Pharoah "By this you will know that I am the Lord".
He reveals himself to Belshazaar by sending Daniel to interpret his dream. Rahab had heard of him and changed sides before the battle of Jericho and on and on it goes.

As the first poster said, the Bible doesn't refer to it as God making himself look puny, but humbling himself -- even to death on a cross (our wonderful Jesus, of course)

Hope you are well.

P.S. Did you see my comments over on Carl's blog? Hope I didn't overdo it!

Lat said...

I think what all this means is about giving hope and life after destruction or suffering.I don't believe this world is meant to be a paradise.maybe for some, but a place for us to find our way back to God.So all these things you mention occur so as to polish the rust in our hearts,so to speak.In other words God is being Gracious rather than weak.

BloggerK said...

Very interesting that good old Suzy posted this yesterday. Today's service was on suffering (Spiritually). Refer to Psalms 32, Romans 8:22-23, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, and Revelation 12:9-11,

In summary Psalm 32 speaks of those that hold their pain (addictions) internally and how their bones grow old and their life is not fulfilling (unhappy). If we turn back to God, as a child to a Parent when injured, he is there to mend our wounds and help us know what went wrong and what path we should take. This turning to God must be done quickly or as pointed out in Psalm 32:6 the sin may overcome you.

Romans 8 - All of creation groans with pains, even Christians. We know as Christians, however that we have redemption through Christ and this is but temporary and we have hope for the eternal future.

2 Corinthians - God is the father of all mercies and the God of all comfort. We are told that as Christians we are to comfort those as Christ has given us comfort in our time of need. This is why suffering happens on this planet. Suffering is meant by Satan to drive us from God, to blame him when things go wrong. In this passage it is clear that God has turned this evil to a mandate that those that follow Christ help to comfort all that need it.

Suffering is a result of sin, sin is simply put the willful act of of selfish behavior. The wages of sin is death. Only Jesus Christ has paid the debt (death) for our sins and only he can cleanse us.

There is more good news!

Revelation 12 - The accuser (Satan) will be cast down and defeated in our lives by the following:
1. The blood of Jesus - this has been done for us. Best news all day I guarantee you!
2. The word of our testimony - comforting others through sharing our struggles and not hiding them.

This will do two things:
1. It will help us grow beyond where we are now in Christ. It releases us from Satan's grip of shame, guilt.
2. It gives great comfort to others as they know God and man both care! They are special. They are unique. They are wanted.

Any thoughts?

Suroor said...

My pastor once said, "imagine a world without suffering, pain or death ... now wonder why would you need to crave for Heaven." I think the answer lies there somewhere although I blame the mechanics of the Universe rather than God for the suffering.

Also agree with Lat's comment.

Lat said...

Suroor has post a very good statement that needs to be questioned.

"imagine a world without suffering, pain or death ... now wonder why would you need to crave for Heaven."

I believe God needs to be the central focus for us not our joys and sorrows.

Susanne said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment! I agree that God isn't weak or puny and you gave good examples about the demons begging for mercy. I really don't know what I was getting at in this post just that the sentence from the book made me think along these lines. I was wondering if God "needed" (wanted) to reassure His people that He was still in control. I actually find it loving of Him to be concerned with their reactions to the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple. I think this post made me consider how loving and "parental" God is --- He disciplines even when it hurts because good parents do this out of love and concern and care for their children. I always stress that God is more concerned with relationship than dead rituals/religion so this is just another example to me of relationship. I appreciate what you shared!

Susanne said...

David T., thanks for your comment and welcome! Nice to see you over here. :)

I really liked this:

"The Bible is very candid, showing both the victories (good) and the defeats (bad) of his people."

I've always appreciated that the Bible didn't white-wash everything to make it look like the Israelites were always perfect, their prophets and kings weren't sinners and the fact that - as you said - both the victories and defeats were recorded. I think of Joshua's group who had just won a huge victory yet they were unable to defeat the smaller Ai due to a disobedient one in the camp. Lots of examples really. Thanks much for what you shared!

Susanne said...

Elizabeth, welcome! Such a nice treat to see you! I really enjoyed what you had to say. I've always appreciated the Psalms and how the authors write about their musings about God. Your comment reminded me of Isaiah and the verses about God's thoughts and ways being higher than our own. I often keep this in remembrance when my mind wants to make sense of God and what He allows, but falls short and cannot. :)

Oooh, I love the example you shared about the Ark of the Covenant. Indeed, the Israelites seemed to think of it as a lucky charm, huh? Great reminder of how God worked in other nations. I love that He didn't only care for the Israelites, but reached out to other nations...even when some Jews didn't like it. (JONAH!)

" but humbling himself -- even to death on a cross (our wonderful Jesus, of course)"

Ah, Jesus. Love that verse. :)

Yes, I enjoyed talking to you at Carl's blog. No, you didn't overdo it at all! I thought you might be tired of me so I just left it at that. :) I do hope you get to take a trip to Syria sometime. I'd love for you to meet some of the wonderful people we met. (You can find them on my blog at the top right of the home page.) They were super. I want to go back one day!

Thanks for your wonderful comment!

Susanne said...

Lat, I really loved this:

".So all these things you mention occur so as to polish the rust in our hearts,so to speak.In other words God is being Gracious rather than weak."

We often talk about being purified by fire so we can come out like gold. Also Jeremiah talks about our being clay in the hands of the Potter. The Potter molds and chips and makes us into vessels of honor. Your comment reminded me of this. Really love what you said about God being gracious rather than weak. Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Blogger K, "any thoughts?"

You sure did take good notes today! Ha! Or should I say you sound like a preacher? :) Really good stuff you shared. Thank you for sharing the causes of suffering, the Christian's role to comfort others and also the good news!

I really like this at the end:

"2. The word of our testimony - comforting others through sharing our struggles and not hiding them.

This will do two things:
1. It will help us grow beyond where we are now in Christ. It releases us from Satan's grip of shame, guilt."

I like this, but I struggle with it. I may seem to talk a lot at times especially by writing, but I don't easily share my struggles. I remember a friend years ago identified my pride in this area. I think she was right, but I'm still not one to open up and share easily. I'd rather deal with others' pains. I remember when Brian told us many months ago that the biblical prescription is to confess our faults to one another..something most of us don't like to do (often for good reason- gossipers). I recall how that sermon was really good and convicting. It was based on James 5, I think. Anyway....thanks much for your comment. I am glad you shared all that here!

Susanne said...

Suroor, that's a great thought. I think sometimes we get caught up enough in this world and its "stuff" so imagine if the world were perfect, we'd never want to leave! Great thought - thanks!

Lat, "I believe God needs to be the central focus for us not our joys and sorrows."

Amen! My pastor often reminds us of this. He said it's great when we can focus on God to the extent that no matter what you go through in life, you have His peace, His joy, His strength because you realize He is right there with you. I guess for someone who likes to visualize things, I could imagine walking side by side with God, fellowshiping along the way, in that relationship I always talk about. Then no matter if we walked through rough parts of town, beautiful meadows, raging streams or climbed up mountains, I would just be in sheer delight because I was going through those places with One who loves me. Wow, I need to keep that image in mind more often.

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I enjoyed them very much!

Amber said...

That whole, 'this'll hurt me more than it hurts you' bit? I never fell for that as a kid. I don't think they *enjoyed* having to punish me, but it didn't hurt them at all. It was merely a necessity.

As for God making Himself look weak in front of the other nations, I think it's rather more that it didn't matter what the other nations thought of Him. His relationship, at that point, was primarily with the Jewish people. (I say primarily because since He's God, everyone really belongs to Him. But He was interacting very specifically with the Jewish nation.) It only mattered how they perceived His actions. That they knew that He was all powerful and supreme, and that what befell them was corrective, and for their own good, and from Him.

Susanne said...

Amber, I'm actually trying to remember if my parents said that "this'll hurt me more..." stuff or if I just read it in books. I'm thinking the latter as they really aren't much into all the cliches. :)

I agree that God was working primarily with the Jewish nation at that time. This is why I think He let THEM know by their prophets. It didn't matter if the heathen nations thought otherwise. Good point. You put it much more concisely than I.