Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Current Study: People Who Made a Difference
Today’s Topic: Who Is God?
Today’s Scripture: 1 Samuel 15:1-2 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.’”
If you could ask one question to God right now with the assurance that He would answer it, what would it be? I could not begin to list all of the things I’ve said I wanted to ask Him when I see Him someday. At the time they seemed super important, but now not so much. But if I could ask one question today, knowing He would fully answer it, I would boil all of the other questions down to this – “Who are you?” I know, that sounds like I don’t know Him at all. That’s not the case. But I think we have all been far too satisfied with a small understanding of a great God. I believe that the more we know Him, the fewer questions we will have to ask.
For example, Samuel comes to King Saul to fill him in on God’s plans. God is going to bring justice to Israel by punishing those who stood in their way during God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. In the process of punishing the Amalekites, God instructs Saul to totally annihilate those people and all of their possessions. That sounds harsh. That looks like injustice. That makes me want to ask God some questions. But all of those questions would be motivated by a need to humanize God rather than exalt Him.
You see, many of the questions we want to ask God are based on our need to contextualize Him. As finite beings, we are incapable of fully comprehending the infinite. But our fleshly pride demands that we understand. The only way we can try to resolve this paradox is to humanize God – to bring Him into the context of human reason. We must be able to figure out why God does what He does and explain it so that it not only makes sense but provides a benefit to us.
Probably the biggest way we humanize God is by choosing to believe that God is for our benefit. When God’s will is to enforce perfect justice, as in the case of the Amalekites, our emotions aren’t prepared to deal with the killing of women and children. So to ease our pain we would rather see His love and mercy. When God chooses grace and mercy, and let’s someone off the hook who has hurt us, we want justice. It becomes very obvious in the questions we ask that we want God to serve our best interests. Not only that, but then we reserve the right to define what’s best for us. That way everything can fit into the neat and explainable box we call life.
That’s what King Saul did. Rather than destroy everyone and everything as God had commanded, he decided he would choose what was best and good. Here’s how the story reads – But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Saul reserved the right to decide for himself what was good. He chose to have a small view of God that fit into his neat and explainable box. He believed that God was for his benefit.
This is a perfect picture of what God wants each of us to do with any sin in our lives. Sin waylays us from serving God, and must be completely eliminated. Our emotions will tell us that there are elements of the sin that are not so bad. Some may even benefit us for the moment. But to believe such a lie is to have a false view of God. He is perfectly sinless, and perfectly just in destroying it all. He has asked us to do the same. The writer of Hebrews challenges us this way. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
God chose to punish the people who hindered His plan for His people. They were to be totally eliminated. God’s will is for us to do the same with every sin in our lives, because every sin hinders us from becoming and accomplishing all that God has planned for us. But that is only possible if we choose to fix our eyes on Him. God is not for our benefit – we are for His. Not that God needs us to exist – He doesn’t. He is self-existent. But He created us for His own glory, not for ours. His glory is accomplished when suffering sinful people become surrendered sacrificial people who serve Him not themselves. His glory is exalted above the earth when His good is poured out into the lives of people who let Him define good. His glory is more clearly seen in the lives of people who are being transformed into His likeness, not the likeness of the world. The Apostle Paul said, “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Our goal in life is not to use God to make our lives better. Our purpose in living, since coming to Christ for salvation, is to surrender to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we reflect the likeness of Jesus Christ in ever-increasing glory. That process starts by asking the right question. “God, who are you?” Then, as God begins to answer that question, all the other questions will disappear.