August 7, 2014

God reveals Himself

There is an ongoing debate about the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. I’ve heard the clashes and shudder. If the Bible is not God’s Word and reliable then I have no anchor. I am left to my own thinking regarding who God is, never mind how to make choices and behave.

What prompts this topic is a recent encounter with some who listen to the air for God’s direction. If they can line what they hear up with Scripture, I have little problem with what they do. However, the knowledge I have of my own deceitful heart says I could hear a voice telling me to act contrary to God’s Word and be willing to do it because it appeals to my sin nature.

Today’s devotional shows the danger of making assumptions about God. Paul was teaching and sharing the Gospel in Ephesians, a city known for magic arts and sorcery. The Bible says, “God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

No doubt those on the receiving end were delighted to see that the power of God was greater than the power of sickness and evil forces. However, some “itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits.” They did not have a saving faith in Jesus, but wanted the power Paul had. This was a sinful desire, not a command from God and it led to disaster for these exorcists.

They said to those troubled by evil spirits, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” At this, the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them. He “mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”

God did use this disaster for good. As the people of Ephesus heard what happened, “fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:8–20)

These exorcists discovered that you cannot treat lightly the name of Jesus Christ, nor can anyone assume to do whatever they want in His name. In this situation, He used both release from bondage AND fear to accomplish great things.

I would not have chosen fear, but realize God is not a friendly genie in a bottle. He can direct my imagination, but I cannot manipulate Him. I might want a long-haired buddy who has one arm around me and the other digging me a treat from His cookie jar, but instead must rely on His revelation of Himself from His Word. My imagination is not always trustworthy.

One example is that people struggle to align the God of the Old Testament with the God in the New. How can He be filled with wrath at sin, but also loving? Is it the same God? Yet parents know this seeming dichotomy. Loving their children means saying no, even punishing rebellion and bratty behavior. Love wants them to grow up and become responsible adults who do not selfishly live as they please.

So it is with the love of God. For our Father, sin is so serious and His love is so strong that He sent His Son to die for it. He reveals His total character by His actions, even if those actions take me out of my comfort zone. I don’t like the idea that He uses fear, but He does . . .  

Genesis 35:5 tells of Jacob traveling and “a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.” (Genesis 35:5) God will protect His people using terror!

Joshua 2 tells of Joshua sending two men to check out the land God promised them. They hid on the Rahab’s roof to avoid capture and she told them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Again, God accomplished His will using fear!

2 Chronicles 17 describes the king sending priests to teach in His people using the Book of the Law of the Lord. “They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.” Again, God uses fear to accomplish His purposes.

My conclusion? Life would be more comfortable if I could imagine nice, agreeable thoughts about this incredible God and not have to measure them against Scripture.

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