Monday, February 22, 2010

The Absurdity of Doubting God's Love

Reading: Deuteronomy 1, or Romans 8  
You grumbled in your tents and said, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. (Deuteronomy 1:27)
Do you ever wonder, “How in the world, after the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt in the miraculous way He did, rescuing them from slavery, led them through the desert with a cloud by day and fire by night, could they arrive at the promise land and think, 'God did all this because he hates us.'?” If God did all that, surely He loved them, and surely He would finish the job. After all, He had already done the hardest part!
But they grumbled—many translations use the word murmured, which is a bit more graphic sounding. What was this murmuring? It wasn't that they disagreed with God's description of the land to which He had brought them. Remember, they were being promised a land flowing with milk and honey which they had never seen. They had to travel there by faith. And indeed, after exploring the land for 40 days the report confirmed, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” (Num. 13:27)
So what was their complaint?
"We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are....The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size....We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." (Numbers 13:31-33)
Their complaint was all about their inability. But really, underneath it all, it was about God's lack of love for them. (See Deuteronomy 1:27 above). Ultimately, they had to believe that either God was not able, or God was not willing—i.e. He did not love them. While it certainly could have been a combination of both of these that caused them to focus on their own inability, the text focuses us on the latter. In effect they were saying, “God hates us, so He won't help us and we are too small to do this on our own.”
After all they had experienced of God's deliverance, doesn't this seem absurd? Maybe, but don't we do the same thing many times? How often have you said, or heard, “I know God saved me from all my sin (committed before I was saved), but I just can't overcome this temptation, or this sin.” Or, maybe it comes when we face serious trials in life and creeping up inside of us is the thought, “Is this a sign that God has forsaken me, that He does not love me or is mad at me?” Once we get this view of God, all we are left with to trust in is ourselves. So we quickly move to, “I can't do it...I'm too small... It is destroying me and I can't stop it.” Once we dismiss God's ability or love we can only turn to ourselves and that will fail every time.
Yet, this line of thinking is equally absurd for us. I know, we haven't been brought out of slavery in Egypt, and didn't travel across a desert with a cloud and fire leading the way. However, we have something even more significant.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
The logic is the same as that applied above. If God gave His Son to die for you, to bear the wrath you deserved for your sin, what else would He withhold from you? If a thief came to my house and asked for all my valuables—my money, jewelry, etc.—I wouldn't say, “No, please just take my kids, I need my stuff.” Of course not. Rather, I might say, “Take anything you want, just don't hurt my family.” Why? Because nothing is more valuable to me than my family. God gave His most valuable treasure already for you and me. Paul's logic is simple and profound, “What would He withhold?” And the obvious answer is, “Nothing.”
This is confirmed by what precedes and what follows this verse in Romans. What precedes it is Paul's talk about the difficult trials of life that believer's endure.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.... What, then, shall we say in response to this? (Romans 8:28, 31)
All the giants in your life, the difficulties that stand between you and the heavenly reward, your inheritance, are not signs that God has stopped loving you. Rather God is even working through those for your good.
Again what follows also confirms it.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Let us not grumble in the midst of our trials, in the midst of the giants we face. Let us not doubt the love of the One Who gave His Son for us. If we doubt His love we are left only to trust in ourselves. So if you find yourself saying, “I am not able to overcome this temptation,” or, “I am not able to endure this trial,” get your attention off yourself and onto the One who did more than bring you out of Egypt, reminding yourself, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for me—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give me whatever is needed in this trial or temptation?”
I initially titled this devotion, “The absurdity of murmuring,” however, I changed it to, “The absurdity of doubting God's love,” because when we murmur or complain, what we are really doing is doubting God's love for us in that circumstance we find ourselves in.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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