Once upon a time a perfect man walked the earth. He recruited to Himself some extremely imperfect followers. He was always feeding them humble pie, but somehow they habitually managed to conjure up arguments about “their own greatness.” In fact, they would often have debates with one another about which one of them was the greatest. I am no stranger to this inveterate way of life, and Someone recently asked me, “Shouldn’t the question rather be, ‘Who’s the worst?” This question is not aimed at false humility, or wallowing in worstness; the intention is to honestly evaluate ourselves in such a way so as to thwart our pride and feel our need.
Our pride is at its worst when we attempt to tell God what He can and cannot do.
Once there was a great city full of wicked people who told God that, “He had no jurisdiction over their lives.” So God sent a prophet to this city saying, “In 40 days your city will be overthrown!” The wicked people took this warning to heart, and they turned from their evil, audacious, attempts to govern God. Not only did they turn away from their noxious pride, but they also aimed their hope at a promise they perhaps didn’t even know about. The people of this city said to themselves, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” And that’s exactly what happened! God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, and God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it! It is unlikely that the people of this city knew of God’s pledge to His people (the community called by His name) to take notice of, forgive, and heal a specially loved collective who humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways …and whether the citizens of this city knew about that oath or not, it is nothing short of miraculous that they reacted to the divine declaration of destruction the way they did. Truly miraculous! A miracle is an explicit manifestation of God meddling, and there is simply no explanation for the contrite and holy combat of this group of people against their sin, other than the gracious interference of God. The people of this great city were singled-out by God for salvation, and the only legitimate thing to do is agree with His decision.
BUT …someone vehemently DOES NOT AGREE!
Whatever happened to that “pious” prophet? Where’s that preacher man who proclaimed the message of God’s wrath? The one who had studied the word of God more than anyone? The man who memorized the promises of God, and wrote volumes on “the topic” of The Marvelous Mercy of the Maker? …THAT GUY is extremely upset with God! That guy is pouting outside the city, refusing to enter the party, and rejecting the offer to rejoice with those relishing the mercy of God deep in their marrow.
This is strange, because the statutes and covenant of God have often been on this prophet’s lips. The “pious preacher” feels the sting of personal offense in this decision of God, and he does not find it pleasant in the least! God’s choice is to NOT condemn this nefarious people …and this synagogue-saturated/churchgoing man now desires nothing but to regard the resolve of God as if it were chaff, he is irked and irate with God’s choice, and he is ambitious to cast it to the wind. This extremely religious man harbors a deep determination to disagree with God, and his heart is committed to treacherously trying to thieve ultimate decision-making authority for himself. This “faithful follower” has chased after lovers so less wild than God, and is now acting like an adulterer (putting other gods before the only God). This prophet is asked by God, “Do you do well to be angry with My decision?” And the prophet answers, “Yes! I do well to be angry, angry enough to die!” Such an utterance is an acute manifestation of a man who gives his mouth free rein for evil (for what could be WORSE than brazen opposition to the preference and pleasure of God!?). This man’s tongue frames deceit – for he entrenches himself in a lie! God says that the people of the wicked city are now the siblings of this “zealous prophet,” and yet the “man of God” denies it and he settles his mind on nothing but accusing and speaking against his brothers …staunchly intent on slandering his own mother’s sons! These things the prophet does, and God WILL contradict him. The man thought that God was one like himself – he had insidiously convinced himself that he had succeeded in fashioning God in his own image – but now God rebukes the prophet and lays an indictment on him. The warning of destruction is now declared direct from God Himself, “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving (NOT arrogant anchored accusations) as his sacrifice glorifies Me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”