It may be difficult for us to appreciate just how seriously God takes our response to His Word. But doubting its sincerity, accuracy, or veracity is an affront to our holy and perfect God. Most of us who know the Lord would probably deny that we qualify for that sort of designation. But it is all too easy for us explain away or even to deny what is occurring in our hearts and minds. Consider the following historical account from the Word of God regarding an incident that happened during the reign of King Ahab of Israel.
God commissioned a man to inform Ahab that his sin of not destroying Ben-hadad, king of Aram and an incorrigible enemy of both Israel and Israel’s God, would cost him his life. In order to get close enough to Ahab to declare God’s message, he needed to resort to an unusual device. He intended to present himself to the king as a soldier who had been recently wounded in battle. He needed help in order to accomplish that ruse. As Scripture recounts: “a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Lord, ‘Please strike me [i.e., so that he would actually be wounded].’ But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, ‘Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.’ And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him" (1 Ki. 20:35, 36).
If the same standard were applied to us today with respect to our obedience to the Word of God, I have a feeling there would be a lot of fat lions and a lot of empty churches. Our polite sensibilities may be bruised by this account. But the truth is that God does not apologize for this act, cover it up, or explain it away. It stands as a stark testament to God’s reverence for His own Word and of how He expects us to respond to it. It brings us face-to-face with our own sins of unbelief and disobedience, our casual disregard for His Word, our careless indifference to His commands. Under the conditions expressed above, had God not extended mercy to me, I would have been dead long ago, and I suspect the same might be said of you. But let us not be deceived: the fact that God is a God of infinite grace and mercy does not erase the fact that disobeying His Word is a capital offense. And it makes no difference how unreasonable or unkind by our measure that God’s requirements are. In fact, we should not be surprised if God’s will often makes no sense to our natural minds. After all, He is infinite, and we are finite. He is altogether holy, and righteous, and good. We are not, and our understanding of those attributes is marred by depravity and sin. How carelessly we respond to God’s commands; how casually we disobey. Yet it is our obedience or lack thereof that exhibits the nature of our faith in God’s Word and our reverence for who He is.
But it’s not just our lack of obedience to God’s exhortations that reveals our lack of faith in and reverence for God’s Word. It’s also our failure to believe and rest in the promises of God. Although it is crucial that we understand God’s promises in context and not expand them beyond what God means (e.g., erroneously believing that we can succeed at any desirable endeavor by taking out of context and misapplying the promise that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” [Phil. 4:13]), in some ways it is more egregious that we arbitrarily limit God’s promises by what we can imagine with our finite minds and fail to give God’s infinite power and unlimited love their just due. As surely as we should believe and obey His precepts, we should believe and claim His promises. They are not given to us as mere window-dressing. They are not given to tantalize us. Rather, they are given that we might believe them. And when we believe them—not presumptuously or arrogantly—in simple faith acknowledging who God is, we honor Him. God loves those who take Him at His Word. No fewer than three times God says that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jam. 2:23). Does that sound as if God wants us to believe His promises and reap the blessings of their fulfillment in our lives? The nature of our lives—whether blessed or judged, worthwhile or worthless, honorable or dishonorable—hinges on our attitude toward and response to God’s Word. Should we not take His Word as seriously as God does?
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