We laugh at the people in the Bible who didn’t believe and obey God. If we had lived back then, we would have been so much different than they were, we say. They said the same thing. In Matthew 23: 29, 30, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” “We wouldn’t have killed the prophets, we would have listened…,” they said, and yet they cried out for Jesus, the very Son of God, to be crucified!
Are we the same? Do we say that we would not “have been partakers with them” and then turn around and do it? I think that’s exactly what we say…and then we do worse.
God delivered the Israelites from the land of Egypt. He drew them out from bondage unto Himself and delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea so that they could escape on dry land. He then killed their pursuers when He allowed the waters to cave in on them. Yet, these very same people turned around and worshipped a golden calf instead of the true and living God. God had manifested His power before them in so very many ways and yet they departed from Him to worship an idol. Looking at them, we might shake our heads in disbelief and say, “How could they turn to a false god, thinking it could satisfy them?” We would never be satisfied with a golden calf. We would never doubt God…not us. But, is that true? How do we live today? What do we do? We live on the other side of the cross and we’ve heard the Gospel. We know the truth…and yet, we, too, turn away. Enticed by the world, we “worship” at the altar of self-fulfillment, materialism and fun. We turn on our one-eyed idol and bow before it at night. Turning a blind eye to God’s commands on righteousness, we welcome blasphemers, adulterers and child-molesters into our homes…all in the name of “entertainment.” In our daily lives, we specialize in bending and breaking God’s laws…ignoring His teachings on self-denial, modesty, honoring our parents, servant hood, growing in holiness…and yet, we go to church on Sunday and blaspheme God by pretending to worship Him…while our hands, our minds, our lives are yet unclean.
What about Doubting Thomas? We laugh at his expense. Yes, he doubted that a dead Man was now alive…but he wanted to believe. When shown convincing evidence that his Lord, whom he knew had died, was standing before Him alive, he bowed down and worshipped Jesus. How blind he was to doubt, we say. We would have believed right off. We wouldn’t have doubted Jesus…not once. But…does our faith really measure up? Have we never doubted God? Or, is it closer to the truth that, not only do we doubt God, but that we live in a pattern of consistent doubt? God tells us through His holy Word to believe that He is faithful and can provide what we need and yet we give into anxiety and worry. We doubt that God was telling us the truth when He said that He created everything in six days. We doubt that He really meant “me” when He said, “Go ye.” We doubt that His ways will really work in our more enlightened time so we listen to pop-psychologists and follow the guidance of Hollywood.
Then there’s Peter. He couldn’t walk on water for long because he took his eyes off of Jesus, stupid man. If we were given the chance to walk on water, we would never take our eyes off of God. We would walk on bold and steady…yet, do we? Aren’t we exactly like Peter? No, unfortunately, we are much, much worse than him. Peter sunk beneath the waves… but he also reached out to Jesus to save him…and accepted His rebuke. Later, Peter denied Jesus but then he wept bitter tears over his failure to stand up for his Lord. He repented and God forgave him. What do we do? We take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on ourselves anytime we say, “But, I want this…” or “I know God says that, but…” or “I simply don’t have time…to read the Bible…pray…go to church.” When we fail to delve deeply into God’s Word and weep before Him in prayer, our eyes are firmly and squarely on us rather than on Him. When we fail to consider God’s power when waves are crashing around us, we are trusting in our own abilities rather than in His. And, just like Peter, we will sink. Question is, will we rise and accept rebuke…just like Peter?
What about the disciples as a group? How very slow they were to understand Jesus’ teachings…how very quickly they fled when their Lord needed them in His darkest hour. We would never fail Jesus like that. If we could just have lived back then, we would have drank in every word Jesus spoke to us. We would have bowed in prayer, desperate to understand, to learn, to grow. Jesus certainly could have counted on us….But can He count on us today? Our churches are feminized because men fail to be men. Our families are falling apart because we are self-centered rather than God-centered. Our lives are wastelands of devotion to worldly things, people and ways that lead us to destruction yet we hold on with the tenacity of a bulldog. Jesus can count on us? Hardly.
What about the Jews of Jesus time? They followed Him when He served their needs and rejected Him when His teaching became…too hard…too demanding…when He no longer filled their bellies. Others, expecting a powerful, physical kingdom, couldn’t accept that a humble Carpenter could be the long-awaited answer to their prayers so they rejected Him. Even His own family (with the exception of Mary) rejected Him. His brothers and sisters did not believe that He was the Messiah…until after His resurrection. What about us? We want God to serve us…rather than us serving Him. We give lip service to our obedience to Him but let our stand for Him threaten our finances, our family peace, our nice “stuff” and what do we do? We turn away. We want a “god” who is interested in us and what makes us happy so we reject the real God–a God Who is more interested in our holiness than He will ever be in our happiness. The real God doesn’t need us–He is complete in Himself. Isn’t it enough, however, that He wants us? That He sacrificed His only Son for us–so we could be with Him. Apparently not…for, like the Jews of old, we find that He isn’t pleasing to us as He is. He is harsh. He is demanding. He doesn’t fit into our ideals of what a “God” should be, so we reject Him.
How about Judas? All those years with Jesus and yet he sold Him for 30 pieces of silver! Selling the Lord! Can you imagine such a thing? We absolutely, positively, would never even think of doing that! Torture us and we will be faithful to Him. Take everything from us and we will not sell Him out…. What? What was that? Go to the beach? Great, just a minute, let me grab my bikini….Did you see that show last night? Wasn’t it cool? Yeah, I know it has homosexual characters but I just over look that kind of stuff. I mean, come on, everybody watches it….Yeah, I missed church last Sunday, but it was my only day off and I really needed to sleep….No, not us, we would never sell Jesus out….
What about the Jews in the crowd who demanded Jesus’ crucifixion? A few days before these same people had been praising God and welcoming Jesus as their King. “Hosanna” they cried and laid down palm branches to welcome Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy…how could they then turn around and demand His crucifixion? How could they betray Him like that? We would have been there defending Him, encouraging Him, fighting for Him…but would we have? Do we defend Him today? Do we stand up for the absolute truth of God’s Word…today? Do we rebuke those who would blaspheme God’s holy name? Do we stand up for the uncomfortable truths of the Bible? Do you proclaim the name of Jesus–not just “God” which is still politically correct (God can, after all, be many things to many people) but the name of Jesus Christ Himself? Do you name it? Do we stand up for it? Are we outraged when it is used as a curse or a by-word? Maybe Jesus can’t count on us, after all.
I wonder if Jesus ever laughs at us for our audacity? Or if He just sadly shakes His head at our blindness? Perhaps He cries over us, weeping at our self-centeredness, at our failure to understand that not only would we have abandoned Him had we lived then but we have already abandoned Him here and now.
God talks to us through His Word and we don’t bother to listen. God is telling us to take the lost for Him and we say, “O God, it’s too hard or send somebody else or we don‘t have the time or resources.” He tells us to wait before Him in prayer for our families and our churches and we turn away to our own golden calves: our entertainment, our careers, our fashion, our money, our families and yet we wonder why our children are leaving the church in unprecedented numbers. He tells us to “Go daily searching the Scriptures” yet Biblical literacy is falling at alarming rates and our churches are weak and lukewarm… and are more social clubs than houses of worship. God tells us to trust Him but as soon as something bad happens we accuse Him of non-faithfulness. “Where was God?” we say. “Why didn’t He care, why didn’t He see?” We accuse Him without cause and then we wonder where He went.
We fail to look at the lessons of spiritual history…we fail to learn. We don’t worship the true and living God. We worship ourselves and whatever pleases us at the moment. We don’t want to go to heaven because God is there…we want to go there to escape pain and to be comfortable. We want a Savior from hell…not a Lord over our lives. We claim His name as long as it is comfortable but as soon as it costs us something or infringes on our “Christian liberty” (another phrase for “freedom to sin”), we abandon Jesus…just like the very ones we laugh at.