The Narrow-Minded God8 min read
Believers are facing a tremendous battle in Western culture, namely over tolerance, relativism, and subjectivity. The media, Hollywood, mainstream “Christianity,” education, and any other outlet of information all bombard us with the message that respect toward every belief is the highest virtue. We know in our minds that this doesn’t align with reality, but with such a massive force of influence this idea cannot but affect our subconscious and our “comfort zone” of thought. Though we may not agree with the concept, we easily become more comfortable with it as it becomes more common in our ears. Thus, on a large scale our view of God has become increasingly dull and vague; this has led to a caricature of God which portrays Him as open-minded to our ideas, making His Word a mere suggestion book. God, however, is not open-minded. To be open-minded would imply His wisdom is not absolute, as if He needed help in His rule. God is truth. When God speaks, He speaks absolute truth with unquestioned authority. His Word stands. And while in His grace He may make provision for sin, He will never make allowance for it or any departure from His holy Word. Scripture has several lessons that point us to this attribute of God, that is, His narrow-mindedness when He speaks. May they serve as a warning to us, that we might learn once again to cherish and tremble before every word that proceeds from God’s mouth.
Compromise – Pharaoh’s Offers to Israel
In Exodus chapters 8 and 10, Israel is winding up for departure from Egypt. Moses tells Pharaoh his plan to travel a three-day journey into the wilderness to sacrifice unto God. To this plan, Pharaoh offers his input and seeks a compromise. His first compromise is this: “Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.” He had a majority of the original plan still intact: should this not have been good enough? Not in the least. Moses responds without wavering and demands that a three-day journey be taken, as God would command them. Pharaoh, in chapter 10, offers another compromise: “Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.” He was even closer to the original plan this time, yet Moses responds, “Not one hoof shall be left behind.” God had a purpose for every detail of his command.
Obedience is not obedience unless it is complete. This is what Saul learned when he failed to kill Agag, even though he killed the rest of the Amalekites. God said to kill every Amalekite; when only one was left, it was as good as full disobedience. Do we believe in a “99-percent” God Who is satisfied with our estimate of “good enough”? It makes no difference whether we obey 1 percent or 99: failure to obey is disobedience, nothing less. The moment we choose which parts of God’s Word we fulfill (or what parts are more/less important), we become idolaters, setting ourselves up as the ultimate arbiters of what God has already determined. God is One of detail and of authority; His commands are neither frivolous nor optional, but rather are unified and mandatory. When God speaks, is that enough for us?
Carelessness – Uzzah and the Ark
In 1 Chronicles 13, we are given a classic example of pragmatism – the idea that the end justifies the means. In this chapter, David had an idea – a commendable one at that. He wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to its rightful place. He had a good motive. Sadly, that was where the good in this chapter ended. From there, David consulted first with men (rather than the Lord). Then, having mere men as the organizers, a brand new cart was used to carry the Ark, even though Levites were to carry it with poles. The digression only goes further, though: when the cart shifted, a man named Uzzah reached to touch the Ark to preserve it from falling. God did not hesitate to kill Uzzah for touching what God said no man could touch. God cared nothing for his “good” intentions. Uzzah disobeyed and reaped the consequences. Just like everyone else in this chapter, Uzzah was careless about handling the things of God. It didn’t matter that David had a good goal in mind. It didn’t matter that the cart was new or efficient. It didn’t matter that Uzzah had the Ark’s best interest in mind when he touched it. God’s Word was violated, and that voided all merits of heartfelt zeal for the Ark.
Even in conservative evangelical circles, the notion that God only cares about intentions has been accepted. If God’s Word is added to or taken from, it doesn’t matter as long as there are good intentions behind the whole thing. It doesn’t matter who we associate with, what we look like, who we look up to, or what we practice corporately – as long as we all love Jesus. Yet the Lord said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” May we never be careless in how we accomplish our zeal for God. There is no place for sloppy theology and sloppy practices in handling God’s things. Motives are not enough: God delights in both motives and obedience. When God speaks, is that enough for us?
Convenience – Jeroboam and the Calves
Not only does compromise and carelessness contradict God’s nature, but modifying God’s Word for our convenience mocks God’s nature. Jeroboam and the man who confronted him are perfect examples of this. In 1 Kings 12, with Israel divided into north and south, we find Jeroboam (from the Northern Kingdom) feeling threatened by the fact that Rehoboam (from the Southern Kingdom) had Israel’s center of worship in his territory. Thus Jeroboam decided to change the God-ordained place of worship and established two centers, each at which he placed a golden calf. One center was in Dan, and the other was in Bethel. What excuse did he give the people? “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.” Convenience was obviously his excuse. But he went further and established a priesthood outside the tribe of Levi. This gave him more options, no doubt, meaning convenience was again at the root of his excuse.
The story goes further, sadly, with the very man of God who spoke against Jeroboam. In chapter 13 we find a nameless messenger declaring condemnation on the king. God had told this messenger not to eat or drink where he was going and neither to go back the same way he came. The first time he was offered a meal, he refused. The second time, being deceived, he yielded. That man of God died as a result. Just as with Jeroboam, the clear and authoritative Word of God was not enough for him. He acted based on what sounded good to him.
Both an outright idolater and an apparent man of God fell into the trap of conveniently following man’s wisdom. How sobering! We are certainly near the same danger. In a culture where mindless emotion rules, it can be easy just to do what feels good. It is easy to let convenience rule in our commitments. “When it works best for me I will serve God, but when there is an easier way that looks roughly the same as God’s command, I’ll take the easier way.” The true servant of God knows nothing of this thinking. Rather, he trembles at every word of the living God. This is what we must come to. We must answer the question before God, “When God speaks, is that enough for us?”
Counterfeits – Ahaz and His Altar
Finally, just as we have seen compromise, carelessness, and convenience, so counterfeits are a mockery of God’s authority. In 2 Kings 16, we find Ahaz and his counterfeit altar. God had His divinely-appointed altar described in the Law; it was clear what it was to be. But Ahaz, on a trip to Damascus, found a better altar in his opinion; and he commanded Urijah the priest to make a replica of it. When the replica was constructed, he replaced the God-given altar with his own. The conclusion? “The LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD.” (2 Ch. 28:19). To God, Ahaz’s sin was not even close to worship; rather, it was outright idolatry. A man-made version of a God-ordained practice ceases to have anything of God in it. When God gives us an obligation to fulfill, we are only obedient when we do it His way. God’s commands don’t exist for vague fulfillment. God has spoken exactly what He wants and the way He wants it done. This is the case with salvation. This is the case with the assembly. This is the case with Christian living. God ordained these things in and of themselves, yes; but He also ordained how these things were to function and appear. To add our own version of a God-given institution is simply to replace His Word with our own. When God speaks, is that enough for us?
In conclusion, may we ever recognize our narrow-minded God. May we never offer Him half-way obedience. May we never offer Him our own version of His desires. May we never offer Him good motives without good means. May we never obey only as far as it is convenient. Let us obey fully. Let us obey heartily. Let us obey, for He is God – a God Who holds all authority and a God Who tenderly gives us the strength to obey when we are willing. May it always be that when God speaks, it will be enough for us.