Insulting God

Over recent years a series of books has been written with the titles beginning, '101 ways to . . . ' these cover any number of topics from business through behaviour and into relationships. They all seek to promote a positive message that will encourage individuals to make the best of opportunities and friendships.

Within the Tenach is recorded, within its histories, what could be considered a negative version of the 101 ways. Throughout the pages God has made known '101 ways' men and women have insulted Him. This isn't meant for us to follow suit but to be warned and steer away from the consequences.

Various words are used to highlight the attitude of heart or the arrogance in action by which the Eternal was insulted. Being treated with contempt, loathing, being despised and reviled are descriptive words revealing how individuals or communities insulted God and His word.

There is something in the human make-up which enjoys insulting God. At times it may be unconscious in its manner and expression. This in itself is sad because it reveals how ignorant one has become to the person of the Lord, and His calling to return.

Adam of course sets the stage when he despised his Creator and friend. In disobeying the command "From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen.2:16) Adam insulted God by succumbing to Eve's insistence to taste it. In that moment, Adam valued his wife higher that the Lord God. Such an act on Adam's part was treasonable.

The awesome feature of this event is the grace of God. Judgement did take place but God covered him from its greater consequences. The death of an animal provided atonement. Without it God could have had no further dealings with him or his offspring. How wonderful is the Almighty! We insult Him. He is slow to respond. When He does, holiness demands judgement, grace provides a shelter. This is evident in the account of the Flood and the building of Noah's ark, recorded in Genesis chapter 6.

The account of Israel's redemption from Egypt and the journey to Mt. Horeb is stirring reading. However, the redeemed were still infected by Adam's disease. At the water barrier, with Pharaoh's vengeful army coming over the horizon, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob despised their deliverance and their Deliverer. "Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?'" (Exodus 14:11-12)

Unbelief and ingratitude surged up their collective throat as fear possessed them and made them forget the power of God. It's so easy to insult God and His redeeming, providential grace when the journey is rugged. We cannot throw stones at these people however for we too have done the same in our own circumstances.

God deals with His redeemed with extra-ordinary patience. Even a cursory glance in the Exodus account reveals this. The journey was tough. They became thirsty, hungry and dispirited. God watered and fed them. Still, they grumbled in and around Mt. Horeb. God, however, has a cut off point. Even then He doesn't act impulsively.

Grace may bow before justice but judgement is entreated by mercy. Those judged are offered the right of choice. Repentance allows mercy to soften or divert judgement. Being unrepentant leaves the person naked and unprotected from the full weight of the Lord's wrath. His honour, integrity and character have been slandered and trampled. He must act. To allow people to think they can dismiss their insults to God as trivial is to reduce Him to being morally anaemic and judicially inept. Patience is not condoning. It's giving space for repentance.

When Moses and Aaron initiated, under the Lord, the tabernacle form of worship, the sons of Aaron were ordained as priests after careful instruction. God was specific with the details. "Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer strange incense on it . . . " (Exodus 30:7-9)

Nadab and Abihu thought otherwise. They seemed to have imagined they could usurp their father's role and burn incense outside the holy place, away from the Altar of Incense and at a different hour than designated. Here is a flagrant, not fragrant, act of defiance. It was a gross insult to the Lord. "Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Leviticus 10:1-2)

Time and space preclude us from pursuing other records of insulting behaviour that people or nations have heaped upon the holy, eternal and glorious God. Behind all the insults and fuelling their ferocity are unbelief and self deification. We don't believe God means what He has said. We imagine that our preferences are as good as His commands, and our lifestyle, no matter how revolting, shouldn't offend Him. This is why people resist the recurring call to repent, humble themselves and walk in the ways of the Lord.

The problem we face once we recognize how insulting our imagination, attitude, and actions have been to God is – where can we hide? Adam and Eve tried the bushes. Our equivalent hiding places are just as innocuous. Unless God Himself provides a refuge and forgiveness to the repentant from impending judgement, we would be consumed along with our 'bushes and fig leaves.'

The issue God faced was how to provide the refuge and forgiveness out of grace while not violating justice. The love of God wove His answers to this dilemma throughout the Tenach. He made it plain in the Book of Genesis that the Seed of the woman would one day come – the Saviour of mankind. The Passover and Tabernacle sacrifices pointed beyond themselves. There was the expectation of another like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:14-19). To ignore Him would mean there was no room to manoeuvre. Across the centuries further insights to the Coming One became known. He was of the kingly line of David. He was called the Branch and the Messiah. But, how was He to answer the dilemma?

Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 when viewed together form the place of refuge. "He was wounded for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The rest of that passage reveals the One who became our Passover and hiding place.

Psalm 22 gives insight into the manner He suffered so as to construct for us an eternal judgement-proof shelter from the judgement of God. "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it has melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue clings to my jaws; you have brought me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. They look and stare at me. They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." (Psalm 22:14-18).

In no other could the prophetic insight of Psalm 69:9 reside: "Because zeal for your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me."

Therefore the greatest insult, the most monstrous act of ingratitude and the most frightful act of unbelief must surely be to despise and reject the One who came to be our refuge.

Who then can Scripture and history point to? Who is this One who fulfills what our repentant heart desires and the judgement of God requires? Yeshua the Messiah!

Isaiah sums up for us the way into the refuge and the result of making Yeshua our Saviour. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7).