Establishing a Willingness to Listen (11:2)

God proposes to set right and to keep right all that has gone wrong in the universe. This requires first that He win us back to trust and a willingness to listen. Once that has happened, he can heal the damage done. Forgiveness alone would not repair all the damage that has been caused by this breakdown of trust and trustworthiness. It also would not secure the universe and keep it safe for all eternity. Heaven will not be peopled with pardoned criminals, but rather with trusting and trustworthy saints who have new hearts and right spirits (Psa 51:10; Ezek 36:26-27).

Granting all that, what if we are not willing to listen to God’s generous offer? What about those who have been so influenced by Satan’s lies that they have turned away to other gods, or to no gods at all? Or, much more seriously, what about those who seek to worship the true God, but worship Him as arbitrary, vengeful, and severe? And then how about all the people who live between those two extremes? How can God reach all of them?

It is no wonder that in the biblical record we see God in many and various ways (Heb 1:1) trying to reach us where we are in this emergency. He speaks a language that we can understand, leading us no faster than we are able to follow (John 16:12). He runs grave risks of being misunderstood as He has sought to gain our attention and hold it long enough to tell us the truth about Himself. When we have been hard of hearing, God has raised His voice, as on Sinai (Exod 19:16-21). When we were irreverent, He shook the ground beneath our feet (Exo 19:18) or even sent she-bears (1 Kgs 2:24), as in the days of Elisha. He also brought fire from heaven down on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:38-39).

So many of the stories in the Bible illustrate God’s willingness to be misunderstood, just to lead us to that reverence that is the beginning of wisdom. When Israel was tempted to take sin lightly, the One who sees the sparrow fall (based on Matt 6:26) instituted that whole system of sacrifices that required the death of thousands of His creatures. When we were tempted to accept Satan’s lie that sin does not lead to death (Gen 3:4), God sent His Son to die that death and so demonstrate the truth.

The whole Bible is full of these emergency measures. In fact, I find it difficult to decide which texts to use as illustrations of the lengths to which God is willing to go. Fortunately, we have included some already in previous chapters. In fact, one could say that the whole Bible is an emergency measure. Since there are so many of these emergency measures, I thought it might be best to consider two of the most important ones, ones that are often seriously misunderstood.

6 thoughts on “Establishing a Willingness to Listen (11:2)

  1. Andrew Ellis

    What about those who thinks they are rich, and increased with goods, and in need of nothing. What can Yahuah do with them.?

    Reply
  2. Shirley de Beer

    “When we were tempted to accept Satan’s lie that sin does not lead to death (Gen 3:4), God sent His Son to die that death and so demonstrate the truth.”

    Is Graham saying that Jesus only died as a demonstration? That he didn’t die to take our sins on Him?

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I think he understood the legal model of salvation, with its guilt and justification metaphors, is a helpful way that God has described issues, but it is not the only way and not even the best way. Graham’s model is something of a blend between the victory and demonstration models.

      Reply
  3. Kevin R James

    Mr. Maxwell says, “So many of the stories in the Bible illustrate God’s willingness to be misunderstood, just to lead us to that reverence that is the beginning of wisdom.”

    This is a conclusion I have been arriving at for years now. It comes out of squaring what Jesus revealed of the Father, and how God acted at times in the O.T. God hardened hearts, or ordered the genocide of entire societies “including the children” and Deut. says a few times. It seems God accommodates Himself to our given situation. The biblical times were conditions upon which societies of peoples battled in the name of their particular god or gods. Winning revealed a god’s benevolent feeling toward the victorious society. In that process of defeat, it was often the entire slaughter of the other clan and/or its absorption into the victor’s culture.

    It seems to me when God said he was going to send hornets before the children of Israel in their eventual occupation of the Promised Land, I believe God was serious about sending literal hornets, but would, as he did with the spying of the land, allow His creatures to make decisions not according with His expressed primary will.

    It’s a humbling and trembling effect upon the soul to make sense between the God of the OT and the God of the NT.

    Reply
    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Great thoughts. There are many ways to try to make sense of the Bible as a divinely inspired unity. Maxwell’s seems to be the most intellectually convincing. I suspect, with the knowledge of eternity, we will still be surprised when we know more than we do now. But I prefer an encouraging approach to a horrifying one. (speaking here as a scholar, not a believer, as a believer, I would stake my life on this explanation)

      Reply

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