The God Who Stretches Me

Honestly, there are some passages of Scripture, I’d just as soon skip over . . . some I’m inclined not to think too much about . . . ’cause I get uncomfortable with what they’re saying. I don’t think that’s the norm with the “commands to obey” passages. And it certainly isn’t the case with the “blessings of God” verses. But it occurs every so often with those “what do I learn about God” portions of Scripture that place God outside the box I want to keep Him in. Those insights to the workings of God that are outside my comfort zone. But I think I realize that it’s because of my tendency to want to start with a view of God and wrap Scripture around it . . . rather than let God’s word teach me about God. Such is the case with an incident I encountered in 2Chronicles 18 this morning.

The background. King Jehoshaphat of Judah . . . good king . . . teams with King Ahab of Israel . . . bad king. Ahab convinces Jehoshaphat to go to war against an enemy of Israel. Jehoshaphat consents if it’s the Lord’s will. So Jehoshaphat says, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD” (18:4 ESV). Problem . . . Ahab’s not exactly walking with the Lord. Ok . . . maybe that’s understated. Ahab is over the top in rejecting God and His ways and pursuing the worst of the worst evils associated with pagan worship. But there is one prophet of God in Israel that Ahab can summon, Micaiah. “But,” says Ahab, “I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil” (18:7). Ya’ think?!? Nevertheless, the prophet of God is called . . . and the prophet of God speaks . . . and the prophet of God speaks the words of God (18:13). And, in doing so, the prophet provides an insight into some of the workings of God. And that’s where it gets a bit uncomfortable for me.

Micaiah tells the two kings that He “saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and on His left” (18:18). Ok, so far . . . that’s what I’d expect from a high and holy, majestic God. But then there’s this conversation in heaven. A conversation kind of like you find in the first couple of chapters of Job.

God has determined it’s time to judge Ahab . . . and, He will use this battle that Ahab is determined to enter into . . . and so, God says, “Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” (18:19). There’s some conversation with some angelic beings and then, what would appear to be a demon, in some manner approaches God and stands before Him and says, “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” God says, “You shall succeed . . . go do it.” (18:20-22) And that, my friends, makes me a bit uncomfortable. The whole idea of God interacting with lying spirits and leveraging them to accomplish His purpose. What do you do with that?

First, I recognize that what is recorded here is “God-breathed” . . . all Scripture is inspired of God . . . and God has determined to provide this insight into “His world” and how it sometimes works. I also know that with God there is no unrighteousness . . . and that He is not the source of lying . . . and that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). But I also know that God is Sovereign . . . and that God will Judge evil. And, should God chose to allow demonic spirits, who are liars and who hate mankind and who delight in destruction, to be used for His purposes, then that is the prerogative of a Sovereign Judge.

And yet, I also see the grace of God working here . . . God providing Ahab every opportunity to come to his senses and repent. Here’s Ahab standing before someone he acknowledges speaks for God . . . and this prophet is telling him that Ahab’s other pagan prophets are being duped by a lying demonic spirit . . . and that God has determined to bring disaster upon Ahab because Ahab refuses to seek the One true God and instead follow the ear-tickling advice of these false prophets. It’s not like Ahab doesn’t know what’s going on. And it’s not even like he doesn’t believe it because he disguises himself in battle and sets up Jehoshaphat to “take the bullet.” No, despite the word of God being spoken to him, Ahab, in his arrogance and wickedness, determines of his own free will to listen to lies and to think he can outsmart God. Bad move on Ahab’s part.

So, as one commentator summarizes it, “It is not without the divine permission that the devil deceives men, and even thereby God serves His own purposes” (Matthew Henry). And while I get that . . . and believe that . . . it is one of those things that stretches my understanding of God rather than conforms to the image of God I tend to want to build. And as I sit back and chew on it a bit, isn’t that how it should be, from time to time, when I encounter the God whose thoughts are not my thoughts . . . and ways are not my ways . . “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9)?

I believe in the Sovereignty of God . . . I believe in the Righteous Judgment of God . . . I believe in the Grace of God. It’s just trying to package it all into this small earthbound brain that sometimes stretches me. But then again, it’s not about me.

Glory to the God whose ways are above my ways . . . yet, who draws me into relationship with Him . . . revealing Himself to me . . . even when it stretches me.

Amen?

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