SO … if you recall yesterday’s action-packed post, we were talking about three cases where people more or less took God to task over something they disagreed with.
That would be presumptuous in the extreme: trying to tell The Big Sir what He should or shouldn’t do, and yet:
- Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, and got God to pledge that He wouldn’t destroy the two cities if there were ten righteous people living there.
- Moses talked God out of destroying all the Israelites because they had been disobedient and lacking in faith.
- A Canaanite woman convinced Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter.
But did they, in fact, “convince” God, or get Him to cave in? Or was something else at work?
I believe there was, and much of it has to do with three things: faith, the authority God gave humans over the earth, and our ability to know God.
In the first case, Abraham argues that any righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah would be “made like the wicked”. A good point, but then they discuss numbers and God leaves us all to realize that there were no righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah.
(To give you an idea of the scale, some estimates say there were about 1,200 people living in those two cities, so not being able to find even ten righteous people there would be the equivalent of not being able to find 5,410 righteous people living in Vancouver (population 648,000). Indeed, the only people rescued from S&G were Lot and his family, and they weren’t exactly righteous, themselves. But as we find out later, they were part of God’s plan for Jesus’ earthly lineage. That’s another story.)
So God used Abraham to make His point — and in a way, to show how far a society can go before He’ll actually unleash His wrath.
In the second case, Moses declares that God’s name will be, essentially, mud, if He wipes out all the Israelites in the wilderness. The Egyptians will hear of it and use that news to mock God and tell the people living in the Promised Land that God is not able to bring His people through. Do you think God didn’t know that? Do you think He heard Moses and said, “You know: you’re right! I’d better give this another think!”?
I doubt it. But faith is the catalyst that allows God’s true will to work on earth, and I believe God was looking for someone on earth to state that faith — both the faith that God’s name must always be glorified and that God is merciful, just and full of forgiveness. With those words spoken — especially from a leader like Moses — God put aside His plan.
Two more things are worth noting. In Numbers 14:12, God says, “I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” That’s quite an offer: He suggests that He will wipe out all those who lost faith in Him and make a greater nation from Moses. But Moses doesn’t even rise to that bait: he knows that God already declared that the great and mighty nation would come from Abraham, and since God is not one to go back on His word, if Moses agreed to that, he’d be doing so for personal gain — and assuming that God was a liar.
The other thing is that Moses didn’t have sixty-six books of the Bible to bear witness that God is merciful and full of forgiveness. Sodom and Gomorrah would have given plenty of evidence that God was perfectly capable of wiping out an entire disobedient nation if He chose to. But Moses spoke to God “as a friend” (Exodus 33:11), so had grown to know Him intimately.
Hold that thought for a moment.
And then we come the third case — the Canaanite woman. She runs into the roadblock of all roadblocks: the disciples try to shoo her away and Jesus says He has only been sent to the lost sheep of Israel. But she won’t give up: her daughter’s life is at stake; so when Jesus says “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Matthew 15:26), she comes right back and says that even the dogs lick up the crumbs that fall from the master’s table. It’s at that point Jesus praises her faith and her daughter is healed from that moment.
It is great faith: she declares that even a crumb of Jesus’ blessing and authority is all that she asks — all that she needs — for her daughter to be healed. She knows that those “crumbs” are better than the “full meals” that religion has been handing her all her life.
Again, we see a case where the Lord holds out for someone on earth to declare their faith in Him. That also stands as an example for the disciples: that Jesus has come for everyone, regardless of their background.
So what does that mean for us? First, all three situations involve people interceding on behalf of someone else. If our prayers are selfish, they won’t go much past the ceiling; but if our heart and our perspective are focused on others — even with prayers that involve a personal benefit — I believe God is more likely to respond.
Second, these “arguments with God” involve stating His word in a situation — essentially, stating what we know of Him. It’s not a matter of having an encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture, but of desiring to draw closer to Him through Jesus Christ, and the best way to do that is by reading the Bible and through that, getting to know His voice. There’s a miraculous aspect of Scripture, that if you start reading it pretty much anywhere, something will appear that speaks directly into whatever situation you’re facing.
Our God is alive, accessible and big enough to withstand our arguments and questions. I also believe that He waits for us to declare His word over a situation, in order for His will to be done.
Besides, arguing with Him indicates that you believe He exists, which is an act of faith in itself … and without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. (Hebrews 11:6)