Contending with God

Genesis 6:3And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

When I was young, I heard more than once from my mother of how I tried her patience. She was very patient with me but she had her limits. When she reached that point where she could take it no longer, I typically regretted my carelessness in not understanding how far I could go before I suffered her wrath.

The Lord abounds with patience and love for us. I am living proof to the seemingly endless times someone can make a mess of things and still receive God’s grace.

There are times in history where we can see others who pushed it too far. Perhaps by looking into their examples, we can keep ourselves from making the same critical errors.

Amos 1:1-2 “The words of Amos, who was among the herds men of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.

The fullness of Sin

The Lord began His threatenings as a means to gain the attention of His people. The punishment of God is first denounced upon Israel’s enemies in the book of Amos and it was God’s place among Israel that brought the harshest indictment.

Every infliction on those, like ourselves, finds an echo in our own consciences. Israel heard and readily believed God’s judgments upon others.

Israel refused to consider the same measure against her enemies was measured against her.

  1. The consideration here is that there is a time when sin reaches its completion. If there is a start and there is an end, then there must be a process by which sin accrues or evolves into a form that requires judgement to begin.
  2. The path to fullness is one that accumulates over time and indicates a measurable condition.

What is the measure of sin by which we can quantify its pattern?

We know that God ultimately measures the intent of the heart with the condition of the action. There must be a process by which the heart grows increasingly darkened the further it progresses down the path of rebellion.

Amos 1:3 This is what the LORD says: “For three transgressions of Damascus, even four, I will not revoke My judgment, because they threshed Gilead with sledges of iron.”

For three transgressions and for four – These words express, not four transgressions added to the three, but an additional transgression beyond the former, the last sin, whereby the measure of sin, which before was full, overflows, and God’s wrath comes.

“The three transgressions stand for a whole sum of sin, which had not yet brought down extreme punishment; the fourth was the crowning sin, after which God would no longer spare” (Pusey)

There is a point once sin reaches its fullest extent, whether it is because of the fullness of wickedness in the heart or the exasperation of God’s patience, with the clear evidence that God has His limits. It is when we see Israel focusing on other peoples rebellion rather than considering their own is when we see God invoking judgement upon His own stubborn and hard hearted people.

Self-justification has been prominent in mankind from the beginning.

1 Samuel 15:10-11 “Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.”

The trouble with Saul was not his desire to be a good king, it was the manner in which he attempted to do so. The Lord had made it very clear what His expectations were of Saul and yet he continually made decisions that ignored God’s instruction and then improvised with his own.

The training up of David took time and God showed great patience in allowing Saul to continue making the errors that lead to his downfall.

When we are placed in positions as representative of God’s authority, we have a responsibility to adhere very closely to God’s word.

A pastor that deviates from God’s word is brought under greater judgement than someone who isn’t in such a position of influence. Teachers, mentors, or any position where someone speaks for God has much greater scrutiny.

James 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

God’s Word isn’t just Holy, it is the embodiment of Holiness. The Word of God is perfect and any deviance from that standard is egregious in nature. There are times when someone may simply be ignorant of their mistake, other times there is a clear manipulation to further a point or establish some form of element that wasn’t intended by God. It is these falsities that lead to all forms of false teaching, corrupt practice, and ultimately false converts.

Genesis 15:12-16 “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

The completion of Rebellion

The promise of God given to Abraham was for a future generation to occupy Canaan. This people was none other than the future nation of Israel. The process of eviction toward the Amorites was not because God liked Israel more, but because of the impending judgement the Amorites were accumulating because of the their practices. From the time of the promise to the time of Israel entering the promised land was 440 years.

The Amorites are representative of all of Canaan and what we know is they practiced all forms of evil. From child sacrifice to blatant idolatry, the sins of Canaan were numerous. What I have wondered was the level of practice that occurred over time. When we witness the Lord bringing judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah, it was for lack of righteousness that finally forced God’s hand. During the time of Noah, the Lord saw the fullness of man’s wickedness.

Genesis 6:5 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

The devastation that occurs when sin has reached its conclusion is reflective of God’s mercy and the opportunity He gives for repentance. If God brought judgement the moment someone sinned, we would all have perished long ago.

2 Peter 3:8-9 “Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.”

His Plan

There is a time that God’s wrath will be fulfilled upon the earth but He will remove the righteous before that day occurs. As we see the world growing darker, we shouldn’t be surprised and we should not fear. This darkness is not unexpected and because of that, we know there is a plan. The Lord is in control, His will has and will be accomplished, regardless of how much the enemy attempts to subvert it.

Just be patient, be found faithful, and you will see His glory revealed.

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