Contending with God

Genesis 6:3 And 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 the point where she could take it no longer, she made me regret my carelessness for not recognizing how far I could go before I suffered her wrath. A mother’s love is as deep as many people could ever know and yet there exists a love that far exceeds it.

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

There might be times in our lives when it seems we have exceeded the grace we have been given, but like a mother’s love that continues despite the child’s failures, the Lord is always ready to receive us back. Perhaps by looking into the lives of those who have gone before us, we can keep ourselves from making the same mistakes.

1 Peter 3:20 “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”

In the days of Noah, mankind’s sins brought trouble upon the earth, God turned from those He loved and determined to bring an end to the world. Because of Noah’s righteousness, he and his family were spared. Long did the Lord wait for others to heed His warnings but none would listen.

Several hundred years later, the children of Israel were formed by God’s hand to represent Him to the world. Their sin brought shame upon themselves and defiled the Lord before the nations, so God sent prophets to speak on His behalf and warn them.

The fullness of Sin

Amos 1:1-2 “The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen 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 Lord pronounced His judgement and it gained the attention of His people. The punishment of God was first brought upon Israel’s enemies in the book of Amos and then God’s wrath was turned toward Israel—this brought the harshest indictment.

Israel heard and readily believed God’s judgments upon others but when the Lord condemned His people’s rebellion, that wasn’t as easy to receive.

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

—There is a time when sin reaches its fullness. If there is a start then there is an end, so there must also be a process by which sin accrues or evolves into a form that requires judgement to be completed.

—The path to a fullness of God’s judgement is one that accumulates over time and indicates a measurable condition.

What is the measure of sin?

We know that God ultimately measures the intent of the heart and the heart is revealed by it’s works. If left unchecked, there is 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 an addition of transgression beyond the former, the final point of rebellion whereby the measure of sin which before was full now overflows and God’s wrath finally comes.

“The three transgressions stand for a whole sum of sin, which had not yet brought down God’s final punishment; the fourth was the crowning sin, after which God would no longer spare” His people.

Edward Pusey

There is a point once sin reaches its fullest extent, whether it is because of the fullness of wickedness within the heart or the exasperation of God’s patience, either way there is 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 improvised with his own ideals.

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 one in a position where they speak on behalf of 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 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 practice that wasn’t intended by God. It is these deliberate 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 charged against 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 Canaan and what we know is they practiced all forms of evil. From child sacrifice to blatant idolatry, the sins of Canaan were numerous. 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 also 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 relative to God’s holiness, it is only by His mercy that He gives opportunity 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 been and will continue to be accomplished, regardless of how much the enemy attempts to subvert it.

Will you respond to the chastening of the Lord or will you look for ways to blame others for your faults? The Lord has been patient but there is coming a day when His wrath will be realized.

Turn now from your rebellion and seek His grace and mercy, and you will find it. He loves you far more than you could ever know, you will see that if you will only trust Him.

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