Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cross-Examining God

A simple question: do you have a gripe with God?  Do you have a complaint, a grievance against God, or maybe just some questions you think God should answer?  Millions of people do; at one time or another, most of us do, whether we admit it or not.  You suffer a personal tragedy, or observe the suffering in the world, or think that God's revelations of Himself are inadequate, and you think you'd like to ask Him a few hard questions. You think He owes you an explanation, and that He should be cross-examined. But did you know that the day is approaching when you'll be able to do exactly that?
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This post is not aimed at people who have received Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, according to John 1:12.  It's not aimed at people who have experienced God's salvation.  It's aimed at those who have rejected Christ, or postponed thinking about Him, because they don't have a very high opinion of God.  If that description fits you, then keep reading: because the day is coming when you'll be able to ask God whatever you want - - - and tell Him exactly what you think.   
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But it won't be in an earthly courtroom, and it won't be in front of a beautiful blue lake, as pictured above.  The day is coming when you'll meet God face to face .... at what Christians call the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 7:9, Revelation 20:11).  This is where you'll see your Creator, and review your life.  (Christians will have been judged earlier, in a different event.)  This is almost a universal concept; the most primitive societies believe in a final judgment, and the sophisticates of Hollywood make comedies about it.  But it will not be an amusing event.
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It won't be amusing at all, because at that time God will pronounce His judgment on you, and your eternal future will be announced.  But before that happens, God's going to give you the chance to question Him.  And all those "stumbling blocks" you've complained about, and all those tragedies and injustices you've experienced or perceived, will be fair game for discussion.  
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"God!  Why did You create such a sad world?  Why all the disasters?  Why all the suffering?  What's wrong with You, anyway?  Didn't You care about Your creatures?" 
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"Hey, God!  If You wanted us to believe that Jesus Christ was the only Way to Heaven, why did You allow all those other religions?  Were You trying to confuse us?" 
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"God, why does that old Bible of Yours say it's wrong for me to be gay?  What's wrong with loving somebody?  Aren't You a God of love?  Anyway, I couldn't help it; all the intellectual people said I was born this way!"
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And, of course, there will be the more personal questions: "God, why did You let my wife die of cancer?  She was the best woman I ever knew!  We had 40 years together, and she was a great Mother and Grandmother!  And to see her waste away and die like that .... I used to believe, God, but I can't anymore!" 
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The questions are endless ... but God will listen to every one. 

He'll listen, and when you're finished, when you've gotten it all out of your system, He'll answer.  But it might not be the answer you expect, and it certainly won't be an answer you wanted to hear.  Standing there before the Majesty of your Creator, naked as the day you were born (or as naked as Jesus was on the cross), with all the achievements and awards and pride left behind, your preferences will be of no importance.  God listened to you; now you'll listen to God - - - perhaps for the first time in your adult life.
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Someone says, "Wait a minute!  This is a pretty fanciful scenario you've dreamed up!  What's your authority for saying all this?"  Actually, it's not fanciful at all, and I didn't dream it up; my imagination isn't that great.  My authority is God's word, the Bible, in which this scenario has already been played out in the life of one man - - - and promises to be played out in the lives of everyone who hasn't been saved by Jesus Christ.
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The Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, having been written nearly two thousand years before the birth of Christ.  (Moses set down the Pentateuch several hundred years later.) In it, Job, one of the most righteous men in the Bible, starts out as a prosperous, well-respected man with a large and loving family .... and, in a test of his faith, everything is taken from him in a matter of days, including his health.  90% of the book is not narrative, but rather the sad musings and complaints of Job, and the "wisdom" of his friends, whose philosophies are inadequate to explain his agonies.  But Job is no whiner, looking for cheap sympathy.  God describes him as "perfect and upright" (which you and I are not), but he loses all of his children, his fortune, and his health for no apparent reason at all.  If anyone had a reason to question God, it was Job: and question Him he did, at length. 
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At one point, lamenting God's silence in the face of all his agony, Job cries out: Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge (Job 23:3-7). Job had a gripe, and a valid one; he wanted to ask God a few questions, and cross-examine Him.  "Surely," he thought, "God will come around to seeing it my way..." 
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That's what most people want: a chance to confront God, and get their questions answered.  Then they might deign to believe on His Son Jesus Christ, and submit to Him.  But first, they - - - you? - - - want God to explain Himself.  
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The laments of Job, and the arguments of his friends, go on for many chapters.  But eventually, when Job has said everything he can think to say, God answers.  And, when you ask God your questions, about the suffering in the world, or your own tragedies, or what a "good life" you've lived, God might answer you as He answered Job.
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Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me (Job 38:1-3). 
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Uh-oh.  This wasn't quite was Job was expecting.  But God had heard him out, just as He'll hear you out, and He'll answer as He chooses.  He says, essentially, "You've got questions for Me?  I have some questions for you, too."  But this isn't some high school debater trying to dodge the subject; this is the Creator of the universe speaking.  Job has been talking, off and on, for 37 chapters, about his own innermost thoughts; and God calls his reflections words without knowledge.  Well, Job certainly had plenty of knowledge about his own misery; but he was, like most of us, looking at it from a self-centered position.  That's natural.  But God sees far beyond that, knows far beyond that, and isn't bound by the "natural:" He knows the end from the beginning. 
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Throughout the next four chapters, God asks Job a series of questions that no man could possibly answer; there are 35 questions in chapter 38 alone.  (I won't print them all in this post, but if anyone thinks that he or she is somehow "smarter than God," then chapters 38 - 41 should be read, and read carefully.  Incidentally, some of these questions, such as that in Job 38:19, implied scientific knowledge that was millennia before its time; but that's the subject for another post.) Imagine standing naked before your Creator, and having these questions cast in your face.  Or, if you prefer, don't imagine: just wait for the day when it happens - - - which could be tomorrow, or fifty years from now. 
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Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding (Job 38:4). Well, that's the easiest question of the lot: Job was nowhere.  You and I were nowhere.  Adam and Eve were nowhere.  But that part about "the foundations of the earth" might get tricky: shall we send for a geologist?  No, he or she wasn't there, either....
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Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?  Of course Job didn't know.  Is God being sarcastic?  Yes, I believe He is - - - and He has a right to be. 
  .... or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. Yes, God is being a bit sarcastic, but for a legitimate reason: He's reminding Job (and us) just Who the Lord of the universe is - - - a lesson which has yet to be learned by the "great minds" of science and philosophy. 
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Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great (Job 38:19-21)? 
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"Do you think you know the secrets of light and darkness because you were around when they were created?  Come on, Job, you're an old man; haven't you learned these things yet?"  (Notice the scientific wording: the way where light dwelleth, not the place.  Whoever wrote this book knew that light is in constant motion, and doesn't stand still.)  Job is beginning to realize that the same God who allowed his sufferings is a Being of such unimaginable power and wisdom that He undoubtedly has reasons for what He does - - - which is the whole point.  God isn't teasing Job; and, at the end of the questioning, God lovingly restores everything Job lost, and more.  But when someone questions God, they (we) had better expect some pretty heavy answers.
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Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?  Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? .... Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider .... Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? .... Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee. Now God is getting personal.  Job's sin was self-righteousness; but God says, "I'll admit that you can save yourself, when you can equal My power and glory." 
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There's much more than these few selected verses, of course.  But they serve as a reminder, or perhaps a question: are you sure you want to cross-examine God?  Do you really think your arguments and complaints will stand up against His wisdom?  
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This "cross-examination" of God is what Paul refers to, in Romans 3:19, 26: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God ... To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  At the Great White Throne, it will be demonstrated for all eternity Who is "just," and who is "unjust."  The mouths of God's accusers will be stopped: and then an unbeliever's sins will be revealed, and contrasted with God's righteousness.  And, at that point, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (Romans 14:11). And you will say "Amen" to your own damnation. 
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girl crying

But, for good or ill, you'll get your chance to speak.  God won't send you to Hell without giving you a chance to defend yourself ... if you have the wit to do so, which you don't.  In any case, the Great White Throne Judgment will not be a place of "deciding your fate."  Unless you've received Jesus Christ, your fate has been decided already. You might think God was "mean" in the way He treated Job, and the way He answered him.  So, let's see what "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" has to say: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18). You're not waiting on the verdict; you're waiting for the sentence to be carried out.
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But, as I said at the beginning, this doesn't apply to believers in Jesus Christ, who have been born again, at a specific point in time, by an act of the will.  For us, there will be a separate Judgment, but it will not determine Heaven or Hell for us.  It will determine our rewards, or lack of rewards, in Heaven.  This is "the Judgment Seat of Christ," and deserves a post of its own.
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In the meantime, you may be having second thoughts about wanting to "cross-examine" God.  The plain fact, as stated above, is that one day, every man or woman ever born will bow the knee to Jesus Christ, and proclaim that He's Lord.  For those at the Great White Throne, it will be too late to do them any good, but Muhammad and Marx and Joseph Smith and Gautama Siddhartha, and you and I, will bow the knee.  Why not do it now, while time is on your side?  Those of us who have received Christ, through no merit of our own, have already bowed the knee: and will be pleased to do it as often as possible, throughout eternity.  

What's stopping you?

2 comments:

  1. I can't imagine facing the Lord in that way. I am so thankful He saved me, and even thoughts of facing the JSOC are sobering. As the hymn writer wrote "What A Day That Will Be."

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  2. Thanks you for that word of caution. It reminds me of the words of Paul which says"knowing the terror of God we persuade men". And another scripture says" I put my body under subjection so that after preaching to others i myself may not be a cast away".It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God! May the Lord help me to remain faithful to the end!

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