Monday, August 12, 2013

Would You Serve A God You Can't Tame?

When I was a child, I lived next door to my aunt, uncle, and cousin, Kimberly. It was like having a sister--Saturday morning omelets, trips back and forth between our houses, late night rounds of my uncle cheating at Monopoly, and too many sleepovers to count. Then, baby Allison was added to their family. Now, I would have two sisters to share everything with!

But, suddenly, our close-knit world was rocked when my aunt and uncle felt God calling them to be international missionaries. They then accepted that calling, leaving behind careers, family, and friends to become missionaries on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean…and taking with them my two “sisters.”

After that, our families came together maybe once a year. We were still close, but it just wasn’t the same. Many years into their ministry, they rode out a very serious hurricane that destroyed much of the island. While their lives were spared, our church had to send a team to help repair/rebuild their home.

What kind of God asks His people to leave their family? Stable jobs? Country? What kind of God puts those same people who are obediently serving Him in the path of a killer storm?

Yahweh. The God of Moses, Abraham, and Isaac.

Scripture gives us several examples of God asking His people to give up everything to serve and obey Him. One such man was Ezekiel, a priest whom God called to prophecy to an exiled Israel: “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children…” (Ezekiel 2:3-4).

Ezekiel wasn’t a Jonah. He didn’t run the other way or ask God to send somebody else. Instead, even with God continuously reminding him that his prophesies wouldn’t result in Israel’s repentance or turning from its sin, Ezekiel was obedient in doing what the Lord asked of him.

And then in the midst of that obedience, God required Ezekiel to make yet another sacrifice, which would serve as a sign to a rebellious Israel of Jerusalem’s coming destruction: “And the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache and do not eat the bread of men.’ So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded” (Ezekiel 24:15-18).

What!? Did I read that right? God required Ezekiel to not only lose his beloved wife but to also not publically mourn her death? Yes. And Ezekiel obeyed.

How? Why?

Because Ezekiel knew the God he served. He knew of God's mercy and His judgment.  He also knew God’s kingdom agenda was more important than one man or one woman.

In our modern culture, I fear we are just the opposite--we don't really know the God we serve.

When we hit those passages in Scripture that are disconcerting, that depict a God who doesn't jive with the image in our head of the one we serve--that's when we attempt to tame God.

Sometimes, in our attempt to tame Him, we ignore the mystery.  We simply don't read those parts of Scripture we deem "inexplicable," confusing, or just too hard, such as the book of Revelation.  We believe the lie that only scholars have a chance of really understanding, so we lay persons shouldn't bother.  It's not a mystery if we refuse to accept it as such, so we stick our heads in the sand and stop up our ears.

Then, there are the times we take the mystery and try to nail it down on all four corners, to explain it all away with such conviction and certainty that we grow angry or defensive when anyone suggests our interpretation of Scripture could be incorrect.  Here, we reject the mystery and insist there can only be one interpretation, one spiritually-gleaned conclusion drawn from our reading of God's Word.  If you think differently, you obviously weren't led of the Spirit to your conclusion.

While some things are black and white in Scripture, there are too many that are not.  Brilliant scholars fall of both sides of several theological issues, which should warn us against this type of taming God.  When we attempt to explain everything away with such certainty and allow that certainty to be divisive in the family of God, we forget the words of the prophet Isaiah: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your  ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'"(Is. 55:8-9).

Other times, we tame God by refusing to read entire sections of the Bible because they "don't apply" to our modern society.  Using this logic, we excuse ourselves from trying to come to grips with a God who ordains murder, who condoned mass genocide of entire people groups.  In other words, we explain away any Old Testament characteristic of God that depicts anything other than a kind, good, merciful God such as Christ shows us in the New Testament.  And in doing so, we think we have such a good grasp on who God is that, at times, we believe we can even speak for Him, like we're best chums.  Yet, in truth, we haven't even begun to understand Him.

Although we may not like to think of God as one who requires such large sacrifices of his obedient servants, such as the earlier example of Ezekiel, that doesn’t mean we can ignore Scripture that tells us otherwise.  Although we may not be comfortable with what the Word says about who God is and what He has done throughout the course of history, we still must accept every part of who Scripture says God is...or not accept Him at all.

Likewise, although we may not understand every Scripture, that doesn't excuse us from not trying.  Yet, when we try, we must leave room for those who may draw different conclusions, for who knows if ten years from now, the Spirit may reveal that we were wrong all along.

God is and always will be a mystery to us.  If you're serving a God who can be graphed in black and white on a piece of paper, then you're not serving the God of the Bible.  Your God isn't big enough.

The God of The Bible is one who cannot be tamed.  He will not be watered-down.  He cannot be placed in a box.

He is The mystery of mysteries.

If we have Jehovah God all figured out, then we're not serving Him but a false God of our own making.


  1. This reminds me of the end of the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (which Johnathan and I watched this weekend) when Mr. Tumnus and Lucy are talking about Aslan. They say - "Afterall, he is not a tame lion. But, he is good."

    Love this image of our God, too! Not at all "tame," but so very good.

    1. Oh wow! I love that quote, Liza. Awesome image.