January 14, 2009

Calling God's Bluff?

2009 1502 page24 capmagine trying to explain the concept of the Internet to a flea.

You place your tiny friend on a pedestal, aim your most powerful, most expensive microscope at it, and zoom in for a good look at its face and miniature legs. You place in front of it the latest computer model—the fastest and most reliable money can buy—and you begin the arduous task of teaching this flea how to log on to the World Wide Web.
You spend months, even years, patiently trying to get the flea to navigate the Web, and you get frustrated when it can’t. This is a genius flea, for crying out loud! It has a Ph.D. in flea philosophy. It is the inventor of flea quantum physics, the designer of the fastest flea vehicle on the market, and a pioneer of modern flea science. Yet the flea simply cannot grasp the notion of the Internet! Your 4-year-old daughter, whom you’ve never taught anything about computers, navigates the Web at will! Why can’t this genius flea?
After years squandered on the project, you discover the hard truth that, despite its ingenuity in the flea domain, your small friend will never be able to grasp human concepts. Why? Because it’s not adequately equipped to process information this powerful.
Flea Philosophy
The above illustration does not fully hold, of course—after all, we were created in God’s image, and do not compare to Him as fleas compare to us. With that caveat, allow me to follow through with the analogy.
2009 1502 page24We live in a society filled with astute, brainy flea philosophers! Born on a tiny planet, possessing minds constrained by the laws of nature, they approach every situation with human logic, evaluating their surroundings based on what their eyes can see, what can be proven in a lab. They need mathematical and scientific explanations, validation tests, discoveries by their scientists, instructions from their doctors.
A world created in six literal days? Absurd! A man walking on water? Ridiculous! Five thousand men plus women and children fed with five loaves of bread and two fish? Preposterous! Split-ting the sea in two with a staff? Impossible! Giving life back to a dead man? Not in the world! But can we blame them?
As Ellen White observed: “It is a law of the human mind that by beholding we become changed. Man will rise no higher than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness. If the mind is never exalted above the level of humanity, if it is not uplifted by faith to contemplate infinite wisdom and love, the man will be constantly sinking lower and lower.”1 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,” Isaiah says, “so are [God’s] ways higher than [our] ways and [His] thoughts than [our] thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).*

This means we are incapable of fathoming God’s profundity. Yet our generation dares to challenge God.
We Aren’t the First
We are certainly not the first generation to think we can challenge God’s authority. Generation after generation of Adam’s children have confronted the Creator, daringly declaring to His face (in effect): “You’re bluffing!”
It was the days of Noah, with humanity still in its infancy. Strong men and women of gigantic stature and renowned for wisdom populated the earth, committing every crime imaginable. “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 Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:5, 6).
Human beings had sunk so low, their behavior so off the chart, that God regretted ever creating them. So the Lord said: “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth” (Gen. 6:7, NIV).
But still wanting to preserve the human race, God handpicked a man He deemed righteous, and commanded him to build a huge boat, while preaching repentance to the world. Those who believed and repented would enter the boat and be preserved when the deluge came.
But there was one problem. God’s 480-year-old messenger, Noah, declared the water would come from the sky, and it had never rained before!2 Rain must be against the laws of nature! Noah’s claim seemed impossible, unrealistic, impractical.
The masses scoffed. Noah was a lunatic, they thought. And if Noah spoke for God, then God was bluffing.
For 120 years Noah preached, and for 120 years people ridiculed him. They came from all areas to see the strange boat being built on dry ground with no water in sight. Tourists visited the site; children were brought on class trips; locals came by for their daily laughs.
But when the boat was completed, something unusual and awe-inspiring happened. Animals of all kinds began to parade into it. Birds of all types and sizes, darkening the sky, flocked to it. Noah and his family went in; the huge door swung shut; and within eight days, dark clouds hovered over the earth. Claps of thunder pealed in the skies, lightning flashed, and for the first time in the history of the world, water poured from the skies.
The raging water destroyed everything in its path, jets of it thrusting huge rocks high into the air. Multistory structures collapsed. Powerful beasts floated away. There was no place to hide, nowhere to run from God’s judgment.
A No-nonsense God
People who’d seen God’s threatening as a bluff came to learn that although loving and patient, God is, nevertheless, a no-nonsense God. The storm was so terrible that the devil himself feared for his life, wrote Ellen White.3 Think of it: the Lord pronounces judgment, and the most pompous, malignant figure of all times—the terrorist of all terrorists, with thousands of years of experience ruining lives—finds himself petrified and powerless, shaken to the very depth of his soul!
2009 1502 page24Angels, more powerful than the devil, bow before God with covered faces, shielding themselves for fear His eternal light might obliterate them. Yet humans—mere mortals, products of clay, frail and prone to disease and death—have the audacity to stand before God and try, as it were, to call His bluff, as if daring Him to do what He says He will!
Many today are proud of their immorality. They frame their sins and flash them as ID cards. They trumpet them on highway billboards for all to see, hold placards in the streets, protest on national television. We praise the immoral, make movies about them, elect them as government officials and church leaders, and pass laws in their favor. We challenge God in every way. We are conceited, proud, wicked, arrogant, irreverent, unloving, brutal, 
reckless, treacherous, selfish, pleasure-seeking, money-loving—and proud of it all! Describing our situation, Paul says: “They invent new ways of sinning. . . . They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage 
others to do them, too” (Rom. 1:30-32, NLT).†
God’s law condemns our profligate lifestyles, but we regard it as no longer relevant. “God is love,” we say. “He will not judge us. He’s just bluffing.” So we continue to preach blessings and prosperity, despite our decadent living. But God’s loving nature does not mean that we can sin with impunity (see Ps. 59:7, 8).
Yet . . .
Don’t get me wrong, our Creator is not vengeful. On the contrary, God is so compassionate, so loving, that the cruelest criminal of all time can immediately be forgiven simply by sincerely asking for it. God is ready to wipe our slate clean in the blink of an eye, no matter how much heartache we’ve caused Him. “‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!’” (Eze. 33:11).
God begs us, “Come now, and let us reason together.” “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isa. 1:18). But He cannot allow evil to thrive forever. He has to step up at some point and set things in order—not because He’s vindictive, but precisely because He is loving, compassionate. He wants everlasting, peaceful, joyful lives for His children. And to make that happen, love must triumph and evil must end.
God may seem to delay His judgment, but He’s only being patient for our sake (2 Peter 3:9). Let’s not be among those who think He’s bluffing. As we busy ourselves trying to build our place and fortune in the world, sudden destruction may come, and there will be none to save—not nature, not our own wisdom, not our political leaders, and not our sympathizers. We must not wait until it’s too late to realize the crucial truth: God does not bluff. 
*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
†Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ” 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
1Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 91.
2Ibid., pp. 96, 97.
3Ibid., pp. 99, 100.
Sam Belony writes from Northern New Jersey. He and his wife attend Trinity Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Newark, New Jersey.