Tag Archives: Theology

God’s Regret 

In the adult sunday school class at church we are working through the book of 1 Samuel. As we got into chapter 15 there was discussion of two statements that God regretted having made Saul king (15:11, 35), but also a statement in verse 29 that God is not a man that he should have regrets. This post is some of my thoughts on reconciling the two points. 
For me the key is to differentiate emotional terms as applied to a holy God, as opposed to how fallen humanity uses the term. I hold God’s regrets to be as like feelings, not that a poor choice was made but that the choice was necessary, yet grievous to watch play out (Luke 22:41-44). God’s providence is not detached from his character. He may have created the wicked for judgement (Prov. 16:4), and yet he can say this is not pleasing to his character (Ezekiel. 18:23). Although providential, He is not enjoying the judgement of Saul, in the same way Jesus/God can ordain Lazarus’ death, and fully know His intent to raise him from the dead, but be greatly grieved in seeing the death come to pass (John 11:5-42). 

In the case of Saul, the people demanded a king, so God gives them one knowing what the out come will be. Yet the giving of Saul and now his removal is not pleasing to Him. He must teach his people a lesson, yet it is still grievous to have to do so and watch it unfold. Scripture is full of the Roman 1:26 judgements of God giving people what they want, in opposition to wanting him. God installed Saul, to teach a point that hurt Saul, the people, and God himself (taking our iniquities on Himself). He does not sit back, like us, waiting for the “ah-ha” moment so He can yell, “I told you so”! Instead He is a God that knows perfectly what is necessary and can sympathize with us, not withholding from us, or Himself, any pain that must come to pass as part of His design. 

I think this teaches us to withhold judgment as long as possible, praying for the best in others, and not their swift destruction. Also we should be warned that what we demand of God, He may possibly give us in judgement. God is surely the great potter, making some vessels for honor and some for dishonor, but I believe the vessels of dishonor are wept over in their destruction. 
One anticipated question is that, couldn’t God have made the people wait for David, or appointed someone else, instead of suffering through all this and making David’s rise to power so hard? The simple answer is, No. As this is what happened, it must have happened as God’s perfect unfolding of His plan. Just the same we could ask if God could have destroyed the classes of Scribes and Pharisees prior to Jesus, so to make His days less confrontational. But He didn’t, and it served its grievous and glorious purpose. 

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All things for work for my eternal good. Romans 8:28-30

What Paul says:”And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (ESV)
Most segregate verse 28 from the rest, and without this context some common errors come up. 
It’s not saying Christians will have any less pain, suffering or general hard/bad circumstances in life than anyone else. The “all things” is simply that, all of life – the good, the bad and the ugly, are part of the Christian experience. Jesus didn’t die to lessen our hard times in this life. 
It’s not saying that because you did not get your initial dream job (bf/gf, car, college….) that the “working together for good” means that a better job (or whatever you’re after) is just down the road a few days or weeks at most. 
It’s not a negative version karma where I look at bad circumstances in life as something that triggers an equal and opposite positive circumstance. 
It’s not saying to look at bad circumstances as if they are good or come with silver linings. Bad things are really bad. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus was mad and wept, because death was real, and it was bad. He didn’t look past the pain of death and approach the situation as if He was looking to prove a point with a smile on his face. 

We so often tell people, who are in the midst of a tragedy that God will make it good, as in they will be able to comfort somebody else later on who befalls the same thing. That may be, but that’s not the promise here. 
It is saying:

* That all of life, for God’s children, is fixed and structured in a manner that it works to mold us, more and more into the image of Jesus (our greatest “good”). 

* That circumstances (good or bad) are the means/tools by which God molds us into Christ’s image. They are no less great or as bad as God intends, as He knows exactly what we need and can withstand. He never cuts off too much or too little. 

* That within this image bearing, God can refer to all Christians (men, women, children, Greeks, slaves…) as inheritors (“sons” as a position/title, not just gender). 

* That glorification is so fixed for the children of God, that it can be referenced in the past tense as already a part of what we are. 

* That, as Tim Keller summarizes in a sermon on joy, Christians have joy that transcends circumstances because these passages tell us 1) bad things are for our ultimate good, 2) the good (Christ) we can never lose, and 3) the best is yet to come.

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Visual Catechism 

Table Based on the ocular Catechism of Puritan, William Perkins, modified by myself.

Click link above: sample screenshot below

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One interpretation, many applications 

Here is a new sermon/ lesson/ passage application grid. It’s borrowed in part from the Puritan model of sermon preparation for application, but modified. 

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Pascal’s Wager

Simply stated, the wager is that if eternal life and death are contingent on believing or not believing in God, then it’s logical to believe, Even if “just to be safe” because the risk of eternal damnation is too great.
To me it seems the wager is not an apologetic, appealing to natural reason in a fear/risk model as most cite. This then suspends (denies) the basic reformed position that in sinful depravity you could just logically convince someone to believe in God. Pascal does not attempt this tact in his other writings, so contextually as a writer, why would he start and even contradict other things he had written?
Now within the context of his other writings he maintains great descriptions of man’s depravity and its impact and cause of illogical reasoning’s of man. A famous quote of his places the motions of the heart against logic when it comes to love. This fits the moral rational view he holds that as man makes decisions there are calculations being made. You go to cross the street, and you mentally calculate your ability to accelerate against the speed and distance of on coming traffic. In anger you may ignore the calculation and just gun it and take your “chances”. I think this the observation being made in Pascal’s wager. He is not looking to apologetically convince someone to believe, but instead makes an acute observation that men make such an irrational choice with so much in the balance, that sin and depravity could be the only reason to not believe in God. It’s a proof observation that belief in God is a moral rational belief. One that man actively suppresses. If man approached the God question as he does other choices, the rational/logical conclusion would be to believe, because of everything at stake. I think this matches well with his “thoughts”, especially those on distractions and diversions.

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Servant Leaders

As presidential discussions begin, I find important to review what a servant leader should be in government or even the church. A leader is to be like the head of a body, knowing how all the parts work and function. They do not relish in the position but see it as being the one who will mobilize the body towards good works, preservation, and a direction that has the betterment of the whole body in mind. The leader as head seeks to resolve issues within the body without separation or marginalizing, because who heals a rash by cutting off the pieces that have it? Yet a leader knows when discipline is necessary to keep the body working together. 

A leader gives the body a sense of identity, community and direction. A leader has instilled identity when everyone gets a feel for who they are and the role they play in the body, so no one person or group is left out. A leader has instilled community when there is a standard by which all can live and know the boundaries of justice, discipline and good will. A leader has instilled direction when all know and work towards a common goal and see others as partners instead of as individuals all seeking their own welfare. Without national goals, the individual goal is all that remains, inwhich all pursue selfish ambitions where others are either roadblocks or steppingstones for personal gratification instead of treating people as people. 

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The lies of the midwives

The story goes something like this:

A new Pharaoh did not appreciate the Hebrew people Joseph led into their land a generation earlier. They were so numerous that their king/pharaoh thought it best to oppress and dwindle them down by hard labor and bitter bondage. This backfires and the Hebrews grow more numerous. Thus Pharaoh decrees two midwives to kill the Hebrew male children as they are born. The  midwives fear God more than Pharaoh and let the children live. The ruler hears of the lack of deaths, and calls the two to answer for this:

 “The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” – Exodus 1:19-21 (ESV)

Basically our hang up with this passage is that it appears that lying is sanctioned and rewarded by God. How do you reconcile this? 

One way is a saying “the end justifies the means”. So if a great righteousness is the result, the means are not counted against you. This cannot be the case, because you could then justify just about anything. Even Judas would be off the hook because his betrayal of Christ brought about the highest good. Scripture tells us that although Judas was to betray, he is held guilty for it. 

Another attempt to reconcile this is to say that in a morally Greek tragedy kind of way, the lesser of two evils were brought to bear, so although they had to lie, they are guilty for it and must repent and asks God’s mercy, although lives were spared in the end. Yet again the lesser of two evils could be used to justify about anything to say that you stabbed someone in the leg, whereas you didn’t stab them in the heart, because it was a lesser, yet warranted evil. Also I don’t believe God puts us in situations were we are required to sin. After all they are rewarded for their actions, and there is no mention of repentance. 

Another option is to say that God must have a hierarchy to the commandments, so to defend a higher moral at the expense of a lesser is excusable. Yet God never pretends to wink at or cover over sins. Truth is a defining characteristic of God, and is everywhere encouraged. But here?

The reconciliation I’d suggest is that we step back and do three things. First determine what are the real motivations being described. Is someone really seeking the honor of God, or just moral wiggle room to justify their own actions? Second, review the whole counsel of God. What does all of the Bible have to say on the topic? Lastly, what are all the circumstances? When this is applied to our story, we see midwives who fear God more than a tyrant who thinks he is a god. Scripture describes in several places how it is lawful to resist the unholy, perverse and ungodly laws of a ruler or government. The midwives considered God their authority and so Pharaoh’s demand was unjust. So they were right to rebel and resist even to the point of refusing to give him the truth. Could they have withheld the truth without lying? I think that’s splitting hairs. God rewards them not for being crafty and subversive, but because these two simple women denied the laws of a hateful ruler when they came in conflict with the authority of God (a huge theme in the book of Exodus).

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