Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week Thirty-Three - Rebellion

 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…”  I Samuel 15:23    
This is probably the most widely known verse using the word rebellion.  And, it means simply – to rebel - to stubbornly strive to thwart authority in favour of self-will.
God is a God of obedience.  Obedience is his calling to his children.  Humble and sincere obedience to the will of God is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all our sacrifices.  And, nothing is so provoking to God as disobedience, setting up our will against his.  It is said to be as bad as witchcraft and idolatry.  And in deed, it is idolatry.  The rebellious heart is claiming the throne.  It demands to be obeyed and appeased with no regard for God’s Word or authority.  It is self-will. 
Rebellion, however, is more than a simple act.  It is a matter of the heart – a matter of a mindset.  A rebellious person believes their way is best.  They have little to no respect for instruction from others and especially from God.  They will take Scripture and twist it to suit their ideas in order to excuse their sin and to keep others from discovering the real heart issue.
Rebellion can be seen in teenagers as they try to find their way into adulthood.  It can be seen in spouses as they refuse to yield to the needs or requests of the other.  It can be seen in the workplace as a worker refuses to yield to rules of the office.  Rebellion can also be seen as we drive over the speed limit, go against the arrows on the car park (parking lot) or cross the road where there is no pedestrian crossing.  We rebel in some fashion almost daily.
Rebellion is sourced in pride. It is the sin that brought the fall of Lucifer and one third of the angels of heaven.  Let’s never forget, as we study rebellion, that it is never excused.  It is always sinful.

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.”
 Isaiah 30:1
The definition used here has the idea of being unmanageable and stubborn.  Of course it is referring to the children of Israel who were constantly seeking alliances with the nations around them instead of trusting and obeying the God of their fathers.  They wound up in league with Egypt.  Thinking that the “shadow of Egypt” (vs. 2) would be enough to cover them and that the security of Egypt would protect them.  They were finally disappointed.  Egypt became their shame and reproach leaving them in confusion.
Sad to say, but so many who call themselves Christians live in a similar rebellious manner. They are always looking somewhere else but to God for truth and direction.  The see the philosophy of the world as more comforting and appeasing than God’s standard.  They create a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof”. All the while they are adding sin to sin as they continue to hold onto and follow the world’s advice.
When confronted, they have just enough Christian language to create a covering and a sound of spirituality so as not to be humanly detected.  But God knows the hearts.  Their alliance with the world will eventually crumble and their sin will be exposed.  Like Israel, they will be left without covering, facing judgment and in confusion.  God calls them “unmanageable and stubborn”.  They are bent on having their own way.  Notice that he pronounces a woe upon them. 
As you read the remainder of Isaiah 30 you see that God offers them quietness and confidence, but they refuse. (vs 15) So, the Lord decides to wait until they are finished being rebellious so that he can be gracious to them. (vs. 18)
It reminds me that the Lord is gracious – even when I am “in a mood.”  The Lord is waiting to give me the peace and confidence I desire if I will only come into line with His Word.  Remaining unmanageable and stubborn will not yield a happy life.  I will not be able to cover my rebellion. It is better to listen and obey.

 “…until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.”  Deuteronomy 9:7
Rebellion can become a pattern of life.  Here in Deuteronomy 9 Moses is rehearsing the rebellions of Israel. Theirs is a history of rebellion, and now, as they come to the place where Moses is going to leave them and they are about to enter the Promised Land, they are reminded of the pattern of their disobedience and charged to make a change.
The definition is exact.  It means to be disobedient, to be contentious or to rebel against. Lest we condemn the children of Israel, we are best to take a bit more time to look at rebellion.
Rebellion has consequences.  So how does God deal with rebellious children?  We have only to look at Jonah or Saul, for example. Sometimes we see that, as in the case of Jonah, he uses “shock treatment” to bring about obedience.  With Saul, he removed privileges.  But one of the most instructive methods is how God worked with Job.  Job 38:2 and 40:2  “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge…gird up your loins…and answer me…Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?  He that reproveth God, let him answer it.”
You might say, “But Job was not rebellious.”  Ah, but when we look at God’s estimation of Job’s surmising we see something different.  To contend or reprove God is to rebel.  Job might not have been outwardly acting rebellious, but in his heart he was questioning and struggling with God’s authority.  That is rebellion.
God stopped Job’s mouth.  He called on him to repent and submit.  The only proper response for Job is exactly what is recorded in Job 40:4 and 42:6.  Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?  I will lay mine hand upon my mouth…Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
This teaches us that rebellion is not just a matter of action, but of the heart.  A lifestyle or a worldview that thwarts God’s authority is one of rebellion.  It has its root in pride and must be pulled up by the roots.
Is your life characterized by always questioning God?  Does bitterness and anger rise in your heart when you are commanded to obey God’s Word?  Are you meek and submissive on the outside, but burning with resentment on the inside?  Rebellion might just be the pattern of your life.  Follow Job’s example.

 “….to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me…impudent children and stiffhearted…for they are a rebellious house…”  Ezekiel 2:3-5
A fantastic word appeared during this study that I wanted to share – contumacious.  It means stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority. Great word!  “His contumacious attitude brought him much grief.”  “A contumacious lifestyle creates its own havoc.”  Fun!
We need to also look at the words impudent and stiffhearted.  Impudent means difficult, obstinate or severe.  Stiffhearted means hardened.  When we put this together we see a definition of a purposeful and obstinate choice to willfully disobey.  If we read a bit more into the words we can also see the body language that goes with the heart attitude.  A severe look, a hardness of the face, a rigid stance, these along with verbal clues are characteristic of a rebellious heart.
God declares that Israel is such – rebellious.  They have willfully and stubbornly chosen to disobey God.  As you read through the book of Lamentations you learn of the results of their rebellion.  Lamentations 1:20  states, “…for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me...abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is a death.”  3:42 states that there is no pardon for their rebellion and transgression.  God is executing rightful justice upon them.
To be sure God will execute the same upon all who are rebellious.  Why?
Because man is not autonomous.  He was created as a dependent being - dependent upon his Creator.  The Adamic rebellion points to this truth and clearly shows that man, left to himself, is destructive.  Yet, man has a free will.  He can make choices.  There are two choices on the table – follow divine counsel or devilish counsel.  When man chooses devilish counsel, he is in direct rebellion against divine counsel.  Hence, there are always consequences to man’s choices.
I don’t know about you, but I am chicken when it comes to standing up against the Lord.  I don’t want the word “contumacious” to be a part of my testimony.  Nor, do I want to suffer the consequences of such a choice.

 “An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”  Proverbs 17:11   

My grandfather used to say that some people are “hell-bent” upon their own destruction.  Over the years I have come to agree with him.  Though I would like to think that these folks would learn from their mistakes and turn their hearts toward the Lord, they seem to only get more bitter and rebellious as the years go by.  We see this to be truth in the history of Israel, and also as we read about the end times and how though God gives place for repentance, man refuses to submit. 
The word “evil”, used to describe man, means bad or disagreeable.  One who seeks his own desires.  His purpose is to have his own way and he refuses to submit to any authority except where it fits his purpose.  He has decided that his way is best and there is no one to convince him any differently.  We might call him hard-headed.
It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 94:7  “Yet they say, The LORD will not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.”  The evil man is convinced that nothing will happen to him.  He is a free agent.  So he goes about his life laughing at God, making a mock of sin, and ridiculing those who try to warn him. “Fools make a mock at sin…” Proverbs 14:9   His end will be that a “cruel messenger will be sent”.  God will deal with him by some catastrophe. All sin will be punished.
Now, lest we say that we have seen people like this go through their entire lives without any catastrophe or apparent judgment, we must remind ourselves of David’s conclusion as he pondered this question.  Psalm 73:17  Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” 
For the rebellious there is only one outcome – judgment – whether it is now or later.  So, if an attitude of rebellion is characteristic to your life it is time to repent, seek God’s pardon and learn submission.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7

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