What the Bible says about
Rejecting God's Law
(From Forerunner Commentary)
2 Kings 17:5-17
II Kings 17:7-17 catalogs the sins of Israel:
» Widespread idolatry. Israel "feared other gods" (verse 7). "They built for themselves high places in all their cities . . . . They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the LORD had carried away before them." (verses 9-11). Further, they "followed idols, became idolaters, and . . . made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal" (verses 15-16).
» Pagan Religious Practices. The Israelites "caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger" (verse 17).
» Rejection of God's Law. Israel "walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel." (verse 8). Verse 15 points out that the people "rejected [God's] statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them." The prophet Amos particularizes the epidemic of social injustice in the Kingdom of Israel. As an example, notice Amos 2:6-7, where Amos chides the Israelites: ". . . because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble." The Israelites displayed a pandemic failure to love their fellow man.
II Kings 17:5-6 relates the ultimate consequence.
Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. . . . The king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Assyria, a kingdom known as much for its innovative weapons as for their brutal implementation, conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 718 BC. So it was that, about 250 years after it was established, the ten-tribed northern kingdom became extinct as a sovereign nation. The Assyrians deported the population en masse from its homeland in Canaan, transplanting it virtually in toto to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The Kingdom of Israel fell below the historian's radar.
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen
It is not a matter of them thinking God does not exist, but that they are denying Him. They do not want to believe that He is there. He has denied God by denying or renouncing what God says about Himself.
God says plainly in many scriptures that He will judge for sin. This is what the Ten Commandments are about: They define sin for us. By them, we know what is good and what is not good, so we can come into judgment before Him without excuse. A reason Christ came was to qualify to be that Judge, to judge all at the last day. We, however, are going through our judgment right now.
The wicked man has fooled himself into believing that God will not require an accounting for sin. He thinks God will not pass judgment on him; He will just let his sins slide.
It sounds much like modern, antinomian Protestantism. It is, in effect, what the psalmist is talking about. He speaks of a normal, everyday Israelite who would supposedly know God. He had entered into the covenant by circumcision, and so he should know better. However, he has decided to ignore what God has said and lives his life as a practicing atheist. He is not really an atheist, because he believes there is a God, but he lives his life as if God did not exist.
The wicked man here, then, could be somebody who professes Christ—a professing Christian—but his lifestyle betrays his real, inner conclusion that there is no God.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?
In order to sigh and cry successfully, we must believe God. This is vital! In this context, it means that we need to believe how He defines sin. For instance, we must never come to think that "weeping for Tammuz" (Ezekiel 8:13-14) is really not all that bad. God calls it an abomination! If He calls it that, that is exactly what it is, and we need to accept His definition.
To use a more contemporary example, many "good" folk in the world observe Christmas, sincerely believing that they are worshipping God. They will actually say, "This is how I worship God," but we understand that how they worship God does not amount to a hill of beans! Only God can define how we are to worship Him, and it is for us to follow Him and act accordingly. We need, then, not just to know the law, but also to believe that it defines sin for all time.
Some people can see sin right before their eyes, they can hear it around them, they can live amidst it, but they can never sigh and cry over it because they refuse to allow God's law to be the standard of their behavior. History is replete with examples of this, but we will look only at one. Who of the Jewish leadership—except for Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and perhaps a few others—sighed and cried over the perpetration of an illegal trial that resulted in Christ's death?
In John 16:20, where He is speaking to His disciples on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice." The world, rejecting God's standards, rejoices at injustice and sin. Human nature can and does rationalize large-scale sin and social injustice, such as the Holocaust, sin that fills the land with vast violence. It can simply rationalize such atrocities on racial, economic, and religious grounds.
We in God's church must come to avoid partiality, mentioned in Leviticus 19:15, as we interpret the news and the social injustices that we see around us. After all, God did not ask Ezekiel to identify Israel's sins in his tour of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 8. God identified the sin for him, even when it was committed in secret. God calls out the sins in His Word, defining the abominations in His law, and we need to know those laws and believe that they are indeed sin. And we need to cry and sigh.
The Torment of the Godly (Part Two)
Law in Amos 2:4 refers to instruction, not legislation and its enforcement. From a verb that means "to throw," its root describes casting lots or throwing dice. When lots or dice were cast, God revealed His will in the way they landed (Proverbs 16:33; see Leviticus 16:8-10; Acts 1:26). At times lots were used in making judgments in criminal cases in which God's will needed to be ascertained (Joshua 7:13-25). Thus, by setting a legal precedent, the casting of lots served to give instruction in other cases in which the same basic principles of behavior were involved. God's will—His law—was taught to His people through the casting of lots.
This instruction process implies a teacher-student relationship. When the Israelites rejected God's instruction contained in His law, they rejected the Instructor as well. Their relationship with Him quickly deteriorated.
Commandment means "to engrave or cut into stone," suggesting its permanence and immutability in contrast to temporary and changeable lies. The law comes from an unchangeable, righteous, and pure God in contrast to fickle and iniquitous men.
Judah's despising of God's law and revelation of Himself was internal—from the heart (Psalm 78:37; 81:11-12; Jeremiah 5:23). The personal and social failures Amos records are evidence that the people had rejected the truth. So it is with us: God wants to change our hearts so He can change our actions and turn around our lives.
In every area of life, Israel perverted the truth of God to accommodate the ideas of men. In the final tally, they loved lies rather than the revelation of God (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). Thus Amos says that God's people despised His law. They made the mistake of devaluing their calling and considered it common. Believing they were God's elect, they thought they were irrevocably saved. With this attitude it was only a matter of time before spiritual and moral complacency set in. As the church of God, we cannot allow ourselves to slip into this attitude because we, too, would fall into immorality.
If that occurs, God must pass judgment because His justice is the same for everybody (Colossians 3:25; I Peter 1:17). God's laws govern the people on the outside as well as the people on the inside. No matter what makes Israel or the church distinctly different, His judgment is always righteous. When God could not change Israel's immorality through His prophets, He had to punish them. So will He punish an apostate church.
It is easy to see why this book is written to the end-time church. The people of America and the British Commonwealth are already in the moral and spiritual condition of the people of Israel and Judah in the time of Amos. Members of God's church come out of such a world. Just as Israel's privileged position became a curse, so will it be for the Christian who ultimately rejects his calling (Hebrews 6:4).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
Our responsibility is to step out in faith, trusting Him, yielding to His truths taught to us. We do this by putting it to work in our lives, but it is not always easily done. What we are, what we have become since birth, is deeply entrenched in our character, and our nature does not cede control easily. Notice the example of Israel: "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!'" (Exodus 32:9). "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people" (Exodus 33:3). "But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction" (Jeremiah 17:23).
This theme runs throughout the Bible. When Hebrews 4:1-2 says that the Israelites failed in the wilderness because "the word which they heard . . . [was not] mixed with faith," Paul is referring to this principle. They simply would not yield their mind to admit that He was right. They seized upon their own opinions, observing them rather than what God commanded. Each individual Israelite may not have actually gone through the process of rejecting each command, but simply keeping their habitual attitudes and conduct produced the same end. Their actions and attitudes, then, like the basketball players who never "buy" the coach's system, spoke for them, revealing what they, in their heart of hearts, really believed.
In Luke 5:39, Jesus uses an illustration to help us understand this rejection syndrome. He teaches that man has a natural resistance to the things of God. A wider and equally true application is that we humans almost immediately resist anything different from what we believe at the time. This is both good and bad. The important thing is whether we honestly consider and appraise behaviors and ideas before rejecting them.
Are our minds honest enough that, when hearing God's Word truthfully expounded, we will consciously and promptly take action to change when wrong? The Israelites appear to have had an automatic negative reaction to God's Word. They definitely did not have a childlike, submissive attitude! The Bible records that their conduct never changed, nor did their attitudes. In the game of life, they kept right on doing things as they always had, so they died in the wilderness. They left Egypt, but Egypt never left them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)
In analyzing the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24), we must consider the two parables that precede it: the Parables of the Ambitious Guest (verses 7-11) and the Feast (verses 12-14). Although all three are spoken at the same time in the same house, Jesus describes three different occasions: a wedding, a feast, and a great supper. It is evident that His entire conversation contains a single, main theme.
First, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ambitious Guest, which isabout a wedding and the right and wrong ways of inviting people. He adds to what He had said about the Pharisees loving the best seats in the synagogue (Luke 11:43), making it clear that humility comes before true exaltation. Those not seeking promotion are to have the important places in social life. Those who exalt themselves will be abased, and the humble will be exalted (James 4:10; I Peter 5:6).
Then, Jesus tells the Parable of the Feast, giving his host a lesson on whom to invite to a meal. The key to the parable is, "Lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid." If the host invited only his rich friends, of course, he would expect them to offer him like hospitality, but when people act on this basis, they derail true hospitality. Godly hospitality occurs when one serves others while expecting nothing in return (I Peter 4:9).
The Parable of the Great Supper is Jesus' response to a fellow dinner guest exclaiming, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" All three parables deal with the general theme of hospitality, but the last adds humility and self-examination.
Jesus pictures God's choice in the kind of guests He desires at His table. The parable shows a progression of urgency as time grows short. The first invitation is conveyed to the Israelites simply as "come." The second, "bring in," is directed at the spiritually poor, injured, crippled, and blind, symbolizing the Gentiles without previous access to the truth. The third, "compel," affects an even lower class of people representing the spiritual fringes of this world.
None of the three invitees has any desire to fellowship, expressing the same willing captivation by the cares of this world. Many fail to realize that the invitation is from God the Father to His children, and failure to respond constitutes willful disobedience. None who so decidedly reject the offer of the Kingdom will be saved (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). It is dangerous to reject the truth of God. The invitation is full and free, but when people turn willfully away from it, God leaves them to their chosen way of destruction. How important it is to cherish God's offer of the blessings of His way of life and eternal life in His Kingdom and to examine our own dedication.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper
The mystery of lawlessness was already working (II Thessalonians 2:7). The false church appropriated the true church's central figure—its savior, Jesus Christ—but rejected the law of God and turned His grace into license (Jude 4; see Titus 1:16). By rejecting the law of God and inserting pagan beliefs, they really also rejected the central figure, Christ, as well, which is very interesting to consider. A dichotomy is produced. They accept the name of Christ, the central figure, the great hero, then turn right around and reject His law. It is double-mindedness, and yet people fall for it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)
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