The Bare Soul
October 10, 2010
Negotiating with God
1 Corinthians 6:19 - Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
Many people try to make so-called "deals" with God. Invariably, these are self-centered attempts to improve one's life by a supernatural intervention. When I drank alcoholically and would create frequent messes in my life and in others', I would often try to bargain with God. "If you just get me out of this scrape", I would plead, "then I'll sober up and do this or that and so on and so forth!" Well, seldom did these promises ever reach fruition. They were simply ego-driven efforts to improve a seemingly hopeless situation that I had engineered out of my own self-indulgent lifestyle. Generally speaking, God does not bargain with selfish individuals. However, it is scripturally sound that He does negotiate with selfless believers. If the negotiation touches self-interest, I believe that God is not interested in it unless it will affect His larger purpose. If, however, it is about others and their eternal welfare then God is profoundly interested in listening to an argument that will enlarge His kingdom for those He loves. Two such biblical examples that epitomize those who negotiated with God are Moses and Abraham.
Moses became a self-imposed fugitive after murdering an Egyptian and going on the lam somewhere in the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). We know little about this man for the next 40 years as he shepherds his father-in-law Jethro's flocks in the barren desert of the Sinai. But then something happens. Moses encounters the Living God in the burning bush and becomes a changed man (Exodus 3). As an exile returning to the scene of his crime, Moses goes boldly before Pharaoh and secures the release of his people through many signs and wonders. However, once on the move and away from the relative security of Egypt, Moses finds that he has inherited an obstinate, sinful people. When he descends from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets, the Lord tells Moses that the people have quickly turned away from their devotion to the Most High. In Exodus 32:9-10 we read: The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation." However, Moses would not take this as God's last word. He had grown in such a relationship with God that his heart became consumed with love for both his Creator and His created. What follows is probably one of the greatest examples of turning God's heart and intention due to the selfless intercession of Moses:
Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:11-14)
Often critics focus on the fact that God changed His mind and ascribe this to weakness of character. I believe it demonstrates just the opposite. The Almighty is desirous to do good for His children. Isaiah tells us that "He longs to have compassion on us" (Isaiah 30:18). The Lord God is bound by two great forces of His character that are both driven in love. The first is justice and the other is mercy. God will always function from either of these two dynamics as they are fueled by love. He looks for those that would stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30), much like Moses did, so that He would be moved to mercy. That, beloved, is what he desires to do, but He needs men and women with passionate hearts for others to move Him in that direction.
Abraham's intercession on behalf of Sodom is not unlike that of Moses. However, with Abraham we get the privilege of witnessing this remarkable dialogue between Abraham and God regarding the fate of this doomed city. In Genesis 18:17 we read that God had decided to reveal the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to his friend Abraham. In the following verses, we see a spiritual, heavenly negotiation being played out in the natural as Abraham bargains with God for those in the valley below. The patriarch beseeches God, saying that if there are 50 righteous in Sodom then He surely wouldn't sweep away the just with the wicked? The Lord agrees and does so again and again until Abraham reduces the number of the righteous to ten (Genesis 18:24-32). We know from the following chapter that the Lord does bring down His judgment upon Sodom, for there was only righteous Lot (II Peter 2:7) and his family which accounted for less than the agreed upon number of ten. What if Abraham would have asked God to spare Sodom for five souls? Would it still be standing today? We are not to know. However, Abraham does show us how a life surrendered to God can move the heart of God to mercy. Unfortunately for Sodom and Gomorrah, their sin fell to God's justice. One can speculate that by this act of justice, it led to the salvation of many who recognized God's mercy for not destroying them likewise.
We have all been bought with a price -- the very blood of Jesus Christ who died for us all. We can either choose to live selfish lives that seek to bargain with God for our own ends, or we can die to self and negotiate for others. As Paul said, if we are believers and we call Jesus our Lord, then we are not our own. We have become temples of the Holy Spirit to allow God to intercede through us on behalf of others. There are no loop holes in God's word and no room for making a deal with our Creator. The only "deals" He wants are the ones we engineer for others in prayer and deeds. If we are living for ourselves, we too will die in our respective wilderness of Sinai or be consumed by proverbial fire and brimstone. If, however, we are living for Him and others, we will be consumed in the brightness of His fiery love that will never be quenched, either in this life or the one to come.
Holy Father, thank you for the Spirit who dwells with us and in us. Help us to see that any bargaining with You must be a pact for others -- to bring them to You. Give us hearts that spurn any deals with the flesh or the world but souls on fire to plead with You for the lives of others. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,
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