There is an old book that has some stories in it about people who encounter God. No, it’s not the National Enquirer.
We read in this ancient text that the first man born on Earth was named Cain. He finds himself compared unfavorably to his younger brother, Abel.
Cain finds his younger brother, Abel, to be the favorite of their parents. But something takes place that makes Cain think God is also playing favorites. Cain is mad. The Lord actually warns him to reconsider. He asks Cain why he is so mad. God tells him that it doesn’t have to be this way. But Cain shrugs off this advice from God and decides his brother is the source of all his problems. He decides to get rid of him. He invents murder. Can you believe it? The first two men, brothers, and one decides to kill the other!
He does kill him. But what did he have to do first? He had to harden his heart. Cain has squeezed out any natural love he had for his brother or his parents. After the murder, he begins to think that someone might invent revenge! He takes his wife and begins to wander the earth. He keeps moving from place to place. Eventually, he establishes a home where he keeps his large family close around him, to protect and support him.
Our second story finds Moses leading his people through the desert, away from their lives of slavery under the Egyptians, toward another place where they can live as free people. But the people still think like slaves even though they are under the protection of God himself. They say God will let them die in the desert even though they have experienced his daily care for quite a while.
God tells Moses to speak to a big rock in the desert and water would come forth. Lots of water. Moses is mad at his people for always complaining. He slams his staff on the rock and yells, “Do we have to bring water from this rock?” Water flows and the thirsty people have plenty to drink.
I think God wanted this moment to be forever in their memories. Moses speaking to a rock, God causing water to flow. This ancient rock standing in the desert bursting forth with delicious water showing God using his power over nature to care for his chosen people.
But Moses goofed it up. What Moses said made out like he was standing next to God as an equal. He was no longer the humble servant of God. Oh, no. Moses forgot, in his frustration, that he didn’t have any power over nature. His staff gave him power over sheep. Did water come from the rock? Yes, it did. But God was not pleased with Moses’s conduct.
Moses had a close relationship with God. God had made Moses a man who would stand all through history. But Moses was a servant of God. God was carefully impressing on his chosen people who He was. Moses was not allowed to change the script. If we stand above God, he can’t shower down blessings on us. If we place ourselves next to God, he cannot recognize us as his equal, because we are not.
Let’s look at one more story. The man is called Job. At the beginning of this account, Job is rich; he is blessed by God; he has standing in his community. Job is well aware all his blessings come from God.
But Job loses everything all of a sudden. Soon his health is affected. His friends advise him that he must have done something wrong to get this punishment from God. Job says that he has searched his soul to find this very thing and cannot find anything that would explain his new condition.
Job wants to make his case before God. He says that God has the right to take away what he gave him, but Job would like to know why. He doesn’t like that everyone thinks he has wronged God when Job knows he has not .
The Lord appears to Job and gives him the chance to make his case.
God asks Job a series of questions. He asks where Job was when he created the earth. He inquires if Job knows how things work and who keeps it all working.
He probes Job’s understanding of nature with its power as well as its limitations. He asks if Job understands how nature and God work together.
He wants to know where Job stands to begin to make his case. He says that if Job can show his equality, he will be glad to be cross-examined by Job. But Job withdraws his case. He wisely understands that he has no place to stand to make God explain his actions. He chooses silence before the Lord.
We feel we have the right to judge the actions of God. Imagine yourself a judge in your courtroom. You sit in your robe. Your job is to judge God. Are you ready to do that?
People judge God all the time. “If God is so powerful, why does he allow injustice?” But God knows exactly what he is doing. He shows Job that Job does not have the knowledge it would take to make any judgement against God. Job agrees that he is in way over his head.
Is God against Job? No. He considers Job an great example. Did he ever want to do anything but bless Job? No. But the story shows us a bigger picture than Job sees.
God treated Job to an experience where Job learns how great his God is. He values Job and knows that Job refused to disavow God in his difficult circumstance. He also saw that Job did not accept the evaluation of men. Job had seen himself in a dark place. But God saw him as a shining light among men.
God told Cain that he could find his place before God. All he had to do was choose a different path than what he was thinking of doing. He told Moses to speak to a rock and it would give out many gallons of fresh water. But Moses stepped over the line. He acted like it was him that told rocks to give water, not God. God asked Job how he could demand answers from him. But all the time he was using Job as an example of a godly man who would stand for all time.
Maybe you think God wants you to kneel before him. Men want other men to kneel before them. The ancient ruler of China demanded this sort of thing. Sure, we start out kneeling But God wants you to get up off your knees and to stand before him. He wants each of us to stand in a place where he can bless us.
He wants us to grow up into the great purpose he has for each of us. The place he has given us is the same as Jesus. Can you believe it? He wants us to have this same loving relationship that he has with his son. He wants us to stand before him in right relationship so he can bless us now and forever. It is a place where we can stand securely in the love and mercy he wants to shower on us.
With Cain, Moses and Job, God treats them like adults. He expects them to look around and understand things about God. He expects them to act sensibly.
But when Jesus comes, he calls God “Father”. He does not say, God will judge all you evildoers! Get ready for the Judge to judge you sinners. No, he told us to call God: Our Father. He does not say ‘God is my Father, but he is your Judge!’.
He makes this very clear as he gets ready to leave earth, he says, “I am going to my Father. He is also your Father.”