F5. War on Christianity, Part 5: Is God in Control?



Using Psalm 78 as a guide, we see how the false religion of inclusiveness causes us to test God … God’s judgment is  intolerant … no other power or philosophy can save us … God’s salvation has been planned by God since the beginning: It comes from a shepherd Savior who gave his life for us … no other religion or philosophy can provide “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.”

Psalm 78: Testing God

Back in Part 1 of this series I quoted a phrase from Psalm 78. I would like to return to Psalm 78 and examine some of its verses in more detail. In this psalm, the psalmist is looking back at the many years during which God’s people in Israel strayed from God’s teaching and worshiped other gods. You could say they had picked liberally from the buffet table of religious inclusiveness. God repeatedly warned them through his prophets, but they persisted in their rebellious attitude.

I will start with the sentence in Psalm 78 containing my original quote about the “deceitful bow”:

Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God,
and did not observe his testimonies,
but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
[Psalm 78:56-57]

When it says “they tested” God, it means they were thinking, “Does God really see? Let’s see what we can get away with. Let’s see if he takes any action when we go our own way.” Isn’t that like the modern atheists who curse God and then say, “Look, nothing happened to me”? More to the point of our message: Isn’t that what we do when we say, “God won’t care if I dabble in a few other religions and interesting philosophies”? Or when we say, “I won’t take sides just yet; I’ll wait and see how things pan out”? Satan (driving that truck of destruction we talked about previously) likes it when we say such things. Unfortunately, when we see the truck coming at us and realize we are about to be crushed, it will be too late.

When the psalmist says they “did not observe his testimonies,” it means the fathers did not teach their children to look right and left before crossing the road. Instead, they told their children to “do your own thing” — exactly what our children are being taught. Our schools encourage our children to run out into the road without looking, as long as “that is what they want to do.”

Is God Tolerant?

Going on in Psalm 78, the next two verses in the psalm say:

For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel. (Psalm 78:58-59)

In our judicial system, we have a division of powers. The people who make the laws (the legislators) are different people than the judges who oversee the trials. But in God’s kingdom, God is both legislator and judge. God makes the laws and oversees the trials. Human judges may sometimes claim that they deliver sentences in a dispassionate way; they claim simply to follow the letter of the law — a law which was formulated by other people. But God is not a dispassionate judge; in fact, he is very passionate! He is enforcing his own laws, not someone else’s. The psalmist tells us that God judges with anger, with jealousy, and with wrath! For a human comparison, it would be as though the perpetrator of a murder or a rape were to be judged by the victim’s family. The accused man had better brace himself for a maximum sentence. And that is the message the psalmist is trying to get across: Those who defy God and God’s teaching had better brace themselves. Defying God is not like contradicting another human being; they have defied Almighty God who is Creator and Ruler of the universe!

Is God tolerant? No! When it comes to obedience to his laws, he is passionately intolerant!

Psalm 78: Can any other power rescue us?

Finally, after many years of warnings, God sent the armies of Assyria and Babylon against Israel. The foreign armies inflicted much terror and bloodshed, and eventually defeated the people of Israel and took them into exile as captives.

Psalm 78 describes this event:

He [God] forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among men,
and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe. (Psalm 78:60-61)

Shiloh was where God was worshiped when the people of Israel first inhabited the Promised Land. Shiloh was where the Ark of the Covenant was located, kept inside its tent; the Ark and “the tent where [God] dwelt” came under God’s special protection. But the people did not worship God in truth. They turned to other gods, other items on the buffet table. Their worship was like a twisted bow; therefore God removed his protection from them and from their place of worship.

If God turns against a nation, all its economic and military power will count as nothing. God has the power to give them over “to the hand of the foe” no matter how strong they may feel, and no matter how much his power may have protected them in the past. Our foe is not a nice guy. Our foe is Satan, who hates us all – believers and non-believers alike – with a virulent hatred and wants us dead.

There is nothing else on the buffet table of inclusiveness that can protect us if God is against us.

Psalm 78: When God’s protection is removed

The psalmist goes on to say:

He [God] gave his people over to the sword,
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
Fire devoured their young men,
and their maidens had no marriage song.
Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation. (Psalm 78:62-64)

In other words, at some point God finally withdrew his protection from his people, lifted the gate, and Satan’s truck blasted its way down the road. There was no escape in 600 B.C., and there will be no escape in our time. All the preachers of inclusiveness will be out in the middle of the street when the truck arrives, with their flock in tow, and there won’t be time to get out of the way.

The psalmist records that God even punished his “heritage,” meaning those who had previously received his blessings and his promises of protection. They are the ones who had been particularly favored by hearing God’s word directly from his own mouth, and yet they deserted him. The “priests” are those false prophets who should have been protecting the flock, but instead they fed the flock with false teaching and bland assurances that everything would be okay.

Psalm 78: “The Lord awoke as from sleep”

Next the psalmist, with a sudden change of direction, says:

Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame. (Psalm 78:65-66)

What is going on now? It seems that the truck driving down the middle of the road, scattering bodies left and right, is not the end of the story. The truck driver, Satan, had his way for a time; but now God is beginning to put his adversaries to rout. But how? The last verses of the psalm tell us what God did:

He rejected the tent of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves. (Psalm 78:67-68)

A bit of Old Testament background: The Bible tells us that centuries before Psalm 78 was written, God had chosen to put his particular blessing upon Jacob and his descendants. Jacob was given a second name – Israel – and he had twelve sons who were often identified collectively as the twelve sons of Israel. The descendants of the twelve sons then became known as the twelve tribes of Israel, and they settled in their allotted territories in the land of Canaan. Over time, two of the tribes became predominant: the tribes of Judah and Ephraim.

The passage we just read says that of those two, God chose the tribe of Judah. The meaning is that God had determined from the beginning that a special ruler (the Messiah) would come to rule over all God’s people, and this ruler should come from the tribe of Judah. This would have come as no surprise to the psalmist’s audience, since they knew that hundreds of years earlier Jacob himself had prophesied that the Messiah would come from the descendants of his son Judah. Back in the book of Genesis, when Jacob was blessing his sons, he said of Judah:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10)

It was predestined by God that “the obedience of the peoples” would ultimately come to a descendant of Judah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Psalm 78: God sends a shepherd savior

That prophecy was made more specific by God’s later promises that the Messiah would come from among the descendants of King David, who was himself a descendant of Judah. (We know from the New Testament, of course, that Jesus was a descendant of David.) In the following verses the psalmist confirms those promises by describing the Messiah as being of the family of David, and as inhabiting a “sanctuary like the high heavens” – meaning a spiritual sanctuary, a sanctuary not made with human hands.

He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded for ever.
He chose David his servant,
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from tending the ewes that had young he brought him
to be shepherd of Jacob his people,
of Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he tended them,
and guided them with skilful hand. (Psalm 78:69-72)

Now we’re no longer reading about God’s wrath. We’re no longer reading about the truck of destruction coming down the road. We’re reading about a shepherd who skillfully protects his sheep and guides them gently with his hand. And because we have read to the end of the story (in the New Testament), we know we are in fact reading about a shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, a shepherd who gives his life to save them from Satan’s destruction. We know that without this shepherd, the truck would run over every single one of us.

The buffet table overturned

Diversity, tolerance, inclusiveness are high-sounding words, but they have become arrows shot from a twisted, deceitful bow. When they are examined closely, we find that they all proclaim, “We don’t need Jesus and his salvation! We prefer to go our own way!”

But how can we refuse such a great salvation, a salvation offered by a God who was willing to give his only Son to die on the cross for us? If there were any other path to salvation, any other viable choice on the big buffet table of inclusiveness, would God have resorted to such a drastic measure? There is only one way, and it excludes all other ways. We know now “that at the name of Jesus every knee [shall] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

God doesn’t want us to be run over by Satan’s truck. He has done his utmost to provide us with a safe path across the busy and dangerous road. Every day he is calling us to bring our thankful hearts to him, to offer our hearts in his service. And if we will do so, his promise goes beyond mere rescue from disaster. His promise is that he will be our God, and we will be his people. His promise is that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). That is a peace that the religion of diversity-tolerance-inclusiveness can never provide.