Why do men and women openly defy God? Why do we show contempt in the face of his warnings? The short answer is sin and human weakness. Yet, we feel compelled to dig deeper.
God is all-powerful and formed the universe with a thought (Jeremiah 32:17,27; Genesis 1). He is perfectly good and cannot sin nor lie (Psalm 32:19; Psalm 145:9; Titus 1:2). Moreover, he can bring terrible destruction upon man with a word (Psalm 18:7-15; Lamentations 1:8,9).
God cannot tolerate disobedience, and he has made this abundantly clear./1 God’s people suffered at the hands of the Edomites and God completely destroyed them (Obadiah). God said that Egypt and their allies would suffer, and it happened (Ezekiel 30). God said that Ammon would cease to exist as a nation and it came true (Ezekiel 25:1-7). The Philistines suffered the wrath of God and ceased to exist (Ezekiel 15:15-17). God promised, on more than one occasion, the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of Israel’s disobedience, and it always happened exactly as prophesied.
Israel saw the wrath of God for centuries and never made the connection between the disobedience of the sufferers and their own actions. The most powerful example is when Israel witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptian army and in short order began to doubt God could feed and protect them (Exodus 15-17).
Moses goes up to God on the mountain to receive the Law and in no time Israel has constructed a golden calf to worship (Exodus 32:1-6). Forgetting all about the fear of God, they commit idolatrous acts.
Today, little has changed. Man continues to read of the certainty of the consequences of rebellion against God. Yet, he never makes the necessary connections between his actions and their consequences.
One of man’s greatest instincts is self-preservation. It is defined as, “Protection of oneself from harm or destruction and the instinct for individual preservation; the innate desire to stay alive.”/2 While it is useful in escaping physical danger, it nonetheless can lead us to disobey God.
Man’s greatest weakness is selfishness (2 Timothy 3:2). Man will find something he wants to do and will fashion a way to accomplish his goal. When opposition arises, self-preservation engages and we employ denial and rationalization in order to justify our desired path. We will sometimes accomplish this goal at the expense of truth, family, friends, and reputation. We will lie to ourselves and berate our conscience until it condones our behavior (1 Timothy 4:2). We must remember that man will accept anything in order to get through the night and face himself in the mirror.
When God’s will conflicts with man’s will, questions quickly arise. How badly do we want what we desire? Can we find a loophole in God’s commands? Do we know anyone we can use to justify our will? What shortcomings can we highlight in order to bring shame on our critics? How can we discredit God’s Word so the admonition disappears?
In the briefest of moments, these temptations race through our brains as we try to find peace with our desired actions. We work the angles and weigh the costs, and if we lose the battle, we disobey God. We have found the consequences less important than our own selfish desires.
The courage to defy these urges and do what is right is extraordinary. However, God has given us the power to stand for truth and defy Satan (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8,9). But, it will require a suppression of our base desires and the courage to stand for our souls rather than our pleasure.
1/ Kenny Barfield, The Prophet Motive (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1995).
Do We Follow God or Ourselves?