Friday, May 29, 2009

What Does God Say to Us?

By D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

So the next vital question is: What is our attitude and reaction to this message? The Sanhedrin rejected the Son of God and His preaching; now we see them rejecting His deacons, of whom Stephen was one. This also is where the world goes so wrong today, and, alas, as I say, where the church, to her eternal shame, goes so wrong too. If theologians and church teachers think that by diluting this Gospel they are going to appeal to men and women who are outside, if they think that by taking out the miraculous and the supernatural, by taking out the divine, they are going to win people, they are seriously mistaken, because by denying the essence of the Gospel they are actually driving people from the churches.

So what is this wrong reaction? Unfortunately, Moses himself went wrong at first. Moses was not divine—he was human like us, and when he saw this phenomenon of the burning bush, he said, "I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (Exod. 3:3). Typical of modern scientific man, you see! A phenomenon! Ah, this calls for an investigation. What is this? So I bring all my ability to it. Moses was moved by curiosity; so he had a desire to understand, he wanted an explanation. He was exactly like Nicodemus. When our Lord said to him, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7), Nicodemus said, "How can a man be born when he is old?" He was trying to understand. He was using his own critical apparatus. "How can these things be?"

Nicodemus came with typical human confidence, as Moses did when confronted by the burning bush, filled with a confidence in human ability and human understanding, the human attitude that says, "The God I want." You investigate God. You begin to examine Him. You say, "I don't want this, and I don't want the other. I don't want that infantile fantasy. This is the God I want, and I'm not accepting any God unless he conforms to my dictates and demands." That is typical of the modern attitude. Man is the final judge and arbiter in all matters. Man has the capacity to pronounce judgment, even on God!

Oh, my dear friend, learn the lesson that Moses had to learn. He was shown how completely wrong he was. Here he was, about to advance and to investigate, when suddenly a voice came to him out of the bush and said, "Moses! Moses! Stand back!" What was he being told? He was being told that his whole attitude was wrong. He should have seen this. "He wondered at the sight" (Acts 7:31). You could translate that, "He marveled at the sight." Should not that in itself cause us to be humble? Whenever we see anything extraordinary, we do not rush forward in self-confidence—we stand back in astonishment. That was what Moses should have done. Confronted by something so unusual, he should have held back.

And when we go on to consider further reasons why this should be our attitude, we see it still more plainly. What are we concerned about here? We are concerned about the nature of the everlasting and eternal God. God is. Can you conceive of God? "No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18). Can you measure God? Can you think of absolute qualities? Can you think of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence? Of course not. Our minds boggle. "Great is the mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3:16). And yet modern men and women in their folly seek to investigate God! They try to put their little tape measures on Him! Here they are, confronted by the infinite, the absolute, the eternal God, and they want to understand. What fools they are! The very word God should show them the utter impossibility. If I could measure and understand God, He would not be God—He would be smaller than my mind. There is the first major reason.

But then consider the second, which is man himself, the utter inadequacy of man. Man is very finite, very small. "Ah, but," you say, "look at all we have learned and discovered!" But think of what you do not know, especially in the matter of your knowledge of yourself and how to live. What is the use of boasting about sending people into outer space and talking about millions and millions and millions of miles and of innumerable years if it does not make you see your own finite condition and your smallness and your insignificance? How contradictory we are in our proud boastings.

But we are not only finite, we are sinful. There is something about us that vitiates all our best efforts. We are biased; our minds are not open. There is no such thing as free thought. All our thinking is blinded by prejudices and preconceived notions. We are sinful, even perverted. We are liars; we twist and turn; we will do anything to wriggle out of things. As the Common Prayer Book says, "There is no health in us." And yet, in spite of that, we, like Moses, go on to investigate, and it is because we are foolish enough to do this that we continually go away rejected and rejecting, and we go on in our misery and failure and shame. That is the wrong way of reacting to God's supernatural intervention.

What is the true way? Thank God, we are told this here quite clearly. But notice this: we are in such a terrible condition as human beings that we even need to be taught how to approach this matter; how to listen to it. Since we do not even know that, how much less can we understand the miraculous and the supernatural and the divine. We are so completely hopeless that we need to be instructed as to how we should conduct ourselves and behave ourselves even as we listen. We come confident in our knowledge. We are scientific inquirers, believing ourselves able to measure all things. We are ready for the great inspection and the great analysis. "The God I want!" And as we begin our investigation, He shouts at us, calls us, commands us: "Stop!" He says, "Man, do you realize what you are doing?" "Moses, Moses" (Exod. 3:4). Moses was commanded to stand still. That is the great imperative of the New Testament as well. On two different occasions a voice came from heaven attesting the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, and the voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son: hear Him." Listen to it! God commands every one of us now in the same way.

What does God say to us? He says, "Your whole attitude is completely wrong. Stop! Stand back! Who are you to advance and to examine and to investigate and analyze? Stand back! You must be born again." Moses recognized the voice of authority, the voice of God, and he listened.

Do you remember what we are told about Job? Poor old Job! A good and a godly and a righteous man, but he was afflicted and he was tried. He grumbled and complained, and he criticized God, and he said many things that he should not have said—though he was a much better man than those miserable friends of his. And then God suddenly appeared to him, and poor Job said, "I will lay mine hand upon my mouth" (Job 40:4). He said he had spoken unadvisedly with his lips. "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5), and he put his hand upon his mouth.

There is no hope for any of us until we are silenced, until we are utterly ashamed, until we become like the tax-collector depicted by our Lord in His parable of the publican and the Pharisee who both went up into the temple to pray. The proud Pharisee goes to the front and says, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are." He can speak to God as an equal, he is such a good man. But he goes home unblessed; he goes home condemned, as he richly deserves to be.

Who is the man who is blessed? The poor publican who is so aware of his sinfulness and his shame that he beats his breast. He cannot lift up his face; he can only cry out in his agony, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:10-13). He is not investigating; he knows that he has been investigated and that the judgment has been pronounced. He has no excuse, no plea; he knows nothing, and he is silent. That is repentance. It is acknowledgment of your sin, your shame, your utter unworthiness to receive anything from God, and then you just cast yourself on Him as you are and listen to Him. And the moment you do so, He will say what He said to Moses through the angel at the burning bush in the wilderness of Sinai. He will tell you the message of deliverance. He will tell you that He has loved you with an everlasting love, that He so loved you that he sent His only begotten Son into the world to die for you, so you would not perish but have everlasting life.

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