Thursday, April 18, 2013

Forcing God's Will

Today is day four of our fifteenth week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Judges 17-18; Acts 1; Psalm 21.

Today, I want to talk about how easy it is for Christians to try to force God's will--or, rather to force their will on God and make it look like it was God's will.  When we want what we want, then we want God to want it too.  And we can go to some real extremes to make our will look like God had planned it all along.  One example of believers doing this is found in Acts 1.  Here the disciples, led by Peter, make a rash decision.  Interpreting the scriptures quite strangely, they decide that it's their job to fulfill prophecy and select a replacement for Judas.  The scriptures that they select seem almost arbitrarily pulled out of context and given new meaning, in order to make them fit Judas' situation.  Take a look at Psalm 69:25 and the surrounding verses, and also at Psalm 109:8 and its context, and see what I mean.

Here's the account of what happened in Acts:

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
    and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, andMatthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
First of all, it's not our job to decide to fulfill prophecy.  When God wants to fulfill prophecy through us, He does it, generally without our knowledge.  It just sort of happens, and then people say, "Wow--that fulfilled prophecy!"  But to contrive a situation in order to fulfill prophecy looks a bit squicky to me.  (The exception to this is when Jesus does it.  He's God, so He gets to fulfill His own Word all He wants.)
Next, this all seems to have been done without the benefit of the Holy Spirit.  Remember, Pentecost hadn't come yet.  They had been told to wait for the promised Spirit, yet in their impetuous desire to get stuff done, they decided to force God's will.  Notice the method they used for determining God's will--casting lots--didn't involve real seeking but simply involved chance.  Old Testament people cast lots to determine God's will, because they didn't have the Holy Spirit, but you never see that practice after the Spirit is given to the church.  Why?  Because God's Spirit-filled people have a better way.
Finally, it seems that if Judas' position was truly meant to be filled by someone (I'm not convinced that there MUST be 12 apostles anyway) then it was meant to be filled by Paul.  Consider that once they selected Matthias, you never hear from him again.  He seems to have been a pretty ineffectual apostle.  But Paul, on the other hand, was used mightily by God.  And Paul struggled his whole ministry to be recognized as an apostle.  That's why he asserted his own apostleship in almost everything he wrote.  
Today, I invite you to ask yourself, in what areas of my life am I trying to force God's will?  How have I decided what God must want, simply because it's what I want?
The Christian life is about us following Christ, not about Christ following us.  I pray that you, being led by the Spirit, will seek and follow the will of God in all things, and that you will unselfishly find yourself at the center of God's will, however and wherever He calls you.

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