Thou Shalt Not Back-Talk The Lord Thy God
Back-talk - American slang expression for an argumentative response to a command or question.
I was reading through Exodus the other night and as I read the following passage, something occurred to me:
And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. (Exodus 25:16-18)
Now, here's the thing. Back in Exodus 20:23 God said not to make any gods of gold. The word gods is the Hebrew elohim used in the generic sense, of course. So what's a cherubim? The translators of the King James Version apparently weren't real sure of what these were, so they just used the Hebrew word. I'm not real sure either, but the various lexicons say that it's a special type of being that stands around praising God all the time. These cherubim are a type of elohim. Hmmm. So if it was me up there takin' dictation from Yahweh, I probably would have popped off about then with something like, "I thought you said don't make any elohim of gold? "
Now, God being kind and merciful and all that would probably have just said something like, "Now son, over the next fifteen-hundred years all this is going to make sense. For now you write what down what I tell you without any back-talk. OK?"
So, I say, "Well, OK, but that's an awful lot of gold and it will be awfully expensive and really heavy. And anyway I don't see why you bothered to write down your law on tablets of stone if all you're gonna do is put 'em inside some big gold box where no one can see!"
Right about then is when God kicks me off the mountain and yells down to the bottom, "HEY! I'm tryin' to get my revelation out to you guys. Do you think there is someone, anyone, down there who can write down what I say without any back-talk?" (Of course with a lot of Thee and Thou and words ending in -eth because that's the way God talks.) So, it's a good thing it was Moses and not me.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. You think if you were there you wouldn't say anything. What you mean is you would have somehow rationalized in your mind what God said, but just stop for a minute and really imagine what it must have been like. Try to put aside the knowledge that you have from history and try to see it as someone at that time would have seen it. You have a bunch of nomads wandering in the desert. Out in front they have some men in fancy clothes carrying this big gold box with two fantastic looking winged creatures on top. Every so often they stop, get out a special made tent to put the box in. Then they sacrifice animals and pour the blood on this box. To the rational human mind there is only one way to describe that: it's weird.
Well, it's weird until about fifteen-hundred years later when Jesus shows up. Then things start to make sense. The ark is a visual symbol of what God is going to do to save mankind. One interpretation is that the ark represents the heart, with the unbroken law inside, washed clean by the blood of Jesus. When you see it that way, it's an incredible revelation that could not be understood at the time. Understanding had to wait for God's plan to unfold over time. The obligation of the Israelites was to just do exactly as God said to do. No back-talk!
So the point is that is that God does things His own way and in His own time. Many times what He is doing isn't obvious at first and only later does it make sense. Our tendency is to want to try to figure out everything God is doing so that we can then get with the program and do what we are supposed to do. Right? But, what we need to do is learn to do what God commands even when we don't have it all figured out.
Jesus had to deal with this type of attitude all the time with his disciples. You have Thomas, for example, always stating the obvious and questioning everything. Jesus says, "I go whither you know, etc." and Thomas comes right back with, "We don't know where you're going." And then there is good ol' Peter with His "rock" of a brain always jumping in without really thinking.
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. (John 13:4-7)
Jesus is kneeling there trying to wash Peter's feet and Peter is saying, "You're not going to wash my feet!" So, Jesus has to patiently explain that this is done for an example, and Peter needs to shut up, pay attention and learn. It will make sense later.
So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (John 13:12-16)
The example Jesus gave is exactly what we have to learn to do. He was the perfect servant, willing to do the most menial tasks simply because it was the will of the Father. We have to do the same. To be a servant means learning to take orders without always knowing why the master commands a certain thing to be done. It's one thing if the servant doesn't understand what needs to be done. In that case, the servant better ask for clarification and not just try to fill in the blanks himself. But, when it comes to the why things are to be done, it is not the servant's role to question the master about it.
Constantly questioning the why of God's commands exhibits a lack of faith. Faith in the sense used in the Bible is complete confidence in the word of God based solely on the source of that word. To question why God is doing something is to presumptuously assume that maybe God doesn't know what He is doing. That's not faith. That's man's typical problem of trying to be God instead of being God's instrument.
A lot of what God says now and again doesn't make much sense to the human way of doing things. But, we are to learn to be faithful servants. That means a total trust and reliance on God's Word. We will often not understand why things are happening the way they are, but, we are to trust completely in Him and walk as He leads without any back-talk.