Is Yahweh's Bad Reputation Deserved?

Jackson Snyder, Based on The Preaching Event by Claypool, October 25, 1994

 

 

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Gen 2:4b-3:24; Mat 28:5-10

 

Reputation is everything

O reputation! dearer far than life,

Thou precious balsam, lovely, sweet of smell,

Whose cordial drops once spilt by some rash hand,

Not all the owner's care, nor the repenting toil

Of the rude spiller, ever can collect

To its first purity and native sweetness.  Sir W. Raleigh

The reason people are not reconciled to God today is because God's reputation has been ruined; our lesson from the Old Testament is the story of how it was ruined, who ruined it, and who perpetuates its ruination.  People do not trust God, because God is perceived to be untrustworthy.  God has an image problem!

            The entire point of the existence of the church, the preacher, and the saint, is to bring reconciliation between a misunderstood God and an untrusting creation.  It is a great service to humanity when saints are able to facilitate a spirit of openness, trust, and atonement, at the deepest level, where what is made and what has done the making come together.

  All the anguish and suffering humanity has ever know traces back to one point in time, according to the Bible.

  1.  The creature was, by nature, in union with God, walking and talking with God, and living eternally with God.

            But the creature's disobedience caused the friendship with God to be broken, and further close fellowship to cease.

            This is not because God is a cruel God; but it was the natural consequence of the creature's willful abandonment of the natural order of things in the beautiful Eden.

  2.  Since the first man and woman, no human being has since been created like God; all since have been born with the same sad curse - to have to toil, and suffer, and finally die.  But the worst consequence is that humanity is alienated from God; humans often hate God; they certainly no longer trust God; and they don't because they can no longer walk with him and talk with him like Adam and Eve once did.

            And God has acquired a bad reputation; God is thought to be a deadbeat dad, if he exists at all.  He allows suffering, disease, and needless pain.  If he were real, they why doesn't he do something about the desperate plight of the suffering?  Why doesn't he show himself?

  3.  But for that small minority who has really come to know God, it becomes a life's mission to set the record straight and restore God's reputation, and lead others to reconciliation.

 

Reconciliation Story - Once upon a time a merchant had identical twin sons.  The boys became inseparable in every way.  Neither one married, but they took over running the store when father died.

            Once a customer came in the store and made a small purchase.  One of the brothers put the customer's dollar on top of the counter and walked him to the door.  Later he remembered the dollar, and it had disappeared.  He asked his brother about it, but his brother claimed to know nothing.

            A little later, puzzled by the disappearance of such a tiny amount of money, the first brother asked again, "Are you sure you didn't see that dollar and put it in the register?"  The other brother caught a note of accusation, and flared back in anger.  As days went by, the suspicion increase.  New charges came to the fore.  Tempers flared.  Until it got so bad that they divided the store right down the middle.  The community became involved as each twin enlisted allies.

            One day a car with an out-of-state plate drove up to the store.  The man asked how long the store had been in business.  When he found out it was over 20 years, he said - "Then you are the one with whom I must settle an old account.  Twenty years ago I was destitute, and hadn't eaten for three days.  I was walking down the alley in the back, and I saw a dollar laying on the counter.  I had never stolen before, but I was so hungry, I gave in to temptation, and stole that dollar.  The act has been on my conscience ever since.  Would you now let me replace the dollar, and pay you whatever is appropriate in damages?"

            At that point, the stranger was surprised to see the old twinshake, then stagger, then break down.  He took the stranger by the arm and said, "I want you to go next door and repeat the same story to my brother."  He did, then witnessed two old men who looked just alike weeping uncontrollably.  To think, twenty years of hostility that led from a little mistrust now found to have had no basis in reality at all.

  1.  This illustrates what mistrust and suspicion can do to a relationship, and parallels what went wrong in the first place between creature and creator.  For suspicion was the cancer beneath the original disobedience - "a spirit of mistrust had taken root at the deepest level."

  2.  It started with the serpent that cast doubt on the creator's motives.  The serpent, wise, outwits and exploits the innocent woman Eve.  "You are so stupid!  This god who lays down the law - he is the exploiter!  He is a tyrant who needs to belittle you to make himself feel bigger.  He knows if you eat the fruit, you will become exactly like he is.  You'll be a god!  So he is the enemy of your self-fulfillment.  Trust him no more - rebellion is your only hope."

  3.  The man and woman sided with suspicion instead of trust.  They believed the worst, not the best - and that is how what an earlier generation called "The Fall of Man" took place.  The order and beauty of the world consequently began to unravel.  Chaos resulted.  And the beauty of the cosmos began to wither, rot, then stink.

  4.  Once God becomes the enemy, the one who can't be trusted, then everything God has created comes under suspicion.

 

Can anything now be done to undo the decay and estrangement?

  1.  John Killinger once said "Jesus was God's answer to the problem of a bad reputation."  The truth is, reconciliation began with Yahweh-God's promise to Abraham - that he would receive a new land and become a blessing.  But God's effort at reconciliation took its grandest form in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.  God did not spare his own son, but offered him up as a sacrifice of reconciliation.

  2.  Hitchhiker story (mostly true from my own experience) - My Dad picked up a hitchhiker late at night.  The hitchhiker told the sad story of his life - then he pulled out a gun, and demanded that Dad give him everything and the car.  But Dad was a new Christian; he offered to set the hitchhiker up in a house, get him a car, and give him a job if he would only reconsider.  Amazing as it may seem, the hitchhiker agreed.

            Dad operated a construction company.  He put the hitchhiker up in a vacant rental home (nothing fancy), loaned him an old car, and set him to work.  Immediately, the hitchhiker's girlfriend and her grown children joined him in the house from Kentucky.  Dad put the youngest of the girlfriend's children to work as well.  My older brother, who also worked on the construction crew, became friendly with the hitchhiker's family, but became more and more alienated as time went on as he heard Dad's name cussed and ridiculed.  They were suspicious of all the good he had done for them.  They began to hate him because he was so good and they were so bad.  And the rental property was going downhill, as well.  There was trash all over the yard, and garbage in the house, and soon there were several dogs there, too.  Why should they take care of what belonged to somebody else, especially HIM!  Dad had gotten a bad rep with that family, and he never deserved it.

            Dad became distressed and depressed, wondering why he had been taken advantage of in such a way after a good deed.  He was wroth, and ready to go and throw the whole bunch out of the house.  But my brother offered to go first and explain the situation, and try to get it straightened out.  Dad thought it was worth the effort, and sent my brother over to try to rectify the situation.

            But after my brother met with the hitchhiker's bunch for only a short time, the hitchhiker then brandished the same gun he had pulled on Dad, and instructed my brother to go out into the ramshackle garage of the house.  There the Kentuckians tortured him severely before brutally murdering him with the gun.

            Put yourself now in Dad's place.  Can you feel Dad's rage and misgivings?  "O, If I only had it all to do over again!"  Now, if you were Dad, suppose you had the power to raise the son back to life.  Would you then send him back into the same situation again?

  3.  This story, of course, parallels the sending of Jesus to humanity.  The real amazement is not that God had the power to raise his Son from the dead, but that he actually sent him back to the same people that had tortured and murdered him.

            Three days after he was killed in cold blood, the word was out - that Jesus was not onnly alive again, but that he was saying, "I am going before you to Galilee - Let's keep on keepin' on!  Let's get to the work of dispelling the suspicion against the Father, and reconciling the world back to the Father as he really is!"

 

And today that is my task as preacher, and your task as saint - to tell the story of a God whose only reason for creating was to share the garden - the wonder of aliveness - and who, in the face of suspicion, has refused to stop loving us or giving up on us.  Is God's bad reputation so well deserved?  The answer is, "No, it is not."

  1.  If his reputation could only be restored - wouldn't there be unlimited potential in a relationship with God as Adam and Eve had?

  2.  If healing really could come to this area of our lives, and the hearts of humanity - if God's true nature could penetrate back all the way down to our place of suspicion, can you not see what a tremendous effect it might have, and what action for good it might inspire?

 

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