Sometime after I finished the last post, I went to my daily Bible reading schedule to do some catching up. It just so happened that the reading for the day was Isaiah 59-61. Immediately, the first three verses of Isaiah 59 jumped out at me:
1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. [Isaiah 59:1-3 NKJV]
In a previous post we looked at the fact that since the beginning of time, God has desired for mankind to follow Him and make Him the focus of their lives. What jumped out of this passage as I read it is another principle that has existed just as long: God gives man the ability to make that choice! And, with the wrong choices come consequences. Let’s start in the Garden of Eden:
- God said: “16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. ‘” [Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV]
- Adam and Eve chose: “6 So when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [one] wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” [Genesis 3:6 NKJV]
- God rendered judgment and they suffered consequences for not following God’s command. These included leaving the garden, death, working for food, pain in childbearing, and the serpent was condemned to crawling on his belly (Gen. 3:13-20).
This pattern, started in the Garden of Eden, has continued in every generation and dispensation since then. God gives man a choice and man must decide whether to “walk with God” or suffer consequences of his failure to do so. We must also recognize something else from the Garden of Eden. Sometimes sin has physical consequences that reach beyond the person who actually committed the sin. Every woman who bears a child suffers pain because of the sin of Eve. Every one that has faced “thorns and thistles” in toiling for their food does so because of the sin of Adam. And every person on the face of the earth faces certain death because of the sin committed at beginning of mankind. Know this: all pain, all suffering, all death is ultimately not the consequence of an incapable or unwilling God, but of sin. As long as there is sin in the world, pain, suffering, and death will continue. In many cases we have no choice or control over the physical consequences of sin, especially that which results from the sin of others. But, this must not be confused with the spiritual consequences of sin and our ability to choose right or wrong . Many in the “Christian” world would argue that Adam and Eve were the only ones who really had a choice. But the scriptures do not support that concept. The verses below could be multiplied many times over, but these should provide a sampling of the evidence that God did not make beings forced to do His bidding (compare the instinct of animals), but rather beings that must choose to love and follow Him, and in so doing avoid the spiritual consequences of sin. (I have added emphasis in red, bold letters)
- “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” [Joshua 24:15 NKJV]
- “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD [is] God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.” [1 Kings 18:21 NKJV]
- “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” [Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV]
- “3 For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV]
- “The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9 NKJV]
However, as noted in the opening passage, our failures do not reduce God’s power to save. A little later in Isa. 59, there is hope in this statement, “‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ Says the LORD.” [Isaiah 59:20 NKJV] Jesus, the Redeemer, has indeed come and salvation is available to all as noted in the verses above. In future discussions we will look at what God expects for people to restore the relationship that they have broken by their sin.
(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)