Did you ever go to a funeral and think you made a mistake? You hear the minister waxing eloquent about the deceased and how wonderful he was. You want to look into the casket to make sure you are in the right place. Is he talking about the same scoundrel that you knew when he was alive?
I suppose it is understandable that we do this. After all, the person is dead and loved ones are grieving so there is some utility in painting a rosy, albeit exaggerated, picture of the departed. He may have been “a cheating s-o-b that broke my heart” but let’s honor his memory with the few good things he managed to do.
I want to show you how our Lord does something very similar with His people. Here is a small snapshot of their time in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt.
“And when the people complained, and it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost part of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).
“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman….And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and behold, Miriam became leperous, white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous” (Numbers 12:1, 9, 10).
“And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they” (Numbers 14:11, 12).
Things don’t look too good here. God’s people are disobedient and He is angry about it. The children are being bad and they are being punished for it by their just God.
But what happens when outsiders show up and want to curse God’s people? Listen to the prophet that was hired to curse Israel after all of the above incidents have taken place:
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?...He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them” (Numbers 23:19, 21, emphasis added).
Incredible! The Lord has not beheld iniquity or seen perverseness in Israel? After all the evil they have done? And yet, that was the word of the Lord through the prophet Balaam. Yes, Balaam was a greedy man that prophesied for pay, but there is no evidence that he wasn’t a true prophet. On the contrary, his prophecy was the opposite of the curse he was hired to perform.
This is just one of many biblical examples. Hebrews 11 gives wonderful eulogies of people like Abraham, Moses, and Gideon. But it leaves out Abraham’s lies about his wife, his sexual relationship with his wife’s servant girl; it doesn’t mention Moses murder and anger problem; and it ignores Gideon’s doubt and cowardness. David is mentioned without reference to his adultery and murder and Samson is in the list but it leaves out the fact that he was a whoremonger.
There are many admirable things to say about Job but patience isn’t a virtue that sticks out to me. And yet God says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).
God sees what He wants to see.
I want to add some important cautions to the picture here. First of all, God knows all of our thoughts, words, and actions, and He will bring every secret work into judgment. The law and our own conscience tells us that we all “come short of the glory of God” and that “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10, emphasis added).
The sin and sins that separate us from God and His favor must be justly done away with. This was the purpose of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. By receiving the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, a person is forgiven, born again, and becomes a child of God. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
It is vital for you to know your standing before God and have assurance of salvation. Then God can see in you what He wants to see: a forgiven sinner, saved by the grace of God, kept by His power “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
The second thing is not to forget about the fire of the Lord, Miriam’s leprosy, the forty years of wilderness wandering. Don’t forget the consequences of Abraham’s missteps, the death of David’s baby, Samson’s lost eyesight and humiliation. In other words, as God’s children, we are assured of His chastisement when it is warranted. Please read Hebrews 12:5–11 where the Bible gives details about God’s inevitable (and beneficial) chastening of His children.
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:17, 18).
Those of us that are parents know that we can be hard on our kids. But we want them to look good in the eyes of others and will defend them fiercely when they are reproached by outsiders. Apparently, we get this trait from God our Father. Satan is known as the “accuser of our brethren” and there is strong biblical evidence that he points out our sins and faults “before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). But God defends us, not based on our own merit or works, but on the basis of His saving grace through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10).
God sees what He wants to see. And surely that is a poke in the enemy’s eye.
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