What If God Removes His Hand?
One of the clear actions of God explained to us in Scripture is God’s relentless activity on behalf of those who are His children. In the Old Testament this is seen in the life of His chosen people, the Jews. In the New Testament, the church. But what’s confusing to us is how He deals with His children when we are moving headlong into sin.
God is not like us. We give up on people when they fail. God cannot. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He never stops working on behalf of His adopted children. But it is easy to misinterpret some of His actions.
How should we understand His judgments placed upon His own children? It is His discipline to bring us to repentance. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God disciplines those He loves like a loving father for our good. During the actual moments of this corrective discipline it seems “sorrowful” but afterwards it will yield the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE
So, how does this happen? Sometimes it’s active and sometimes passive. For instance, there are times when God sends judgments directly. But there are other times when he simply removes His hand. Look how the Lamentations writer evaluates God’s discipline of Israel.
In fierce anger He has cut off all the strength of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy. (Lamentations 2:3)
God’s right hand is always used as the symbol of His power. It is His right hand that repeatedly saves and protects us. How has He disciplined Israel here? He simply removed His protective hand.
A VIVID ILLUSTRATION
You may not agree, and it’s just my interpretation, but this is how I see the tragic events of 9/11. The hand of God could have prevented one of the most awful moments in our history if He desired. (I wonder how many millions of times God has protected us from evil?) But in my opinion, on this occasion our national sin had become so great and the trajectory so perilous that He let us feel the weight of what it is like to live without His help.
When God’s hand is removed, Satan and all his emissaries have the freedom to illustrate to us what pure evil is really like (and they relish the opportunity). 9/11 was unadulterated wickedness. We saw and felt what our nation would be like if we did not have God’s hand to protect us from evil.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
Now, we can rant and rave at God for this seemingly callous inattention if we want. But we should be careful: we asked for it. If we ignore God and remove Him from every conversation and each decision let’s be honest with ourselves. We are blatantly saying, “We do not want You here! Take your controlling hand off our lives and our communities! Leave us alone. Let us be in charge!”
God is patient and realizes that we do not know what we are saying. His mercy bids Him ignore our immature ranting. But when we are unrelenting in our rebellion there comes a point when He lets us have our request and removes Himself, knowing that the only thing that might help us is to feel the weight of a world without His protection. And the results are always disastrous because we are wrestling not with flesh and blood enemies but principalities and powers with incredible ability and 100% evil intent.
THE INTENDED RESPONSE
Hopefully, we will come to our senses. Isn’t that the purpose of your discipline with your children? You want them to learn, to mature, to grow up and realize how utterly foolish it is to ignore the right path. And sometimes, like the prodigal son, the only way to get this through their thick skulls is to let them taste the cornhusks of the pigpen till it produces a godly sorrow that leads to repentance without regrets.
A SOBER WARNING
This reminder in Lamentations is not intended for a mere history lesson. We are, right now, under God’s judgments. The wake up call of 9/11 was followed by a flurry of filled-churches. But within a few months, church attendance dropped like a rock.
We have seen repeated moments of this type of judgment since then. So what is God saying?
He is calling the church to wake up, recognize what’s happenign and fall on our face in humble repentance. We must cry out for ourselves, our children, adn our nation. There is no program, plan, or agenda that will bring back God’s protective care. God always relents quickly when approached in humility.
If you are a leader with influence over others, help them understand what is really happening. Sound the warning cry like the Lamentations writer and show them the way back to the Father. This is part of what it means to build a culture of revival once again. If we do not raise our voices as leaders and our prayers as intercessors, our children may live in a world where God has “drawn back His right hand from before the enemy.”