Helping God

Recent and ongoing events in the Middle East have captured the attention of much of the world as the Arabs and Israelis are once again engaged in battle with each other.  If we take media reports at face value, which is rarely a safe course, the “gallant” and “overmatched” Palestinians are being systematically slaughtered by the Israeli army and air force.  Lost somewhere is the fact that the Palestinians started the current conflict by launching indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel.

Representatives of our government are trying to broker a cease-fire agreement, while making only veiled attempts to appear neutral in the conflict.  Prepared statements call on the Israelis to make concessions to the Palestinians, while asking very little in return from the Palestinians.  For the first time in the modern history of Israel it is increasingly clear that the U.S. President and his administration are more inclined to support the Palestinians than they are Israel.  In the meantime, the conflict continues to rage and could potentially explode into a region-wide war.

This is not the first time that Arabs and Israelis have been locked in battle.  The modern state of Israel was established in 1948, and almost immediately the Arab nations surrounding her went to war against her.  This brief conflict was just the first of four full-scale wars that have been fought, the second being in 1956, the third being the famous 1967 Six-day War, and the fourth being the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  In addition to these conventional wars, Israel has been subjected to nearly incessant terrorist attacks, and also, as in the current conflict, indiscriminate military aggression by their Arab neighbors.

While these conflicts have inflicted terrible loss of life and property damage through the years, they show no signs of ceasing.  No diplomatic efforts have been successful in addressing and resolving the underlying issues that keep Arabs and Israelis at odds with one another.  The left-leaning politicians of America and their counterparts around the world are loathe to admit that peace can never come to the Middle East so long as Arab factions are intent on the destruction of Israel.  Until that attitude is given up by the Arabs, there will never be peace in the Middle East.

While very few seem interested in trying to uncover the root cause of this conflict, it should be obvious to any serious student of the Bible.  The ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews has come about because Abraham and Sarah tried to help God.

In Gen. 12:1-3 God promised Abraham that He would bless him, and would make a great nation of him.  God also said that in Abraham “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  At that time, Abraham was 75 years old and childless.  In Gen. 15:4 God promised that “one who will come forth from your body, he shall be your heir.”  After ten years, however, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was still barren.  This is when Abraham and Sarah decided they should help God.

In Gen. 16:1-4 Abraham and Sarah took the matter into their own hands.  Sarah had an Egyptian handmaid named Hagar, and she gave her to Abraham so he could father a child by her.  Hagar conceived and gave birth to a son named Ishmael.  They thought they had helped God keep His promise, but they had only made matters worse.

In due time God appeared to Abraham and announced that Ishmael would not be the son of promise, but Sarah would bear a son whose name would be Isaac.  This son would be his heir and God would establish His covenant with him (Gen. 17:18, 19).  As a concession to Abraham, however, God promised to make a nation of Ishmael’s descendants (Gen. 21:13).  The descendants of Isaac became the Jews, and the descendants of Ishmael became the Arabs.

It is often said that the worst fights are family fights, and in this case it has been true for multiplied generations.  Although Isaac and Ishmael were reconciled with each other during their lifetimes, their descendants have been fighting each other for centuries.  And they will continue to fight each other until the Lord comes again.  All of this grief, and all this heartache and destruction, has come about  because a man and a woman 4,000 years ago tried to help God, instead of trusting Him to do what He had promised.

Abraham and Sarah unwittingly unleashed a torrent of grief on the world when they tried to help God, but they are not the last to have been so presumptuous as to do so.  In modern times,  others have tried to help God with respect to salvation and worship.  These well-intentioned souls have not unleashed physical warfare on the world, but what they have unleashed is far more devastating than physical warfare.

As regards salvation, some people have tried to help God by altering what He has commanded in His word.  They have done so because by changing what God’s word requires, they have multiplied the numbers of people who have been “saved.”  The scriptures plainly teach that one must believe and be baptized in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16), but many people balk at the idea of being baptized.  So, well-meaning preachers invented the “sinner’s prayer” to help God save more people.  It didn’t matter to them that the sinner’s prayer cannot be found anywhere in the Bible.  What mattered was the thousands who could claim salvation just by saying those few words.

Like Abraham and Sarah, however, this “help” has created chaos in the religious world.  How many thousands, even millions, will be lost because they said a man-made prayer instead of following the simple command of our Lord Jesus Christ?  The damage created by this “help” will last into eternity.

With respect to worship, God’s word is also very clear.  Christian worship is simple and reverent.  From the New Testament we know that the early Christians met each Lord’s Day (Sunday) to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).  They also prayed together, and made contributions to the work of the church from their means, and proclaimed God’s word (Acts 2:42).  They also joined their hearts and voices in singing praises to God.  They did this without instrumental accompaniment (Eph. 5:19; Col 3:16).

This simple form of worship, however, doesn’t have the snap, crackle, and pop that so many modern people crave.  So, again, people tried to help God.  In the place of the simple New Testament example of worship, modern churches have everything from a piano or organ and a choir, to a rock-style band, replete with light shows and pyrotechnics.  There is no question that these things draw large crowds, but they profane God’s worship, and appeal to the desires of the worshipers instead of to the wishes of the Holy God who is supposed to be the object of our worship.

When humans try to help God they tend to go far beyond what He desires of us.  Of this John said, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn. 9).  The point to be learned is that God doesn’t need our help to accomplish His purposes.  He has told us in His word what He requires of us.  If we simply obey what God commands, that is all the help He needs or desires.