Rejection of God
At the tender age of sixteen years, Madalyn Murray O’Hair rejected God. She went out into a thunderstorm, and while the lightning flashed and the thunder crashed, she lifted her fist toward heaven and blasphemed God. She defied Him to strike her dead, but He did not. He allowed her to pursue a perverse career as an atheist. She was allowed to confound the school authorities with a demand to remove prayer from the public schools. She was allowed to create an institution for atheism. Herein she published a periodical decrying belief in God, and she became wealthy. The full cup of her atheism was wrung out to her. She was allowed to go to a very great excess. In due time, she was called into judgment, and her end (in this life) was terrible. In the world beyond this, she is still reaping and will be forever reaping. “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:15-17)
Most people do not reject God in such a dramatic fashion, but their rejection is just as clearcut and conclusive. It is silent and nonconfrontational, but just as stubbornly held. It may appear to be a rejection of people, particularly religious people, and even appear to be as least partially justified, but underneath, in the silent corridors of the soul, it is an absolute rejection of God’s ways. “We will not have this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:14) “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21) As you can see, the next two verses express the extent of their rejection: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22-23) Here is a deep-seated rejection, indeed. “Him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.” (Isaiah 31:6)
Unto Isaac and Rebekah were born twin boys, Esau and Jacob. These children were an answer to prayer, for Rebecca had been barren, and Isaac prayed for her: “And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Genesis 25:21) She was able to pray and get her prayers through, too, for we read, “And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:22-23)
At this point, we might well conclude that Isaac and Rebekah were a spiritual couple. They had married in the fear of God, and the Lord was blessing them in meeting the trials and battles of life together. He gave them two children with two radically different dispositions, and at this point, the scriptures are silent about many of the details of how these two children developed and revealed their differences. We are told that “Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob,” (Genesis 25:28) but again, we are not told all the details of why these two parents let their affections divide their family. A tragedy was in the making, and at the heart of that tragedy was rejection of God.
Some have concluded that these boys did not have an equal chance to get right with God on the basis of Romans 9:13: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” However, this scripture has nothing to do with their salvation. It has to do with God reversing the normal custom of the oldest son inheriting the greater blessing, and giving that blessing to the younger son. It was in this sense that Esau was “hated,” that is, loved less than Jacob. Some have also concluded that if God distinguished between these two young people in this way, then the parents certainly had a right to do so, but this conclusion is a mistake, too. God loves what is right with an infinite holiness, and He deals justly with all. “To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the LORD approveth not.” (Lamentations 3:35-36) The Bible also tells us that the light of God “lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9) God works unceasingly to get everyone saved. “The Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Jesus “taste[d] death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) “He died for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) In the light of this Bible truth, we unhesitatingly say that God was absolutely fair and just with Esau, even as He was absolutely fair and just with Jacob. Both rejected Him at first, but Jacob became reconciled to God, while Esau did not.
But how did Esau reject God? He did it in the usual way, the classic way. He liked his own ways better than God’s ways.
Esau was a marvelous athlete. Probably Olympic quality. He could hunt with the best of them, this man of the field, and he was forever pushing his own limits. While he was developing his body and physical skills, Jacob was honing his subtleness. He was becoming an Olympic-quality con man. Both boys valued their own way above the voice of the conscience and above the dealings of the Spirit of God. The two sinful courses of Esau and Jacob collided with each other. The collision is recorded in Genesis 25. At that time, Esau had pushed himself to the limits of physical endurance. He was like a man who had barely finished a marathon, and he knew it. He needed something quickly in his body. He had barely made it back home. The crafty Jacob saw his chance. He presented the temptation: fend for yourself in your need or sell me your birthright. And Esau continued to follow his rejection of God. “And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?” (Genesis 25:32) If Esau’s heart had been set to follow what is right, he would have died before he gave up his birthright. He would have valued the birthright more than his life. But no! He valued his life (and ways) more than the God-given birthright. “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:34) Mind you, his desire was for the birthright, and he deeply resented how Jacob took advantage of him. But he did not see that it was his own, long-ago rejection of God that set him up for this monumental loss. This decision to put his need (that was the result of his way) above his God-given birthright proved to be a highly significant thing. It became a distorted lens to him through which he looked at everything. You might say that it unraveled his whole character, fenced him off from being able to repent (Hebrews 12:17; it was all Jacob’s fault, he thought), and brought him to hell and damnation in the end. That is all true, but he rejected God in little, seemingly unimportant ways before that. The little rejections brought him to the big rejections, which in turn, led to the loss of the blessing. For if we despise our birthright, given of God, then we will certainly lose the blessing of God as well. If we despise, we get cheated, and we can blame it on a Jacob until we are blue in the face. In the end, our own choices determine our future.
A whole lot of people are in torment at this very moment (and they will never escape), who are moaning and bewailing the little decisions that rejected God. There were the little prejudices, the little things that didn’t quite suit them. God didn’t do it just like they felt they were entitled, so they felt justified to do it their way. People didn’t treat them just right. They see now, in torment, that it was all folly and foolishness. It amounted to continuous rejection of God, but it didn’t seem that way when they did it in this life.
A brother confessed that he was prejudiced against a minister because the minister took a water bottle with him into the pulpit instead of a glass of water. This brother realized that he was not being fair, that there was certainly nothing wrong with carrying water in a bottle, instead of a glass. What really mattered was whether the minister was preaching the Word of God with anointing.
We express amazement that Esau would give up his birthright for a mess of pottage, but all around us, people are rejecting God for the flimsiest of reasons. Some people are too lazy to serve God, while others must cling to offended dignity, or severe notions of how anyone they accept must act. A lot of people rejected Jesus when He was in this world in the flesh, because He did not fit their idea of what a true prophet (to say nothing of the Messiah) should be! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:2-3) Many flatter themselves that they would believe if they could see Jesus here, now, in the flesh. But, no! It is not so! If they cannot bring themselves to love Him whom they have not seen, they would not love Him if they could see Him. It is not the seeing or not seeing that is the problem, it is what they value. It is their rejection of God for their own ideas.
Let us think a little about religious rejection of God. In John 9:18-23, we read about the parents of the blind man who was healed by Jesus. We read about their rejection of God. Their religious leaders were trying their best to deny that a miracle had even taken place (just as many do today), but they ran into a snag. The parents admitted that their son was born blind and that he had been healed (what a testimony is in these words!), but they refused to stand by the consequences of the healing. Those consequences! They would have turned the lives of these parents upside down. To stand by the Healer in the notable work done upon their boy would have destroyed their standing in the community. Excommunicated from the synagogue! Jesus had got them in a fix! What mixed feelings! Our boy can see… but what a cost! They dodged. They ducked. They evaded. And they found a shrewd way through their situation. “But by what means he now seeth, we know not [and we don’t want to investigate or find out]; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not [and we don’t want to know, either]: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.” (John 9:21) Here is evasive action that certainly adds up to rejecting God! Look at how it contrasts with the attitude of their son who had been healed. The religious leaders threw him out. He wouldn’t be evasive or dishonest. He stood by what God had done (his blessing) in all its consequences. We see then that many reject God out of cowardice. It takes real courage and boldness to stand by the consequences of what God does or doesn’t do.
A family left many congregations because of compromise. Time after time, they were faced with a lower standard than they held in their home in the different congregations they attended. They would leave those places, thus choosing to walk in the light that God had shown on their pathway. Finally, they moved to a congregation they had visited for several years. These people held a higher standard than the new family. They believed in holiness. They had obtained holiness (1 John 1:7,9). And they practiced holy living. The family moved to this congregation. One of them said, “We are here to grow old with you.”
Then the Lord moved some teenage girls to that congregation who were very immodest. They didn’t just have immodest outward appearance; they were immodest in heart as well. They didn’t profess to be saved, nor were they received as saved people. These girls, with their unholy lives, were a provocation to the new family. They had always fled the appearance of evil before. This was the way of escape that God had hitherto made for them. But now they were in a situation where evil was not fellowshiped or accepted, but the people of that congregation loved these sinners and bore with them patiently, that they might come to repentance. The new family was trapped in a trap of God’s making. A great lack of love for people with detestable sins in their lives was revealed. They were greatly tried at the members of the congregation, who refused to stop loving these sinning girls. The children of God in that congregation would not ask the girls to stop coming to services. God had wrought a work of deliverance in the hearts of His children that enabled them to face evil while protected by His grace, and it became more and more plain that each member of the new family needed to go deeper in His grace.
It was at this point that an awful and most appalling thing occurred. There was a rejection of God and His way that appeared to be clinging to what was upright. With Simon the Pharisee, the parents of the new family concluded, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) And just as Simon the Pharisee rejected Jesus because He allowed a woman of low morals to touch Him, so this family rejected God’s people because they suffered unsaved people to attend their services.
They were not forthright about their rejection. At first, they put pressure on the congregation to accept their way of dealing with these needy people. “We have left other congregations before,” they said, thus implying that they would leave if things were not done as they saw fit. This put the children of God in a position of choosing to continue to love the sinners attending, or of accepting another way of dealing with them. It was not a hard choice, howbeit sad. How could they stop loving these sinning girls for whom Christ died? How could they put a stumblingblock in their pathway by treating them any less than what love from heaven would dictate? It would be wrong to follow the suggestions of the new family in the congregation. It would be a departure from God and His ways. It would be a rejection of God.
When the new family saw that their contention was not followed, they did not get humble and little before God. They did not feel their need of more grace, longsuffering, and forbearance. Their pride was aggravated. They felt that they were not valued as much as they deserved to be valued. They did not realize that their reaction had forced others to a choice between God’s way and their way. They did not realize the consequences of adopting the policy of treatment of the unsaved that they advocated. As they rejected God in this manner, they rejected His people as well; but they did not regard the matter as a rejection of God. They imagined that the congregation was “letting down” because they allowed sinners to attend the services, and they imagined that they were being faithful and upholding the truth by resenting and disliking the presence of these people. As they yielded to this attitude, the parents of the family became more and more like Pharisees of old. Although the congregation was still living as they were when they were told, “We came to grow old with you,” the parents of the new family no longer wanted to grow old with these people. In fact, they didn’t even want to be around them at all. They didn’t respect the Word of God that dealt with their attitude. They despised the people, and wanted to have their own services with their own version of what was right and wrong. The spirit of this is portrayed in Isaiah 4:1, “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” This is a picture of religious people who profess to love God, but something is wrong. They will not eat the Lord’s bread or wear the apparel that He would have them wear—they have their own. But they still profess to be His (even though they have rejected Him), to take away their reproach.
The story of this family is the story of sectism. At the heart of every church that Jesus has not built is a rejection of Him. “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashe hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:5-9)
When people reject God, a lot of bad fruit comes out of their lives, in spite of their profession, in spite of their claim that God approves of them and accepts them. It is noticed that things begin to slip. Sometimes it is their word. They break their word easily. You cannot rely on them. Their conscience does not seem to bother them. They lie and falsify. They say things were a certain way when it is very plain to others that they themselves did not think of it that way at one time. They become untrustworthy. They become dangerous and harmful. They have rejected God, and He is not blessing them as He did when they walked in the light. They get things all twisted around, until light is darkness, and darkness is light in their minds. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20)
This aftermath effect is vague and foggy in the minds of those who reject God. For one of the consequences of turning from Him is a lack of spiritual clarity. Confusion always attends rejection of God, even if it does not appear that way at first. But there are contradictions in every path that leads away from God, and these contradictions begin to show as the paths are pursued. One might start with a well-developed personal creed at first, which has a show of wisdom, but “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
God has a way. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35:8) It is above all the ways of men. It is a highway; it is cast up (Isaiah 62:10). To get on God’s way, you must go up; you must be lifted by Him (Ephesians 2:6). To stay below this highway of God’s making is to reject Him. Mark ye well: anything less than complete acceptance of God’s ways is a rejection of Him.
When we allow God to bring us up to His standard and way, then we enjoy the benefits of heavenly engineering. We find that He has designed it so that we live above the floodplains of the world. While others are scrambling to survive the latest hellish inundation, frantically sandbagging their beliefs, adjusting, discussing, accommodating, fortifying; the highway of God stretches before us, straight and pure, headed for eternity and heavenly rest. And He gives power, and more power as needed, to climb the grade.
God has made a way to please Him! Glory to His name!
We leave all the worn-out, discredited attitudes of taking our own way at the entrance ramp. After surrendering to God, we climb in our “new creature” vehicle of holiness and accelerate up the entrance ramp. There we find that the highway goes up hills and down valleys in a straight line for heaven, but the elevation is always above the world below. There are many exit ramps, and sometimes it may appear that we will be forced off the highway, but God makes a way of escape, and we are enabled to continue. The grades began to prove too difficult to climb, and the “new creature” vehicle needs more power. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) God has a turbo-charged experience for you to enable you to forgive, to bear and forbear, to be patient, to have faith, yea, for “every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8); all things necessary for “life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Anything less than perfect trust in God is a denial of Him. Anything less than complete surrender and acceptance of His way is a rejection of Him. Oh, let Him have His way with thee!