God’s Hands Are Tied
We all know what it is like to love the Lord but at the same
time to hold on to our daily opinions.
Sometimes because of our life’s experiences we think we know how to
handle specific situations or we believe we know what is right. Jonah was like-minded. God had ordered Jonah to go and cry against
In his disobedience Jonah boarded a boat headed for Tarshish. But the bible says that God sent a great wind and that there was a mighty tempest in the sea. The men on the boat, who suffered as a result of the tempest, knew that Jonah was running from God (Jonah 1:10).
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, what meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us; So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us? What is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Okay. It is obvious that Jonah was in direct disobedience to the Lord. For this reason the tempest came and Jonah was eventually thrown into the sea and was swallowed by a big fish. This was God’s preliminary judgment on Jonah for disobeying him, but what is really in this text for us to see? Did any good come from Jonah’s disobedience? Is there something in the above text that can bring to light the scripture below?
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Yes there is, the lives of all the men who were on the ship. Because of Jonah’s disobedience, these men had an opportunity to learn who the real living God was. Let’s take a closer look at the text. Before these men experienced the deliverance of God they were religious…
…Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god…
The mariners had some kind of religion. They were worshipers but they had no idea who or what they were worshiping (John 4:22). They eventually found out Jonah was to blame, and that his God was judging from heaven…
…So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us? What is thine occupation? And whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
This was the witness. Now the mariners knew that Jonah’s God was the one bringing the judgment. For this reason they feared.
…Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land;
Even after these men knew they were going to have to sacrifice Jonah they still wanted to do everything they could in order to save him. This shows the men’s hearts were prepared and ready for the witness. Listen to the prayer that they prayed in fear just before they threw Jonah into the sea…
…Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.
This prayer demonstrates the men’s hearts; they were viewing the situation with the right attitude. They were not proud or boasters, they feared the situation and they feared the Lord. Look what happens as a result of that fear…
…and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
Do you see it?? These mariners made vows. We are now under grace so as Christians we understand that personal sacrifice (vows) are not reflective of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but in Old Testament times vows were as close as you could get to God. For a man to fear the Lord and then to make vows and sacrifices as a result of that fear was partnership with the Lord. When I get to heaven, I will be surprised if I do not happen to see these same exact mariners. These men were saved as a result of Jonah’s disobedient witness. God worked within Jonah’s disobedience to reconcile men unto himself. Romans 8:28 comes alive through this example. Even though Jonah was wrong and was in direct disobedience to the Lord, the Lord knew his heart. He was in direct rebellion but God also knew he would repent and do what was commanded of him (Jonah 2:7-9). Jonah was indeed called according to God’s purposes.
What conclusions can we draw from this example? There are many. There are many disobediences going on right now in the church that we can liken to Jonah’s situation but for edification, I would like to focus on one specifically.
The issue is of women preaching and teaching in the churches. Many people say, “But God uses them. But things happen. But it seems so right and I learn so much. I feel the presence of the Lord…”
1 Timothy 2:11-15
Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
1 Corinthians 14:34
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
By using this example I am not singling women out. In fact, I have written a fiction novel titled Sally which directly deals with a woman’s journey in her faith. But the question I am posing in this interpretation is central. I am referring to women being used either as pastors or teachers… and specifically in the churches. When it comes to this issue, even men have transgressed. I want to examine God’s word, and what it says. I will also be the first to admit that in some cases, it is difficult to interpret God’s word. Sometimes we have lingering questions regarding the bible and because of these questions we have to learn within faith, but I do not believe this is the case in this central situation.
I have already answered, by the text of Jonah, that God works within our disobedience. This is why work does get done when women are in the pulpit or are teaching. Because our God is a merciful God and he works within our disobedience, but we have no idea what we are doing to ourselves by allowing ourselves to rest in this disobedience. We have opened up a door that can only be shut through repentance, the Lord then faithfully turning us around. The question becomes, is the Lord going to have to use a fish to do it?
In the book of Job, God allows us an inside look into the spiritual battle that goes on when He and satan are debating regarding a man’s intentions toward serving God.
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). You can bet your last penny when you or I decide to rebel against the Lord or do anything that might remotely resemble disobedience, that satan is right there to accuse it. Notice with the example of Job. Satan not only accuses Job of wrongdoing, but of wrongdoing that he has not even done yet. Let me ask you a question. If God has allowed satan a certain presence before him to accuse us of things we have not even done yet then don’t you think he has allowed satan that same presence to accuse us in the areas where we are in direct disobedience to him?
When God commands us in the bible to observe him and to regard his direction through the apostles then don’t you think he expects us to abide in that direction. God has given us a bible and he expects us to follow it by faith. The bible is real and it exists and I can hold it in my hand but it still takes faith to follow it. God has ordained a faith walk from his people and that faith is demonstrated when we, through faith (James 2:21-26), follow the direction of the bible…
But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
There is a reason for this. When we were under the law then we had to do one thing and not the other. If we did the wrong thing we were in direct disobedience to God. This resulted in our sin and God’s judgment. We are now under grace. Because Jesus died for our sins God does not expect us to follow laws because we can’t, he only expects us to confess his son by faith and then to abide in him. Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Because we are now under grace as long as we abide in the faith that has been provided by Jesus Christ’s death, then we avoid the snare of sin. Now that we abide in faith we might make the wrong decision but as long as we do so in the faith God has ordained according to his word (Romans 14:23), then because we are not conscious of the actual sin it will not be imputed unto us as sin until such time as we become aware of it’s true sinfulness (Numbers 15:22-29, Psalm 19:12, 1 Timothy 1:13). As long as we abide in Jesus and obey by faith the word given us and keep a clean conscience according to that which has been revealed unto us then God does not impute our sin unto us. We will make mistakes (error, Numbers 15:22-29, Psalm 19:12) and bad choices but as long as we are making decisions based on faith and on a clean conscience resulting from biblical direction (2 Timothy 3:16) then any actual sin resulting from these choices will not be required of us save the consequences of those choices which God allows to buffet us because of our great need for sanctification (Hebrews 12:1-11, 10:36, Galatians 5:13-26). The faith that God has ordained has taken the snare of the law and its control over us out of the equation. Now that we abide in the faith Jesus has provided, sin has died.
Here is an example. It is like a man standing on a street corner waiting to cross the street. Buses are coming from both directions. The man has a blindfold covering his eyes so he cannot see. God is there with him. God takes off the blindfold (reveals the law to him). God then commands the man to walk across the street without getting hit. The man proceeds across the street and is enticed and walks right in front of a bus (he sins, transgresses). It is clear that the blindfold was taken off to help the man see what he needed to see, but this only instigated the man to be rebellious (Romans 7:8-11). What we need to understand is that the laws purpose was to reveal to us that we are indeed sinners, and that once this fact had become established in our hearts, for us to take accountability (Galatians 3:22-25). Here’s the problem. The variance between the law revealing to us our true sinfulness, and us consequently fighting our conscious understanding of this sinfulness, is where God becomes grieved. God has no problem taking off the blindfold and watching our sinful nature walk into a couple of busses. He becomes grieved when, time after time, we continue to walk in front of buses and now, because we’ve been doing it for so long, we feel accustomed and justified within our choices. We have now rationalized within our hearts that it is okay for us to walk in front of buses. It is at this point that we become religious hypocrites and (Pharisees) in our view toward God. The major problem with a Pharisee is that God can’t communicate with one (Matthew 23:26). This is solely because of the rationalization and justification process that takes place, and this, the direct result of a person trying to abide in the law which results in the person consciously and continuously sinning against God. The law is perfect (Romans 7:12), but because we are imperfect (Galatians 3:21-22), we need to allow the law to guide us to a saving grace in Jesus Christ. It is here, in Jesus Christ, that we by faith can abide within his perfection (Romans 7:7-25).
Now let’s look at the reverse that brings further enlightenment. Because of the sting of the law (1 Corinthians 15:56) and our powerlessness over it (Romans 7:8-11), God sent his Son (Romans 8:3). Now the same blindfold that was taken off by the revealing of the law has been implemented back on by faith through the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross (Colossians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15,16). Now when the man walks across the street it’s okay if he gets hit by a bus because he’s blindfolded and is walking by faith. The sting of the law and the consequences are not an issue anymore. The faith walk God has provided has taken care of that. God won’t blame you or be grieved or vexed if you walk by faith and consequently get hit, he just couldn’t bear with a person when they would justify in their hearts that it was okay for them to knowingly sin against him simply because the law is a curse. God knows the law is a curse unto sinners (Galatians 3:21-22) that is why he implemented it, to show us our true sinfulness (Romans 7:7-8,7:13, Galatians 3:19-24). God desired the law to humble us and to eventually lead us to saving faith in Jesus Christ so that we could abide in his righteousness rather than within laws curse (Galatians 3:10-13).
…but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
Can’t you see the beauty of what God has done (Romans 11:33)? He not only provided salvation for the world through his Son Jesus Christ, but the faith walk he has provided has virtually taken our ability to vex God out of the equation. Because of the faith walk, we are limited in our ability to knowingly sin against him.
Now, since God has ordained a faith walk from his people then satan knows this. Satan knows that without faith it is impossible to please God. Satan knows that God does not require law-abiding obedience from us, but a faithful witness. Pure and simple, when we ignore the bible God has given us then we ignore the same instructions we are supposed to receive by grace, when this happens… satan has a place to accuse us before the Father and it will stick. Because satan knows that God expects faith out of us then when we, by faith, directly disobey the instructions from the bible then below is the kind of conversation we can expect satan to have with God…
“So, these people say they love you and by faith they have taken hold of the bible and its teachings… but yet they are ignoring it. By faith they follow you but then by that same faith they conveniently forget some of its passages. Isn’t that interesting? These people don’t love you. You created man in order to give a particular people the choice to worship you. You gave man the will to choose but now it seems that within this same will these people have decided to play games and rebel against you. And here is the interesting part. Because you have ordained a faith walk out of these people you cannot call them on it. I am satan!! And I stand here and accuse (Revelation 12:10) and say that because these people have said that they believe in you, because they say they believe in the goodness of God, because they say they believe in the bible, then I say them picking and choosing what parts of the bible they want to believe is rubbish. Which is it God?? Are you going to require faith from your people, which pleases you, or are you going to do what you did with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) and show your direct judgment on these people so that they will be forced to do what has already been required of them by faith. Which is it God?? These women in the pulpits, if you were to judge them then the entire church would stop having women preach and teach in the pulpits, not because their faith told them to stop, but because you directly judged them; show me the faith in that? Show me where these people please you when you have to directly judge them in order for them to accurately serve you, and this… by the same faith you are requiring from them. Where’s the love there? Where’s the devotion to the God who died for them when these people seem to cling to their own opinions rather then to follow the basic instructions you have given them so that they might be able to abide in you by faith. Pure and simple God, if you judge this act (disobedience) separate from faith then don’t say these people love you or that they follow you by faith. Don’t tell me you have a people called out for your very own when your very own is faith and these people don’t abide in it. By a faith choice and by selfish rebellion they have walked away from your biblical instruction, so by faith, and only by faith, and never by your direct intervention or judgment… can these same people be redeemed back to it.”
This is my answer to not only why God works in merciful ways within our disobedience, but also why he won’t often judge it on earth. If God were to directly judge our faithless actions every time we were in disobedience then we would no longer be a people that followed God by faith, we would be a people who followed God because of his direct intervention in our lives. That is not faith. If God were to judge us every time we strayed from the faith He has called us to, then through God’s judgment, and not through faith, would we abide in God. God would never allow this. God did not die on a cross and call us to a faith walk for him to simply come down here every fifteen minutes and show us exactly what to do. This takes faith totally out of the equation, and God won’t have that. We must remember that our God is a God of perfect balance (Proverbs 16:2, Job 28:25, 37:16, 1 Samuel 2:3), that with God every action requires a balancing reaction. Ask any scientist what would happen if the moon were to come out of alignment or if the sun were to be brought a little closer to the earth; their answer would be simple. That any unbalance in the sun or moon’s fixed structure would absolutely render our planet uninhabitable. If we, by faith, walk away from God then it will absolutely take an act of faith to reverse that. Look at the example of the Catholic Church and Martin Luther. God did not come down and show the Catholic Church that indulgences were wrong. God did not use direct intervention to discipline the church or to get the church back on track. But a little German man who was getting eaten up inside because of the rebellion and the consequences of that rebellion decided to encourage himself within his faith and nail his thesis on the church doors. This act of faith by Martin Luther, which was immediately backed by God, began the church reformation. It was not God’s judgment on indulgences, but Martin Luther’s faith regarding indulgences that reversed everything. When the church walks away from God by faith then the church can only be redeemed back to God by that same faith. God’s hands are tied.