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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

How can God be so cruel?
Date Posted: September 17, 2023

In Romans 11:25, Paul says Israel has been blinded in part until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. However, it isn’t only the Jews that have been partially blinded. In Ephesians 4:18, Paul tells us that Gentiles have suffered the same fate. God deliberately blinds some people to the truth of His Son? How can that be? It seems so intrinsically wrong, and against the character of the Sunday school God we have all learned about. That Being who is warm and fuzzy, who is loving and forgiving of the most vile sin. It is in the Bible, so it must be true and must be reconciled. Let’s take a look at a few things…

Since the 1920s Hollywood has become the holy grail of wide-eyed young persons who want to be in pictures. Some parents have scrabbled to insert their babies and little children into the limelight of the nation’s love for motion pictures. The results of this one hundred year old worship seem to indicate that fame and fortune absolutely corrupts. If this were an axiom, then there should be further evidence where such terms as “all rich people” and “corrupted” would occur. If it were true, then there would be no philanthropy. This is not the case; therefore fame and fortune are not the corrupters of men. It must be something else that absolutely corrupts.

The reason for the discussion about corruption is because Paul explains in Romans 1 that those who choose their own desires and worship idols instead of the Lord God are allowed that pursuit. God gives them up and releases them to it.

The Gospel is God's power working toward salvation and this is to "everyone who believes with a personal trust and confident surrender and firm reliance." This is the foundation Paul lays before he tackles the evilness that man is capable of. One need not look farther than the current newspaper or news channel to observe man’s evilness in action. We know Satan is the instigator of evil due to the Bible’s candid descriptions of him and his actions, and through Jesus’ description of him. However, humans have this ability to choose whether to follow the Lord or not. Joshua is most explicit on this score when he said, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

But God's wrath and indignation are revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who, in their wickedness repress and hinder the righteousness and make it inoperative. Romans 1:18.

That which is known about God is made evident to them by God (Romans 1:19). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification]. This is because when they recognized Him as God, they rejected Him as God.

God made it perfectly clear who He was to Pharaoh long before He used Moses and the plagues. Pharaoh rejected God as God and set himself up in the vainest way as god.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day took exception to John the Baptist. But let it slide because they recognized the verses that John quoted to them about being the voice in the wilderness. King Herod took great exception. John recognized what was in their hearts and called those religious leaders a "brood of vipers" and asked them "who warned you to flee the wrath to come?"

Jesus explains even further when He says in Matthew 12:35 "and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things." It comes out of the heart.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees had ample time to change their minds and to recognized Jesus for who He was as the disciples recognized Him from the very beginning. They were Scripture scholars yet they turned a blind eye to the fulfillment of the Scriptures in Jesus. They had Moses and the Prophets to tell them who He was, yet they didn't believe even when He rose from the dead (Luke 16:31). It was a willful decision to reject Jesus as God’s son. Deep in their hearts they knew better, but because of the danger to their own puffed-up, self-righteous, power and money grubbing, they couldn’t possibly accept Jesus as the Messiah because what He was teaching meant the end of their current, luxurious lifestyle. They chose temporal pleasure over eternal salvation in a deliberate, willful choice.

Is it in God's character to create an evil heart? I don't think so. Because of Matthew 12, I think what Paul is teaching in Romans 1 is that it is most likely whatever the human does with the inbred, embedded knowledge of humankind’s Creator God (accepts or rejects) determines what will come forth from the heart. And I believe Paul got that lesson from Jesus when he was taught by Him in Arabia (Galatians) .

Matthew 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Matthew 7:17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

I look at this as God rejecting them after they rejected God's Son.

If they had accepted Jesus for Who He is, then they never would have brought Him to be crucified...would never have shouted for Barabbas... and there would never have been severe persecution which only made the Gospel seed be planted deeper with stronger roots and less infighting because all Christians had a common enemy: first the Jews but ultimately, Rome.

Yes, God blinded them. Yes, God blocked their understanding because

1. They exchanged truth for a lie
2. Worshipped and served the creation
3. They did not acknowledge God or approve Him even though they had full knowledge of Him
4. Romans 1:31[They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.
5. Being fully aware of God's consequences of such acts that being death, they not only practiced those things but approve others that did them; and the same holds true after thousands of years.

Since God is this way with the Gentiles, how much more and worse are the consequences for those Jews who were Scripture scholars and refused to believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Two more points that are crucial. Recall Blind Bartimaeus who sat by the road begging. He kept shouting for Jesus and when Jesus heard him, He called for him and then asked, "What do you want Me to do?" Bartimaeus said, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." And Jesus healed him.

The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus (Luke 4:18) Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed..."

All they had to do was recognize that they were blind in order for Jesus to give them their sight and their understanding. They were too proud to do so.

Luke 16:31 He said to him, If they do not hear and listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded and convinced and believe [even] if someone should rise from the dead.

Don’t make the same mistake they did.

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Biography Information:

Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews check out Gina's book reviews at Upon