By Gerald Cowan
The writer of the book of Hebrews pays a thought-provoking compliment to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tells us that they trusted God and died without losing their faith, even though they had not received certain promises. They considered themselves to be strangers in the present world and citizens of heaven – pilgrims here, longing to be “at home over there” with God. And then he tells us that because of their faith and faithfulness God was not ashamed to be called their God (Hebrews 11:16). God was willing to be identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). Not because they were perfect me. Not because they never made mistakes or never did anything wrong – that was not true of any of them. But rather because they tried to please God and walk with Him in the way He directed.
God does not pay that same compliment to all people. He is not willing to be called the God of those who are not trying to be faithful to Him. To the unfaithful people of Israel God said, “You are not my people and I am not your God" (Hosea 1:9). The reason is clear: God cannot accept those whose way of life is contrary to His will. He has no fellowship with evil, no communion with darkness, no concord with the devil, no agreement with unbelievers, nothing in common with idols (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). When Israel refused to separate themselves from unclean things they could not expect God to claim them as His people. They had no right to claim Him as their God. Not because they were imperfect people, but because they were not trying to please God or to walk in the ways He directed.
This question occurs to me: would God be ashamed to be called our God, the God of our nation and country? It is true that God has no chosen nation – no country can claim to be the equivalent of the Old Testament nation of Israel. Not even modern Israel can make that claim legitimately. Though they do make the claim and many others in the world acknowledge them as God’s chosen people, God’s chosen nation, the claim is not valid. Even if God had a chosen nation, it would probably not be us. Consider this: true Christianity is hard to find, pseudo-Christianity is found everywhere in denominations and cults, anti-Christianity is proliferating in society and in government, false religions are protected and privileged and Christians who oppose them are subject to immense pressure and labeled as bigots, racists, and un-American – sometimes even called domestic terrorists. How can non-Christians and anti-Christians expect to claim the God of the Bible as their God? And if they do, will He acknowledge it? Will He allow himself to be called “their God?” Things biblically and historically wrong have become accepted and approved in our society and government – when immoral things become legal they do not become moral; they are still immoral. Would God be pleased or ashamed of the image of Him reflected by the nation?
The way any person lives is always a reflection upon the standard he claims to live by, and also upon the one who set the standard. The failure of professing Christians to live up to the standard set by God is a reflection upon the standard (the New Testament of the Bible), and upon the God who gave it. I suppose God might have a right to be ashamed of some of us at times. All of us have at times brought discredit and disgrace upon His holy name – the name of God may be blasphemed because of our sins and our example (see Romans 2:24). We have sometimes been ashamed to tell others about our connection with the Lord and may even have denied Him at times. If so, He will be ashamed of us and will deny any connection with us (Mark 8:38, Matthew 10:32-33). We are not perfect, and we seem incapable of becoming perfect – all have sinned; there is not one person other than Jesus Christ who has not sinned in some way at some time, and there are many who persist in sin even when they know better and when they claim to be righteous (Romans 3:10, 23). God would be perfectly just if He disowned us and cast us off, repudiating any association with us and refusing to be called our God.
But, wonder of wonders, our Lord is willing to forgive all the sins and ugliness of our past lives, to accept us as His people, and allow us to call Him our God. It is only what you are now that counts with God, not what you used to be. I know that if I continue to be faithful to Christ, someday I will stand in the presence of the Lord himself, and....
Then will He own my worthless name
Before His Father’s face,
And, in the New Jerusalem
Appoint for me a place. (Isaac Watts)
What about you?
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com