And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
(Matthew 16:1-4 ESV)
Yesterday we read a story of the Jewish leaders approaching Jesus for the sole purpose of starting an argument. This was not the first time the Jewish leaders – the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes – had approached Jesus in this manner. They never came to Him to learn. They came only because they thought He was a fraud and they wanted to discredit Him.
As usual, Jesus won the argument (being God, He wins every argument). But then He does something sobering: He left them and departed.
Matthew has shown throughout His gospel (as the other gospel writers also show) that the Jewish leaders were self-righteous. They thought they had all the answers. And since Jesus’ words and behavior were contrary to what they thought, they considered Him to be wrong.
But that wasn’t all. Not only did they think Jesus was wrong, they repeatedly confronted Him about it. They constantly shoved their self-righteousness in Jesus’ face. They were never humbled when Jesus debunked their theories, as He always did. They never considered that they might be wrong. Their arrogance knew no bounds.
The result is as tragic as it gets. Jesus walks away from them. The Greek word here is καταλειπο (pronounced: kat-al-i’-po). This is a very strong word in Greek. It means “to abandon; to forsake”.
Those who reject Jesus are living in darkness [John 3:19]. If they don’t open their eyes to the light that is presented to them they plunge themselves deeper into darkness as God abandons them.
This is exactly how God has worked since time began. God sent message after message to Israel and Judah through His prophets, yet those two nations refused to acknowledge their sin and repent [2 Kings 17:13, 23; Nehemiah 9:29-30; Jeremiah 18:11 et. al ]. So God removed His protection from them and they were conquered by Assyria and Babylon, respectively.
The most tragic thing that can happen to a person or nation is for God to abandon them. God does not want to do this [1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9]. He does everything He possibly can – shy of controlling us as robots – to get us to believe in Him so we can escape an eternity separated from Him. But if a person, or nation, repeatedly and incessantly rejects God as the Jewish leaders did, and as Israel and Judah did, God will turn His back on them.
But I believe that doing so is an act of love from God as He leaves them to their own depravity hoping that when they hit rock bottom they will finally come to realize the truth. If they don’t, their condition becomes permanently hopeless.
I have no doubt that the United States is on the verge of experiencing this first hand. For years we have rejected God’s truth and refused to repent. Like the Jewish leaders we’ve dug in our heels when it comes to sinful behaviors such as abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. We promulgate these sinful behaviors (and others) throughout our nation and even force them onto other nations (i.e. for them to receive financial aid).
During this time God has been trying to get our attention through His messengers such as Billy Graham, Joel Rosenberg and others. But because we are arrogant and in love with our sin we have refused to budge.
Our fate will be no better than that of Israel and Judah.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.