AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Joe brings your friend Rachel some flowers. When Rachel tells you about it, she says, “Guess what? It turns out that Joe is attracted to me just like I’m attracted to him! Look, he brought me flowers! Obviously he is hoping to date me.” This is Rachel’s interpretation of the flower event. And you assume that her explanation of Joe’s motivations is accurate.
Well, later on that day, you run into Joe at a coffee shop. You say, “Hey, Joe, I heard about how you gave Rachel flowers. So you really like her, huh? When are you planning to ask her out?”
Much to your surprise, Joe frowns and says, “What are you talking about? I’m not romantically interested in Rachel. We’re just in the same home group at church. When she shared about how sad she was by her cat dying, I just brought her flowers to be nice. I thought they’d cheer her up. But that’s all there is to it. I already have a girlfriend. Rachel’s not my type.”
It turns out that Joe’s true motivations were quite different than Rachel thought. Because she has a crush on Joe, she wanted to believe Joe liked her as well, so she just came up with explanations of Joe’s actions that pleased her, then she pretended like her assumptions were true without ever verifying them with Joe.
Humans do this same sort of thing with God all the time. First, God does something that really grabs our attention. Then, instead of asking Him how we should interpret His behavior, we rush to invent explanations that please us. We say things like, “Obviously God was angry with the people of that town, and that’s why He sent that tornado to kill them.” Or we say, “God made that marriage fail because those two got together when they were still married to other people. God was obviously punishing them for their adultery.” We do this in our personal lives as well. Wendy thinks, “God made me lose my baby to show how much He hates me.” Tod thinks, “God had me get fired because He’s never forgiven me for sins I’ve done in the past.” Louisa thinks, “God gave me what I want because I reminded Him of a promise He made in the Bible, and He knows He can’t ever go against the written Word.” The problem with this kind of behavior is that so often our assumptions about God are all wrong. Like Rachel, we’re being much too hasty to project motivations onto God that feel right to us.
Now when you tell Rachel what Joe told you about his motivation for bringing her flowers, Rachel scoffs and says, “Oh, that’s not true. He just made up that story about expressing sympathy about my cat because you had him on the spot. I know the truth is that he is in love with me.”
Not only is Rachel lying to herself about what Joe’s motivations are, but she has also decided that she is the supreme authority on the subject of Joe’s true feelings. She’s not about to believe any claim Joe makes until it aligns with what she’s already decided must be true about him. How well is this plan going to work out for Rachel? It’s not going to work out well at all. She’s setting herself up for major heartbreak down the line.
Now when it comes to God, we humans often act just as foolish as Rachel is being about Joe. We set ourselves up as the supreme authorities on the subject of God’s motivations towards us. And once we decide for God why He did something, we then start treating our theories as rock solid truths. We write books declaring that the things we want to believe about God are actually true. We even put words in God’s mouth for Him that He didn’t actually say just to make our theories about Him sound more believable. Consider the difference between these two statements:
“I think God might look down on homosexuals.”
“Thus says the Lord: ‘All homosexuals will burn in Hell unless they repent of their evil perversity!’”
That second statement sounds a lot more authoritative, doesn’t it? Wording matters. The way that you present material really effects how much of an impact you’ll make. If you fancy yourself to be a prophet, for example, and you want to deceive people into accepting your personal opinions as words from God, then you present your thoughts as direct quotations from God. You use introductions like “Thus says the Lord,” or “I received a word from God last night” before going on to quote God as “declaring” whatever you want to hear. Pretending to quote God when you’re really just quoting yourself is a very effective trick that false prophets and preachers love to use.
Now prophets and preachers aren’t the only folks who misquote God. In the Bible, for example, we find a wide assortment of folks putting words in God’s mouth that He never said. In Psalm 91, we find a Jewish soldier quoting Yahweh as promising to protect, honor, and grant a long earthly life to any individual who loves Him (see Psalm 91: Life is Perfect & God Always Does What We Want). Is this really something Yahweh has promised? No, it’s not. Psalm 91 is filled with promises that God supposedly gave to all Old Covenant believers, and many Christians are fiercely clinging to some of those promises today even though they’ve never been valid under any Covenant. You see, as much as you might like the words some human is putting in God’s mouth, there is a critical difference between a human talking and God talking. If you just put your faith in human theories about God without bothering to ask God Himself if those theories are even right, then you’re going to end up in a major mess. Your personal theology—what you believe about God—has a major impact on how you interpret events around you, how you think about your future, and how you try to relate to God.
Because the Bible was written by humans, and because humans are very prone to projecting motivations onto God which He doesn’t have, we find a lot of false assumptions being made about God in the biblical records. What makes things tricky is that those false assumptions are presented in many different ways. Sometimes a Jewish narrator will make a side comment like this comment that we find in Joshua:
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when Yahweh listened to a human being. Surely Yahweh was fighting for Israel! (Josh. 10:13-14)
In this account, military leader Joshua is in the middle of an intense battle and he’s worried that he’ll run out of daylight before he can win. So he calls out a command for the sun and moon to freeze in place. Now in real life, the earth moves around the sun, not the other way around, but we often think of the sun as moving through our skies. The point is that Joshua wanted the sun to stop moving across his sky so he could have extra hours of daylight to do his fighting in. He was asking for a miracle. And he got it: the sun seemed to remain frozen in place for quite a while. But notice how the Jewish writer of Joshua interprets this event as the first time that a human got Yahweh to perform an epic miracle on his say so. This author clearly views Joshua’s sun moment as in a different category than Yahweh’s epic plagues on Egypt. Those plagues were obviously Yahweh’s idea, whereas this stunt with the sun was something Joshua came up with all on his own. Once we accept the assumption that freezing the sun was Joshua’s idea, then it naturally follows that this is a case of a human getting God to performing an epic miracle. Whose ego doesn’t love the idea that we humans can get our Creator to perform on cue? This is why the narrator of Joshua excitedly claims:
There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when Yahweh listened to a human being. (Josh. 10:14)
Now the fellow who wrote this lived a long time ago, so when he says that this was a unique event that has never happened before or since, he’s saying that from the perspective of his lifetime. It’s rather like you coming across a blue butterfly and saying, “No one has ever seen a creature like this!” All you really mean is that you have never seen a blue butterfly, and that you have personally never heard of anyone else seeing one. And since you’re only one of billions of humans on the planet, you’re being rather ridiculous to make such an authoritative statement.
So then, what we find in Joshua is one Jewish man leaping to the very wrong assumption that God takes orders from us. But jump ahead several centuries and we find that this idea of humans being able to make God do what they want has become quite popular in Jewish culture. In the book of James, which was written many centuries after the book of Joshua, we find this statement:
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the Name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being, just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:14-18)
While our first Jewish author marveled at the idea of a human getting Yahweh to manipulate the natural elements, James believes this is standard procedure. Our first Jewish author felt Joshua’s ability to command Yahweh was a freak event, never to be repeated. But James believes that we all have the power to boss our Creator about. After all, didn’t the prophet Elijah tell Yahweh when to turn the rain on and off in Israel? Notice how James credits the man—not God—for deciding when the rain should stop and start. Like the author of Joshua, James promotes the theory that a human can get God Almighty to perform miracles on cue. But unlike the author of Joshua, James takes this skill for granted and pushes all believers to reach within their righteous selves and whip out their God dominating abilities. Just say the magic words, drizzle the magic oil, and touch people with those magic hands and the Lord will heal, He will forgive, and He will do whatever you want. Do you see what’s happened here? Over time, the Jews have taken certain wrong assumptions about God and run with them. Instead of rethinking that initial theory that God is willing to perform for us, they embraced it and expanded on it until they’d deteriorated into a bunch of irreverent, dominating rebels who were utterly obsessed with the great power of their prayers. In Paul’s writings, we find him frequently boasting about what he’s personally praying for, and telling other people what they ought to pray for so that collectively, they could all pressure God into further their human agendas. Paul’s rotten model has been a major influence in developing the Christian prayer warrior culture. So has James, with his absurd claim that we can all get God to produce miracles whenever we want by just using a few magical talismans and deciding that we qualify as “righteous.”
The key point we want you to be grasping from all of this is that the fact that something is in the Bible doesn’t make it true. Buying into the absurd theory that every word in the Bible is “Divinely inspired” is only going to cause you to embrace absurd lies as rock solid truths. Embracing lies about God is going to have a very negative effect on how you attempt to relate to Him. Because you see, God does not change who He is to match our delusions about Him. James was utterly delusional to suggest that we can make God heal and forgive anyone we want just by going through some holy rituals. The truth is that we don’t have any influence whatsoever in how God interacts with other humans—we only think we do because we’ve been treating delusional theories in the Bible as “God breathed” insights. Instead of asking God what He thinks of the theory that we can control His actions by dabbing oil and touching people, we just embrace theories that please our egos. And in doing so, we end up embracing soul attitudes which God dislikes.
God demands submission from us, and submission is when your soul says, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” When you start telling God who to heal and who to save, you’re telling Him to submit to you.
God demands reverence from us, and reverence says “Since You are infinitely more powerful than I am, I would be a fool to provoke You, so I’m going to respect and obey You.” Since your reverence for God is a direct response to how powerful you think He is, what will happen to your reverence if you start to view God as a limited Bumbler who is constantly being outsmarted, vexed, and pushed around by the creatures who He sustains? The more limited you think God is, the less you will revere Him—it’s that simple. And the less you revere Him, the more you will feel free to disobey Him without fear of consequences. This is what’s happening with spiritual rebels in the world today: they don’t fear God, which is why they are refusing to submit to Him. Unfortunately, spiritual rebellion abounds in the Christian community as well. And among Christians, the Bible is being promoted as fabulous justification for maintaining rebellious attitudes. After all, why should we feel bad about bossing God about when James and Paul promote it as fabulous? Why should we reject the idea that we can make God perform epic miracles at our command when that’s what Joshua did? And why should we view God as all-powerful when so many of the biblical authors teach that He is a limited Doofus who is intrinsically threatened by His own creatures? The apostle John says that Satan rules the world. What does that say about how weak God is if some dot of a demon can take this place over? Paul teaches people to view themselves as constantly at war against “principalities” and “rulers of darkness” which God clearly can’t keep under control. The author of Hebrews portrays Christ as such a halfwit that He had to learn what it means to obey God by suffering as a human on earth.
Son though He was, Christ learned obedience from what He suffered. (Heb. 5:8)
What does it say about Christ’s intellect if He couldn’t understand obedience before He morphed into a human and experienced pain firsthand? In the Bible, the God-bashing statements come in many forms. Some are subtle, some are blatant, but all of them have a warping effect on your theology when you just swallow them whole. And yet while you accept the theory that Christ is some doofus who finds the concept of obeying God too hard to understand, the real Christ is not a doofus. The real Christ is a brilliant, all-powerful Deity who is infinitely wiser than you. You see, merely pretending that our Gods are beneath us doesn’t make Them so. All it does is hasten us on our way to Hell, for our Gods will not grant salvation to those who refuse to reverentially submit to Them. Embracing fantasies that Satan is constantly outsmarting our Gods and viewing ourselves as brilliant strategists who must constantly instruct God on the best course of action will only land us on the wrong side of His wrath. Our Gods are who They are—They are not Beings who we can customize like apps on a cell phone. To embrace lies about God just because those lies come in a book that has been labeled as “holy”—how stupid is that? The fact that some so-called apostle said it doesn’t make it true. And while the prophet Isaiah might have been correctly quoting Yahweh in many of his messages, that doesn’t mean he didn’t slip in a lot of his own guff. So when you read, you need to be asking God for His feedback. If Yahweh is the One being discussed—which is usually the case in the biblical records—then Yahweh is the One you should be talking to in the privacy of your own soul. “What do You think about this, God? This author says You did this because You were angry—is that really true? This author says You did this other thing because Israel is Your favorite nation—is that correct?” You need to ask. Don’t be like foolish Rachel who refuses to listen to how Joe really feels about her. Whenever humans are talking about God, you need to go right to the Source and ask God what He thinks about what’s being said about Him.
To help you better understand how important it is to be on your guard when reading the Bible, let’s take a look at the book of Genesis. There are four famous accounts in the book of Genesis which go a long way towards supporting the idea that God is greatly threatened by human beings. If we accept these accounts as accurate portrayals of God, then we will naturally conclude that our Creator is Someone who we can easily coerce, threaten, upset, and dominate. Does that theory sound right to you? Have you ever asked God to help you better understand the difference between you and Him? Who outranks who in your relationship with God? Is He just a little more capable than you? Is He like a flaky human boss who you only respect some of the time because many times your ideas are better than his? Or is God really as supreme as He claims to be?
The book of Genesis was written by Moses. Moses was Israel’s first major prophet. So what does this mean? Should you view the “prophet” label as a guarantee of purity? No, you really shouldn’t. Prophets can be as dodgy as anyone else. And by the way, we’re prophets, which means you should be very guarded about the things we say as well. Everything needs to be checked with God. Even well-meaning prophets are prone to stirring God’s opinions in with their own, and dishing out a polluted cocktail.
Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy. In Genesis, he talks about historical events that occurred many hundreds of years before his own lifetime. That means that he wasn’t a firsthand witness to any of the events in Genesis. So where did he get his material from? A popular theory among Christians is that God just supernaturally downloaded the text for Genesis into Moses’ brain, and he wrote it all down. And yet this theory is obviously flawed because we find too many statements in Genesis that promote an incorrect view of God which perfectly matches egotistical theories that were already being embraced as popular in Moses’ day. The far more likely explanation is that Genesis is a compilation of oral history which the Jews had passed down through the ages. Oral history can be accurate, but oral records often become altered over time and revised to match certain beliefs. The way humans and God are portrayed in Genesis makes it clear that a lot of revising has taken place. In Genesis, human beings are elevated as creatures who are so filled with potential that God feels threatened by them becoming His equals, thus He moves against them to protect Himself. Instead of being portrayed as the dominant, Ultimate Authority that He is, Yahweh is portrayed as a Being who is very stressed and fearful of what His unruly humans will come up with next. Let’s now check out four accounts which promote this condescending and irreverent view of Yahweh.
GENESIS 3: “Yikes! The humans have become too smart! I have to stop them before they become independent beings!”
If God was so threatened by humans having certain abilities, then why did He load the Garden of Eden up with a bunch of magical fruits? Doesn’t seem very smart of Him, does it? No, but then again, the Yahweh of Genesis isn’t going to win any awards for being clever. In Genesis 3, we find Adam and Eve sampling forbidden fruit and then ducking for cover when they hear Yahweh coming. Playing the role of a total Dimwit, Yahweh acts like He doesn’t know where His little humans have disappeared to, thus He calls out “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). So much for an all-knowing God.
Happily for Yahweh, Adam and Eve come out of hiding and fess up to what they’ve done. Actually, Adam just makes a comment about feeling embarrassed by his nudity, to which Yahweh responds, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Gen. 3:11). Is this a serious question? If God knows the end from the beginning, wouldn’t He already know that the humans ate the fruit? Yes, but the Yahweh of Genesis is rather different than the Yahweh we meet in other Bible passages.
After everyone’s been cursed and Yahweh has graciously made His unrepentant humans some clothes from animal skins, we come across this bizarre scene of Yahweh talking with some angels.
“Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil! What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So Yahweh God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and He sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, Yahweh God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And He placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:22-24)
So Adam and Eve took one bite of magical fruit and now they’ve made such a big intellectual leap that Yahweh actually feels threatened by them? Well, yes, apparently that is the case. Notice how Yahweh says “The human beings have become like us!” Who knew the difference between God and humans could be so easily overcome? And now that Adam and Eve have so many smarts, Yahweh is panicking that they’ll snack on a second magical fruit which will apparently give them eternal life.
But wait—didn’t Yahweh create humans from nothing? Yes. So if He created them, can’t He also uncreate them anytime He wants? Well, no. Apparently God Almighty isn’t as mighty as He claims to be later on in the Bible. Apparently God created a fruit which has the power to limit His own Creator abilities. If the humans eat the magical fruit, it seems that Yahweh will no longer be able to kill them off. In other words, the magical fruit will somehow sever Adam and Eve’s dependency on God, and they’ll become free agents who can sustain themselves…on a planet which God has made…which apparently He has to keep sustaining for them forever once they become immortal? Or maybe the magic fruit will also give the humans the power to create their own planet? Who knows, the point is that this second magic fruit will enable the humans to exploit a weakness in Yahweh, and now He must scramble to defend Himself. Well, here’s a plan: why doesn’t God just create a shovel and dig up that pesky tree of life? Or why doesn’t He just cause it to wither or uncreate it entirely? Apparently these aren’t options for this sad excuse for a Deity that we find in Genesis 3. He sure looked great in Genesis 1 and 2 when He was speaking the universe into existence. But here in Genesis 3, He seems to have problems with uncreating. The best He can come up with is to post some angels to stand guard for Him around the tree to make sure the humans can’t come back. Wow. Angels plus a magical sword—this is the best defense our not-so-magnificent God can come up with when those clever humans become a dire threat to His Godness?
The Yahweh of Genesis 3 is strikingly different than the Yahweh who we find Moses quoting in Deuteronomy 32:
“See now that I Myself am He! There is no God besides Me. I kill, and I make alive. I wound, and I heal, and no one can rescue you from My power.” (Deut. 32:39)
It’s kind of hard to imagine the Deuteronomy Yahweh panicking over a fruit sampling, isn’t it? The Deuteronomy 32 Yahweh claims to have power over life and death, injury and health. If Adam were to make a run for that tree of life, it’s easy to picture the Deuteronomy 32 Yahweh striking him down to the ground. But the Genesis 3 Yahweh doesn’t seem to realize that He has the power to break Adam’s leg or kill him off entirely. Instead, the Genesis 3 Yahweh calls on armed angels to help Him defend Himself. Rather pathetic, isn’t it?
GENESIS 6: “These humans exhaust and depress Me. I’m sorry I made them.”
Skipping ahead to Genesis 6, we come to the account of the great Flood: that global event in which Yahweh washed humans off the planet. So why did He do that? Apparently we drove Him to it. We ran amuck on Him, and we turned out to be way more work than He’d bargained for. But wait—isn’t God supposed to be all-wise? Well, yes, but the God of Genesis is a rather dim bulb. He doesn’t seem to think far ahead, nor is He very good at anticipating long-term consequences. Instead, we find Him blundering into situations which then spin out of control, thus He has to do more blundering to try and shore things up. Take the human race for example—what a mess that project turned out to be. By Genesis 6, pretty much everyone on the planet hates Yahweh, and Yahweh finds this exhausting. He’s tuckered out. At this time, the average person is living hundreds of years, and that’s just too long for Yahweh to deal with. So why doesn’t He just kill people off early if He’s so worn out by them? Because the God of Genesis simply doesn’t have the chops that the God of Exodus and Numbers does. The God of Exodus and Numbers knows how to hit the smote button when people are getting attitudinal with Him. During the wilderness journey, we find mouthy Israelites getting bitten by vipers, torched in fires, swallowed by the ground, dropping over from diseases, and getting picked off by God through a forty year sojourn in the desert. But the God of Genesis seems very reluctant to smote, which is why He is so worn out by putting up with centuries of flack from every human He creates. So finally, in Genesis 6, we find a worn out Yahweh saying:
“My Spirit will not struggle with humans forever, because they are flesh and blood. They will live 120 years.” (Gen. 6:3)
Struggle? Really? A God as powerful as Yahweh has struggles? Isn’t struggling supposed to be a creature problem? Who is this Wimp that we’re reading about? He’s a heartbroken, depressed, disillusioned Creator, that’s who He is.
Yahweh saw how evil humans had become on the earth. All day long their deepest thoughts were nothing but evil. Yahweh was sorry that He had made humans on the earth, and He was heartbroken. So Yahweh said, “I will wipe off the face of the earth these humans that I created. I will wipe out not only humans, but also domestic animals, crawling animals, and birds. I regret that I made them.” (Gen. 6:5-7)
There are major problems with depicting God as being sorry and regretful about anything. Regret only comes up when things turned out differently than you’d hoped. Regret is a form of disappointment, and disappointment is only possible when you set unrealistic expectations. Since we humans can’t see into the future, and since we lack the ability to accurately anticipate what the long-term consequences of our actions will be, regret is a common issue for us. But Yahweh is not a human. Yahweh claims to know the end from the beginning. Yahweh claims to always get His way. As He says in Isaiah 46:
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isa. 46:10)
Does this Yahweh sound like He has troubles with regret? No. This Yahweh claims to always get His way, and to know the end from the beginning. The God of Isaiah 46 isn’t Someone who can be surprised or disappointed, because He knows everything and He controls everything. Then there is the God of Jeremiah 32 who scoffingly says:
“I am Yahweh, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?” (Jer. 32:26)
Does this sound like a God who struggles or who finds Himself exhausted by enduring rebellious humans? Not hardly. But then there is the God of Genesis 6. First He decides to cap the average human lifespan to 120 years just to give Himself a break because, wow, we humans have turned out to be a lot more draining than He thought we would be. Then He’s so heartbroken and devastated by what rebellious punks we are that He decides to wash us all away in an epic Flood.
Now what are we saying—that the Flood never happened? No, that’s not what we’re saying. The Flood did happen—but what was God’s motivation for doing it? In the Bible we find a bunch of historical events being reported. Then we find explanations of what God’s motivations were for doing some of those events. Often the problem isn’t in the descriptions of what occurred, but rather why God caused it. Just as many Christians today try to pretend God has nothing to do with terrorist attacks or natural disasters, the ancient Jews also practiced a whole lot of denial when it came to God’s interactions with them (see God, Terrorism & You). On the subject of Israel alone, we find all kinds of double talk. In some places we find Yahweh declaring that He hates Israel because she’s being such a rebellious yuck.
“My inheritance has become to Me like a lion in the forest. She roars at Me; therefore I hate her.” (Jer. 12:8)
As Yahweh heaps epic disasters onto Israel’s head—plaguing her with things like famine, wars, diseases, and slavery to other nations—He explains over and over again that He’s spanking her because she is refusing to respect Him. But in spite of these very clear explanations, we find a bunch of Jews acting like innocent victims who Yahweh ought to defend. Totally ignoring His explanations of why He is doing what He’s doing, they plead and cry for Him to come to their defense, and they even accuse Him of being a lousy God for letting them be persecuted in the first place (see Psalm 74: Asaph Flaunts His Contempt for Yahweh).
By the time we get to the New Testament, we find Jewish leaders promoting some utterly absurd theories of how God views Jews versus non-Jews. According to Paul, the only reason Yahweh has decided to make salvation available to icky Gentiles is to make ethnic Jews jealous. You see, it’s really ethnic Jews who Yahweh loves—everyone else is subpar (see More Lies from Paul: God Loves Jews More Than Gentiles (Romans 11)). Is this what Yahweh actually says about Himself? No, but because many people today have just accepted Paul’s garbage about Yahweh’s personal view of human ethnicities, we’ve got a bunch of non-Jews in this world feeling bad for not being born with different DNA. Yahweh never said He has a beef with non-Jews. Instead we find Him emphasizing that all ethnicities are equal in His sight (see Yahweh Talks Ethnicity: Jews & Non-Jews Are Equal Before God). But once you blow off what God says about Himself and make up a bunch of guff that you want to believe, you end up feeling bad for not being Jewish. And then you think God made you a non-Jew on purpose because He was never interested in having a relationship with you. Oh, and yikes, you’re also a woman, and we all know God looks down on women (see Does God Love Women Less?). And yikes, you’re also gay, and obviously God hates gays, so you might as well go off in a corner somewhere and rot (see Are all sexual perverts going to Hell?). See what happens when we don’t talk to God directly?
Getting back to Genesis, what happens when we accept this idea that the God who made us can be so easily threatened and broken down by us? Adam and Eve pitched God into a panic just by eating a piece of fruit. Later on the whole human race had dragged God down into despair. Today Christians have really embraced this idea of God being devastated by human actions. You might have seen artwork of Jesus staring at the earth with tears rolling down His face. Other artists depict Him as sprawled out on the planet, desperately praying for us. Are you really going to revere such an emotional train wreck? Are you going to fear a God who acts so emotionally dependent on you? If you give Him too much lip, He starts crying like some underdog on a kindergarten playground. Really? And you’re going to worship this Being? No, you’re not. You’ll throw Him a bone now and then just to prop up His fragile esteem, but inwardly you’re going to be scoffing at what a wimp He is. Then you’re going to feel totally comfortable with bossing Him around 24/7 because clearly you’re more stable than He is. While He’s busy sobbing over the state of the world, you’re going to tell Him to get it in gear and command His angels to go beat back Satan and his demonic hordes. This is what we do today, isn’t it? Something bad happens and we’re all pleading for God to get off His duff and clean up the damage. Sobbing Jesus just isn’t good enough when there’s a world to run. So we step into the role of God’s partners. We don’t submit, we dominate. We tell Him what to do, and He does it (between sniffles).
GENESIS 11: “What’s that tower?! Oh, no! Quick—we have to confuse them before they realize that they’re omnipotent!”
Moving on to Genesis 11, we come to the account about Babel. Apparently Yahweh was in bed trying to recover from His exhaustion with humans when the little squirts all massed together on earth and began building a new city with an impressive tower in it. By the time Yahweh realized what was happening, the massive project was well underway. So how did God Almighty respond to the sight of humans stacking bricks on top of each other? He freaked out, of course.
They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”
But Yahweh came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” He said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
In that way, Yahweh scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where Yahweh confused the people with different languages. In this way He scattered them all over the world. (Gen. 11:3-9)
Notice how fearful God is at the idea of humans being unified. What does His reaction imply about the difference between Him and us? Well, there can’t be much difference at all if a little group work is the key to us becoming omnipotent. Notice how Yahweh says that nothing will be impossible for humans if they keep coordinating together like this. To have God Almighty give such an assessment of our capabilities—wow. One wonders why we ever do stupid stuff like trip on our shoelaces or spill our coffee or lose our car keys. For creatures who are equal to God, we sure bumble around a lot. But according to Yahweh, this is only because we’re not working together in unity. If we could just overcome this pesky language barrier, then we could get back to unity once again and unleash our full potential. Bring on Google Translate. Let’s put our all into refining those language translation tools. How God must quiver in fear when He sees Facebook automatically translating certain posts. How He must gasp with fright every time someone boldly punches the “translate page” icon on a website. Yikes! The humans are uniting! Skype! Live streaming! Text messages! What’s a God to do when His creatures keep outsmarting Him?
Are you seeing the problem with the God of Genesis? He keeps acting so threatened by the activities of His own creatures. He expresses alarm, surprise, dismay, and fear. He isn’t acting like a God who is in control. Instead, we’re controlling Him—forcing Him to scramble to defend Himself against our cunning schemes, stubborn defiance, and ingenious brick buildings.
GENESIS 32: “Help! The human won’t let Me go!”
So far we’ve seen Yahweh driven to the defensive by humans eating fruit, humans living long lives, humans refusing to respect Him, and humans doing group projects. Can God get any more pathetic? Yes, He can. Jumping ahead to Genesis 32, we find the story of snarky Jacob getting sprung upon by a supernatural being who wrestles with him all night. The being appears to be a man, but Jacob later concludes that he has actually wrestled with Yahweh Himself…and won, of course.
Now we’re not told exactly why Yahweh decides to leap upon Jacob. He just does. Naturally Jacob fights back. The big surprise is that Yahweh can’t successfully fend Jacob off. Apparently you can be all-knowing without knowing anything about how to pin a human in a headlock. And apparently Yahweh is so exhausted from dealing with humans in general that He just can’t scrape up enough strength to compete with Jacob’s muscles. In a desperate effort to save Himself, Yahweh dislocates Jacob’s hip. You’d think that would slow Jacob down. But no, because Jacob is a human, and humans are just one mouthful of fruit and a little teamwork away from besting God in every area. So Jacob hangs on until God begs to be released.
Then the Man said, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” (Gen. 32:26)
What’s with the daylight comment? Is God like vampires—He can’t function once the sun comes up? At this point, it really wouldn’t be surprising given all of the other limitations this God has flaunted so far. Perhaps this whole attack was a result of God trying to vent off some of His pent up aggravation with humans. Too bad He underestimated us yet again. It takes more than a sore hip to overcome us. We’re super specks.
Now generosity really isn’t Jacob’s style. He’s more on the greed page. So when God begs to be released, Jacob demands a blessing first. This was a much bigger demand than it appears to modern day folks, because in Jacob’s day, people were big believers in the potent power of verbal spells. To get a supernatural being to speak some verbal blessing over you was considered a huge advantage—especially when you pretended that such declarations were irreversible, which the Jews did (see Understanding Verbal Blessing & Cursing: So Much Hype, So Little Power). You might be familiar with that famous claim that “God can’t lie.” He can and does, of course, but the Jews were all about putting limits on God. By now it’s probably dawning on Jacob that his foe is supernatural, so he’s determined to squeeze some blessings out of Him. And Yahweh—well, what choice does He really have? If He doesn’t fork over the goods and do a bit of groveling, the human might never let Him go.
The Man asked Jacob, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the Man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me Your Name.”
But He replied, “Why do you ask My Name?” Then He blessed Jacob there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Gen. 32:27-30)
Back in Genesis 3, we found Yahweh panicking at the thought of humans gaining eternal life. In Genesis 6, we found Him expressing exhaustion and heartache over having to deal with us. In Genesis 11, Yahweh barely stops us from realizing how omnipotent we are. And finally, here in Genesis 32, Yahweh declares that a single human has conquered Him. Are you seeing the progression of theology here? With each incident, God grows more pathetic while the humans grow more impressive. Finally, it is the first ethnic Jew—Jacob—who manages to pin the Creator of all things down onto the ground. Don’t miss the significance of the fact that it is an ethnic Jew who is being portrayed as the God conqueror. The Bible is a collection of documents that were written by Jews, so we should expect them to be heavily biased to make Jews look superior to all other ethnicities.
Moses wrote Genesis, and Moses was a man who was obsessed with his ethnic heritage. In fact, Moses was so into his fellow Jews, that he was willing to sacrifice his relationship with Yahweh just to stay with them. He once said to Yahweh that if Yahweh wasn’t willing to forgive the Jews for their latest rebellious act, then Moses wanted to be eternally damned right along with them.
“But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book You have written.” (Ex. 32:32)
As obnoxious as this is, it makes a lot of sense once you realize this was the same man who thinks his Jewish ancestor was able to physically overcome Yahweh and force a blessing out of Him. If you really believe that God is so pathetic and your fellow humans are that fabulous, why wouldn’t you want to stick with them in eternity? Surely with a little teamwork, we can find a way to bust out of Hell, knock Wimpy off of His throne, and start reigning in His place. After all, Yahweh has already said that unity is the key to us humans being able to do anything we want.
So should we believe that the characters in Genesis were even real? Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Noah—did these people really exist? There’s no reason to think they didn’t. The big problem with Genesis is its theological interpretation of the events that it reports—specifically, its portrayal of God. The God described in Genesis is nothing close to all-powerful, all-wise, or supreme. Meanwhile, humans are depicted as beings who can easily surpass their Maker in all areas. Instead of acknowledging our absolute dependency on God, Genesis suggests that we can easily become autonomous beings who depend on God for nothing if we could just get our hands on the right magic talisman. Instead of promoting trust in God, Genesis tells a tale of creatures who so threaten their Creator that He is constantly coming up with ways to try and thwart them from realizing their full potential. Then God gets pinned down in the dirt by the first ethnic Jew, and from then on we’re supposed to be viewing all Israelites as some kind of awesome. Where is the reverence? Where is the submission? Where is the exaltation of God?
When you’re looking for material that will encourage you to develop the soul attitudes that are pleasing to God, Genesis really isn’t where you want to spend your time. The book was written by a man whose own spiritual choices left much to be desired, so it’s not surprising that his written works reflect the wrong spiritual priorities and a very condescending portrayal of Yahweh (see Taking Moses Off The Pedestal).
The real Yahweh is a truly magnificent Being who drives all who sincerely seek Him into endless reverence and absolute submission. The real Yahweh is totally unthreatened by human beings. He doesn’t feel dependent on us for anything, He doesn’t find it taxing to deal with us, and He knows that we simply don’t have the capacity to ever become anything close to His equals. But you’ll never know the real Yahweh if all you ever do is study the works of a twit like Moses. You can’t learn the truth about God by reading the musings of fat headed humans who are so desperate to dominate God that they have to keep dropping hints of their own superiority. So, as we always say, if you want to know the truth, you need to talk to God directly. He is awesome. The Bible, not so much.
Interpreting God: Recognizing Errors in Your Method
Recognizing Your Spiritual Dependency On Humans
Imitating the Idolatry of NT Jews: All Scripture is God-Breathed
The Bible Isn’t Perfect: Now what?
Treating God Like God: Simple Steps to Improving the Way that We Pray