Updated: May 13
Have you ever wondered why God is willing to hear all we say in prayer and why He is so cooperative in answering so many of our questions and giving us what we ask for? How about why He tolerates the evil in the world and in us?
Perhaps you have scrutinized why God puts His grand plans into the hands of such imperfect people. We see such imperfections throughout the Bible — Abram (the father of world to come) tells his wife to lie and say she is his sister in order to spare his life (Gen 12:12-13); Sarah laughs at the Lord’s revelation that she will bear a son (Isaac) and then denies she laughed when confronted by the Lord (Gen 18:11-15); Paul, a murderer of God’s people (Act 22:4-5); and Peter who boasts he would die for the Lord and then denies him (Jn 13:37; Mk 14:66-72).
Each of us can recount stories of giving in to temptations that result in lying, avoiding certain scriptures, and denying truth for the purpose of self-protection. Thank God He is a forgiving Person and that He initiated a divine plan that provided for the needed sacrifice of His Son to reconcile us to Himself.
Our sins are not just against others and/or ourselves, but ultimately, they are against God. Part of the internal processes involved in succumbing to sin include giving ourselves over to self-deceptions, believing our own lies, telling ourselves we are justified, and conjuring up our own righteous motives. All of these defenses have a common denominator, that of self-born pride. And yet, God remains in love with us. He wants to bless and prosper us. He covenants with us, like a marriage, and vows the relationship will go on without His ever abandoning or divorcing us. How great must be His love that He promises to endure with His people forever?
We see His enduring cooperative and tolerant Spirit in many scriptural writings that reference His interactions with His beloved, human family. One of those marvelous stories is highlighted in a conversation the Lord had with exalted father Abraham. The Lord and two men (angels) pay him a visit. Within earshot of Abraham, the Lord speaks to the two men about judging Sodom and Gomorrah and asks them if He should hide it from Abraham.
As the two men depart for Sodom, the Lord remains, as is His desire. Bold Abraham is comfortable enough to physically draw closer to the Lord and ask the all knowing, almighty God if He would really destroy the righteous along with the wicked. He challenges God with a series of questions. He asks if He would do it if there were 50 righteous in the city, then 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. Each time the Lord replies that He would not destroy the cities, if the righteous people were so numbered according to his question (Gen 18:16-33).
Confidence comes ease in concluding the Lord purposefully spoke openly about judging these two cities within the hearing distance of Abraham. The Lord had no intention of hiding what He was about to do from Abraham. And He wasn’t looking for advice from his two companions. He didn’t even wait for an answer. Since Abraham was a prophet (Gen 20:7), he, as all prophets, was privy to God’s plans. The Lord simply set a stage for interaction with Abraham.
After his first question, the Lord could have simply told him to let it go and follow God who has already thought through all the details, far beyond the ability of Abraham’s limited ponderings. The Lord’s responses to him may surprise some. He does not get angry with Abraham’s boldness, doesn’t feel chastised or view Abraham as resistant, but is patient and cooperates with this man’s taking the lead in conversation. The willingness of God to interact with His human creation is remarkable. It appears God respected Abraham, even to the extent that permitted him to ask a long list of eight, repetitive questions. Had I been the one interacting with the Lord I might have inquired about who was going to be destroyed and not, but would have never asked eight questions, and one in particular — “‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’” (Gen 18:25). The word impertinent comes to mind.
As you read scripture, you might ask yourself and God questions about how is it and why He engages in such grand cooperation and tolerance with creatures whose “hearts…are full of evil and insanity” (Ecc 9:3). Many verses won’t directly state He is cooperative and tolerant, but it is not difficult to see when one ponders what God did and what God could have done, and then note the difference between them.
To be sure, God has His relational boundaries that put righteous limits on His expression of love through cooperation and tolerance. We know this when He tells Jeremiah not to pray for the Israelites and not to intercede with Him because He will not hear him (Jer 7:16).
To fuel your fire of inquiry and contribute to your good image of Him concerning His cooperative and tolerant nature, here are three other references. First, though God suffers in seeing us sin (Eph 4:30), He has endured for millennia. Compare that to us who can find it hard to be tolerant for a day. Second, why did Jeremiah tell God He “deceived” the nation and him? You can read the deceptions and God’s responses here: Jeremiah 4:10 and 20:7, respectively. And lastly, how many times have we read about the cooperative nature of Jesus when He asked many needy people, “‘What do you want Me to do for you?’” (Mt 20:32)?
God is not looking for the occasions of your disobedience, but looking to put His arms around you!