Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Although He strongly desires to do so, sometimes God will not intervene in a situation unless a mediator — an intercessor —approaches the Throne to request His intervention. And although it may sound unorthodox (and perhaps even heretical), it may even be accurate to say that in some situations God Almighty cannot intervene unless a mediator requests intervention from Him.
Yeah, I know: The word cannot sounds wrong. It sounds unorthodox and seems suspect because it implies that Almighty God is somehow deficient and incapable of acting. Nevertheless, Scripture does indeed speak of constraints upon God. For example, in Titus 1:2 we are told that God does not lie. In some English translations, it reads “cannot lie.” Scripture does not merely say that God chooses not to lie. Scripture teaches that God never lies. Does this mean God is wholly incapable of lying? Yes, I would argue it means just that, because God’s holiness precludes it. By virtue of His holiness, the God of Truth never, ever lies. Therefore, it is both scriptural and accurate to say that there is something that Almighty God cannot do. God Almighty cannot lie. Much of great consequence can be extrapolated from this divine incapability. The holy integrity of the Almighty God means He is self-constrained, constrained by His own character.
“… in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago…”The Apostle Paul, mid sentence in The Epistle to Titus 1:2, as translated in the NASB 2020 Edition
Moreover, because of His holiness, His integrity, God will never break His promises. This is a particularly pertinent point, when we consider approaching God with our requests in prayer. If God has said He will do something, He will do it. If God has said He will not do something, He will not do it. God will perform His Word, as promised, guaranteed.
Just as it scriptural to say that God cannot lie, I want to suggest that it is also scripturally and theologically sound to say that God cannot break His promises. That is because here we have two effectively equivalent statements. To say that God cannot break a promise is no different than to say that God cannot lie. In practice, it is effectively the same thing, said twice, only slightly differently each time. God cannot lie; and God cannot break His promises: functionally equivalent statements. Numbers 23:19 lends scriptural support for this.
God is not a man, that He would lie, Nor a son of man, that He would change His mind; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?Balaam in The Book of Numbers 23:19
We can flip this notion over and speak positively where we were just speaking negatively. If we were to flip that-which-God-cannot-do over, positively it becomes that-which-God-always-and-invariably-does. God’s incapability for lying can be flipped into an affirmation that God always and forever speaks the truth, and that God always and invariably keeps His Word. Much of great consequence can be extrapolated from this characteristic, from the fact of divine consistency.
For example, here we have a rock-solid, absolutely steady premise for our prayers. God is a God who keeps His promises. So if you hear of a promise in Scripture, you ought to pause and give it some careful consideration. If it indeed applies to you, it might be useful to you — maybe even very useful. Seriously. You might be able to bring that promise back to God in prayer and lay hold of it with confidence. Furthermore, if the God of Scripture is indeed the God of Truth, this is a tremendously big deal.
Now at this point, someone might wonder, “But if God has promised to do something, why do we even need to bother approaching Him with prayer?” A skeptic might even slide into ridicule here, and taunt, “What, is God forgetful? Does God need us to remind Him of His promises?”
The answer to those objections and to that mockery is simply, “No, God is not forgetful at all. You have it wrong. He is instead relational. God’s promises are made to those with whom He has an ongoing, mutually cultivated, covenantal relationship. And God makes good on His promises when He is approached appropriately, on the terms He has set. However, God is not otherwise obliged. He may or may not answer the prayers of other supplicants.”
This all makes perfect sense when marriage is used as an analogy. Spouses are bound and obliged to each other by their covenantal commitment. And spouses are most likely to make good on their promises when they remain on good terms. Alternatively, spouses are most definitely not obliged to anyone else. Speaking personally, if I make a promise to my wife, I am obligated, like it or not, to eventually keep that promise; and I am most inclined to keep that promise quickly when we are happy with each other. Of course, this applies only to our marriage and is only true of my wife. I am by no means obligated to fulfill that particular promise to anyone else, no matter how trivial it is. Only the designated recipient of a given promise can rightfully claim it. Again, and for emphasis: Only the designated recipient of a given promise can rightfully claim it.
It works exactly the same way with God and obtaining His promises in prayer. The God of the Bible is nothing if not intensely relational. Like a jealous spouse, God fully expects and requires relationship and loyal commitment. Furthermore, it is only within the bounds of relationship and loyal covenantal commitment that God makes and faithfully keeps his promises. God is only bound to keep His promises to those who are ready and willing make a resolute commitment to Him.
Okay then, if that is so, how does someone make such a commitment to God, and thereby become a recipient of all the personally relevant scriptural promises?
Well, strange as it may sound, this is exactly the reason why Jesus Christ went to the cross. He endured an agonizing, horrible death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins; and in so doing he established a new covenant (or testament), a covenant in which God has made enduring, eternal, and incomparable promises, such as eternal life.
Consequently, you do wisely and well to make a binding, covenantal commitment to the God of Truth. You do so by confessing your sinfulness, by acknowledging the significance of the price that Jesus Christ paid for you (you personally) on the cross, and by pledging yourself to resolutely follow Christ from henceforth, so help you God.
As controversial as the claim may be in certain circles, the cross of Christ is the prescribed way to be reconciled with God. Indeed, the New Testament teaches that the cross of Christ is the one and only way to be completely and eternally reconciled to God Almighty. Perhaps then we have here another example of God cannot, another divine incapability. Apart from the covenant which Christ established in his blood at the cross, God cannot be reconciled to us, since our sinfulness otherwise renders us too offensive to God. And, try as we may, we cannot set ourselves right by determined good behavior, either. We need (and have) a mediator provided and accepted by God. We have a court-appointed advocate, an intercessor: Jesus Christ.
For if a law had been given that was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has confined everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.The Apostle Paul, in The Epistle to the Galatians 3:21b-22
This final God cannot claim is an altogether imperative claim to prayerfully consider, to be sure. Rest assured, though, that God promises to receive sincere prayers of commitment and contrition.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.King David of Ancient Israel, as recorded in Psalm 51:17