This weekend I went with a friend to Abilene, making a trip that I have made a hundred times over the past few years. It’s not the best drive. Between the town of Ranger’s cops, and the constant construction, I-20W can wear you down. But the thing that has consistently gotten on my nerves are the billboards.
Chances are you’ve seen these on the side of the interstate before. Sometimes they’re slightly funny, and other times they make you want to commit vandalism. For example, the one that says, “You think it’s Hot here? -God.” or “What Part of “Thou Shalt Not,” Didn’t You Understand?- God”
I know the heart behind these signs is probably good. Somebody, somewhere had access to money, and thought it would be good to get people to think about God. It’s noble that they don’t seem to attempt to get God to endorse a particular ministry or agenda. But…
There’s a story in 1st Kings that has always disturbed me. It’s a story about this young prophet who God sends to the King of Israel to basically condemn him for worshipping idols. The whole scene goes as intended. King gets indignant, King gets owned, Prophet goes home.
But here’s where things take a left turn.
Another prophet, an older guy, hears about the young prophet and goes to bring him home for lunch. The young prophet says that the LORD has told him that he is to go straight home and not eat with anyone. And the older prophet says something to the effect of “Yeah God told me He told you that, but now he wants you to come eat with me. He told me so.”
And the prophet does it.
And the prophet dies.
It’s kind of bizarre actually. The LORD sends a lion to come eat the young prophet and then the lion just sits there. Doesn’t eat the body, just sits there. The older prophet hears what happens and comes and gets the body, buries it, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Does this bother anyone else?
I remember hearing that story as a kid and thinking God sent the lion to the wrong guy. Clearly the lion was confused but the old guy was the one who lied, he’s the one who should be some predatory animal’s appetizer.
I saw a video earlier this year where the Westboro Baptist church had showed up somewhere with their usual signs of God hates everybody. I’ve gotten past the point where I get angry with them, but I was especially disturbed this time, because they were yelling at one guy in particular, (a guy was none of the things that they typically label and hate). He asked them can I ever do anything to make God love me? Which is a pretty weighty question, he had let them get to him, and he wanted an answer.
Their answer was no.
They told the guy that no matter what God will never love him. Thus saith the Lord/Westboro Baptist church.
The 3rd of the Ten Commandments is probably the most misunderstood one. It’s where God tells the Israelites not to take His name in vain. As a kid, I always took that to mean that I couldn’t say Gosh, Golly, Gee, or anything remotely close to God’s name. The Jewish people took special care not to spell out the name of God, they used a special pen when writing just to write the resemblance of his name.
But that’s not what this command is about.
God knows the tendency of people to slap His name on their own agenda. To say Thus saith the Lord whenever they want something, or don’t want something. He knows how easy it is for us to reduce Him to some Grand Rubber Stamp of Approval.
The third commandment is a caution against using “Thus Saith the Lord” lightly.
It’s a word of judgement against those who would say that God feels or thinks exactly the same way that they do.
So be careful with your billboards.
Because God can send a lion when you least expect it.