God gave them over!

“The wisdom that comes from above is … willing to yield … “. James 3:17

I believe four of the most sobering words in scripture are, “God gave them over”. It’s found in the Old Testament(Psalm 81:12) and the New(Rom 1:24, 26). God’s preference is for us to trust him & take him at his word, but we are created with a free moral will and are capable of choosing to obey his word, or not. The scriptures are full of accounts of men continually resisting the will of God. The account of Israel wanting to be like the other nations and asking for a King is one example (1 Sam 8:6).

Israel: “We want a King!”
God: “A King’s 2nd best, here is why …”
Israel: “We still want a King”
God: “They are not rejecting you Samuel(His prophet delivering the message), they are rejecting me, give them a King”.

It happens on an individual level too. God reasons with us, “This is the better way, walk in it”, men say, “Why is that the only way?”or “Nah, what do you know? Do you even exist? I’d prefer to walk my own way.” First, God, because he is a loving Father reasons, “That’s not a wise way, ultimately it will destroy you”, but over time and persistent refusal to acknowledge the wisdom of God’s way, he comes to a point where scripture says, “He gives them over.” This is not the end of his dealings with these individuals, and it is not a flippant or callous decision either. It comes with enormous risk & sadness, and there is no guarantee that those who stubbornly persist down their ‘self-enlightened’ path will ever return. But the hope remains in the heart of God that those who are given over will, “after burning themselves on the proverbial stove” come to their senses, see the foolishness of their path, and return to what he from an eternal perspective calls the paths of righteousness.

Jesus told a story about a Father and his son illustrating this process. In sharing the story he wants us to catch a glimpse of God’s Father heart. In the story the Father’s youngest son paid him the ultimate disrespect. Insisting on his inheritance before his Father’s death. Reluctantly and not in agreement with his sons decision he releases his son, with his full share of the inheritance. It’s astonishing that the inheritance is given considering the sons attitude, many might consider this the Father’s approval or blessing, but I don’t think he agreed with his sons decision at all. He just loved his son, and in spite of his son’s great dishonor, he gave him everything he asked for. He gave him over. The story continues that the son squanders it all and ends up in a pig trough eating from the pig slop. It is not until he is eating pig slop with the pigs that he comes to his senses and says the servants in my Father’s house are treated better than this. Upon this revelation he determines to head home. The story also reveals this, upon catching a glimpse of his returning son a far off his father immediately drops everything and begins running towards him. I understand that the nature of the dishonor done by this son to his father, gave the towns people the right to stone the son if they encountered him. The Father was running not only to embrace his son, but to protect him from the towns people. The son’s welcome home party is a greeting reserved for royalty. Along with being fully reinstated with the privileges of sonship the Father demonstrates the ultimate value he has for his son by killing the fatted calf. The fatted calf was a covenant offering reserved for a visiting king. This is a powerful story of one who is given over coming to his senses and returning. Not all who are given over choose to come to their senses, and experience such a happy ending. Some would rather die amongst the pigs.

 

In James 3 there is a contrast between the wisdom from below and above. It gives this interesting insight that “the wisdom from above is … willing to yield …”. This is not an act of weakness by the one who yields neither is it an acknowledgment of error. It takes great strength & understanding to know when to yield and be willing to say, ‘I don’t agree with you and I don’t want you to walk down this extremely risky, potentially fatal path but, I realize I can no longer say anything to stop you, I’m giving you what you insist upon.” The wisdom that comes from above yields because it rests in the sobering reality, that “we don’t break God’s laws, God’s laws break us”. To learn the inflexibility of nature’s laws most prefer to run into them a few times. It sounds dumb, it’s actually insanity, but it is a reality. The tragedy is the risk is so high the first run in can be fatal & others can be lost as collateral too. Not to mention the heartache of family members & friends. After the statement that the wisdom from above is ‘willing to yield’, James 3 says, it’s also ‘full of mercy’. This is a reminder of the character of the Father’s heart, He’s full of mercy to returning repentant children. So if you ever rejected the counsel of God and inevitably find yourself eating pig slop with the pigs and you happen upon a truly sober moment, remember the servants in your Father’s house are treated better than this & your Father is full of mercy.

 

It is only ever with great sadness of heart that “God gives anyone over.” May God have mercy.