Have you ever encountered the question, “Why is the Bible filled with stories of rebellion and all-around bad behavior?” Sure you have. The standard answer is: “That’s what makes it real; one of the reasons why we know it’s true.” This is a good response, but does it go deep enough? I don’t think so.
Throughout Scripture we have stories of bad or neglectful fathers, often kings who were probably too busy to sow into their son’s lives. Kings had many responsibilities, and many wives! Who could blame them for not shepherding often dozens of children? As we know from observing the culture around us, perhaps even from our own lives, when children don’t have a father figure as an example of how to grow up, how to live, and for sons: how to be a man; they often have authority issues.
Even for the king, the father, the man after God’s own heart: David; there were issues in his household. Absalom betrayed him and tried to usurp the kingship. In that time, this wayward son even tried to kill David. But we see David’s heart toward his son despite his rebellion in 2 Samuel 15:30:
David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill.
He was grieved immensely. What must he have been thinking about this beloved son? How could he turn on his father the way he had? It had to be pure heartbreak for David.
Through it all, David had to contend with the consequences of Absalom’s aggression against him. As much as he hated to do it, he prayed for Absalom to accept foolish advice (2 Samuel 15:31) since he couldn’t allow his son to succeed. David’s responsibilities as king to the people wouldn’t allow that.
Ultimately, Absalom dies and David’s grief overflows in 2 Samuel 18:33:
The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”
It had to happen, yet the reality was exceedingly difficult for David.
The account of David and Absalom isn’t an isolated incident in the Bible. We don’t really know what kind of a father Solomon was other than that he had many wives and children. One legacy he left for us is the wisdom of Proverbs with the warnings to his son(s) about following wayward women. Solomon obviously had much experience in this area. His own son, Rehoboam, caused many problems with his reign. How had Solomon been an example to him?
All this is instructive to us today, but what about the deeper issue I mentioned earlier? Right from the start of humanity, we have Adam and Eve disobeying God’s Word and being led astray. But even that doesn’t go back far enough or cover the ground we need to in this article.
The original rebel was the serpent. We don’t know why Satan chose to go this route, although I’ve suggested previously (http://garyritter.com/satans-jealousy-of-man/) that it came about because of Satan’s jealousy. Have you ever wondered what God thought of this? Why had this beloved son of His done this? But it gets worse.
After God scattered mankind in Genesis 11 because of the Babel incident, He set His sons over the nations where he’d placed mankind (Deuteronomy 32:8). Why did He do this and what did He expect?
Naturally, God knew exactly what would happen; it was no surprise. God wanted His sons to watch over these nations, to be judicious and wise rulers. He intended for them to point their people to Him as the One true God. But they didn’t. They made themselves gods in the place of their father.
Here we have to ask: Was God a bad dad? Was He too busy for these many sons in His sovereign duties? What was it that they lacked that they would literally all go off the rails and rebel against their father in this manner?
I can’t imagine they lacked anything; it’s a silly question since they are God’s sons. However, what they had was what humanity also had: free will. They had the ability to choose. They were made in the image of God, their Father, and just like He certainly has ego and pride (how could He not if He gave us those attributes?), they had the means to follow in ways that were ungodly. Because God is God, He has the self-control never to allow any aspect of His nature to lead Him astray. His divine sons, just like His human sons, never had that self-control. Just like we developed a sin nature, in some way, so too did God’s heavenly kids.
As a result of their corrupt ways, God had to punish them. We see His judgment in Psalm 82, and His heart in the matter:
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
These divine sons of God were wicked. Yet God surely loved them. Hasn’t He loved us despite our many sins? The interesting thing is that for mankind, God made a way for us to reunite with Him through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins. That didn’t happen with these sons.
God judged them. He decreed they will die like mere men. The judgment upon them will be for all eternity. And yet, despite this awful fate for these once-heavenly sons, can you hear God’s grief in this Psalm? God’s expectation was high for these children, and they knew better. Perhaps God had to make an example for the rest of heaven. Yet it certainly weighed heavily upon Him.
When we read the accounts in the Bible of human depravity and rebellion, the rest of the story is that God’s divine sons likewise drastically strayed. The examples in Scripture of man’s turning away from God are a mirror of some of the heavenly host likewise rebelling.
We also see the immense mercy God has showered upon His human family that He didn’t give to His divine children. We’re growing into the perfect image of God through the process of sanctification. It may be that God’s heavenly sons already had that perfection, and still chose to go their own way.
How blessed we are that God chose to extend His mercy to us, unlike with His other sons in heaven. He could easily have decided to separate us from His presence forever just as He did with them.
That’s worthy of much thanks and praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords!