“The Uselessness of Fighting Against God”
The Uselessness of Fighting Against God
by Jeff Curtis
James Weldon Johnson began a new poem – a sermon in verse – on the prodigal son with these words: “Young man, young man, your arms too short to box with God.” Those lines stick in the memory because of the vivid imagery. Picture a boxer with short arms trying vainly to hit an opponent who has much longer arms. Imagine two men from the Middle Ages wearing armor and mounted on horses for a jousting contest. One has a lance twelve feet long, and the other’s six feet long! Similarly, we might think of two athletic teams that are completely mismatched. For instance, in the 2003 rugby World Cup series, the Australian team defeated Namibia 142-0. The poet Johnson was saying that when we fight against God, our situation is like that. There is no way we can win.
The futility of fighting against God is well illustrated in the book of Exodus. The story in this book is basically a story of the one true God versus the many false gods of Egypt. We might also view it as the one true God against Pharoah, who was regarded a god. Ultimately, of course, God won the battle. Israel was delivered, and Pharoah had to acknowledge God’s power.
The first chapter of Exodus gives a preview of the story. Here, Pharoah made a concerted effort to defeat God’s people, and so to defeat God, but he was beaten in every attempt.
- Pharoah enslaved the people. Why? Because he was afraid of them. What was the result? The people of Israel multiplied and spread out (1:12).
- Pharaoh made their work more difficult. When he saw that his first effort didn’t accomplish his purpose, he made the people work even harder (1:13-14). Apparently, that didn’t work either, since Pharaoh took other steps.
- Pharoah told the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys (1:15-16). The midwives refused to obey Pharoah because they “feared God” (1:17-21), and God honored these midwives. He “established households for them” (1:21) by giving them “families” (NRSV). In addition, He preserved their stories and their names for posterity. (Notice that these women are named in Exodus while Pharaoh remains nameless.) The mighty pharaoh’s plan was stopped by two lowly midwives.
- Pharoah next commanded that the baby boys be thrown in the Nile (1:22). In a sense, Pharaoh succeeded this time in that his orders were carried out. Later, the Egyptians would pay for these murders with the lives of their firstborn (4:23). In another sense, the strategy backfired, for it allowed God to raise up the deliverer of Israel in Pharoah’s household, being nursed by his own Hebrew mother at Pharoah’s expense. God was working behind the scenes during all this to bring about the fulfillment of His plan.
Fighting against God is useless. All the forces of evil in this world, though they may seem to be winning, now, will be defeated in the end. (That is the theme of the book of Revelation). Pharaoh’s futile efforts to beat God proves that human beings cannot fight against God and win. We fight against Him when we act as if we can sin with impunity, as if we can sin against God and not get caught. We cannot “get away with” anything where God is concerned. He set a law of consequences in operation in His universe: “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). We will be called to account for our rebellion against the Creator of the Universe.
God’s law of sowing and reaping in inevitable. However, He gave us something that supersedes that law. We can avoid reaping the ultimate consequences of our sin because Christ died for us. By repenting and coming to Christ in obedience, we can have our debt cancelled by the grace of God and the blood of Christ.