Is It Ever Right to Disobey God?

Is It Ever Right to Disobey God? April 12, 2015

It isn’t right to disobey God; but, like some things, there can be exceptions to this rule.

During the early days of Moses as leader of the Israelites, God got ticked off at his people. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites were down below making an image of a calf out of gold and worshipping it. While Moses was still on the mountain, three times God told Moses the Israelites were a “stiff-necked (people)” (Exodus 32.9; 33.3, 5), meaning insubordinate to him.

Then God said to Moses, “‘Now, let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’ But Moses implored the LORD his God” (Exodus, 32.10-11), trying diligently to talk God out of it, even saying to him, “change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people” (v. 12). Although Moses argued on the behalf of the people, all of his arguments also would have applied to his own descendents, of whom God said he would remake the nation.

Many Christians do not accept that God sincerely meant what he here said to Moses. They think God was only testing Moses to see how much he loved his people and thus how qualified he was to lead them to the promised land. Christians have various reasons for saying this. One is that God made several predictions that he was going to bring the Israelites into the promised land. Another is that he predicted the Israelites eventually would become as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the sand of the seashore (Genesis 15.5; 22.17; 26.4; 32.12; Exodus 32.13). But what people often don’t realize is that God also would have fulfilled all of these predictions exclusively through the descendants of Moses. They would have been the descendants not only of Moses but also of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and therefore God still would have kept his promises to them.

But perhaps the main reason many Christians think God didn’t really mean what he here said to Moses, about destroying the Israelites and making a nation only by means of Moses’ loins, is they think God cannot change his mind. Some would add that if he did, he would be a capricious God.

Interestingly, after Moses rested his defense on behalf of the nation Israel before God we read, “And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (Exodus 32.14). So, God obviously listened to Moses and became convinced. Not only does the text say God “changed his mind,” it also says that before he did so “he planned to bring on his people” the “disaster” he was telling Moses about, that he would destroy them all.

According to the Bible, this is not the only time God ever changed his mind. In the days of Noah, the people became so corrupt that we read, “the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created'” (Genesis 6.6-7). Then we read, “But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. . . . And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood,'” etc (vv. 8, 13-14). Noah didn’t try to talk God out of it, and God brought the disaster he said he would do by means of a great flood.

A similar instance regards Israel’s first king– Saul. When he disobeyed God regarding the battle with the Amalekites we read, “The word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out my commands'” (1 Samuel 15.11). When Samuel told Saul this, “Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words'” (v. 24). But in Saul’s case, God did not make an exception to the rule even though Saul seemed to have repented, which I don’t think was sincere.

Consequently, Samuel replied to Saul, “you have rejected the word of the LORD; and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel” (v. 26). Samuel added, “The Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind” (v. 29). The text concludes, “the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel” (v. 35). So, this account says God changed his mind about having made Saul king and thus rejected him; yet it also says God does not change his mind. Surely there is a difference between these two concepts.

To conclude, it is almost never right to disobey God, and to do so regarding serious matters can have the most devastating consequences due to the wrath of God. But there are rare exceptions to this rule under certain circumstances, such as with God’s great servant Moses and his people the Israelites. However, I have never seen such an exception to the rule in my life.

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