“Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them; I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness'”
There is a principle of hermeneutics (the science of Scripture interpretation) that states the first time a subject is mentioned in the Bible, all its foundational principles are present. How valid this is in all cases we are not prepared to argue, but it seems to hold well in the subject of faith.
We find it first mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:9-20 (LSB):
“For Yahweh’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him; He cared for him; He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them; He carried them on His pinions. Yahweh alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; And He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock, curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine.
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—you grew fat, thick, and sleek—then he abandoned God who made him, and treated the Rock of his salvation with wicked foolishness. They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who brought you forth.
And Yahweh saw this and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them; I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness'”
It is significant that the first mention of faith is in the negative sense. No faithfulness. No faith! That is exactly where God finds us. Faithless. It is in a state of wicked unbelief that all mankind lay when Jesus came to die for us. We cannot understand the true nature of faith and grace until we see the exceeding wickedness of unbelief. There are some who say that since Christ died for all our sins, then men cannot go to hell for their sins but for their unbelief. The fallacy behind this is obvious. It does not consider unbelief to be sin. Yet, it is the most heinous of all sins and is at the root of every other sin. It is indeed the cause of men’s damnation, but it is the sin of all sins against God. We want to consider a number of reasons why unbelief is so wicked.
Why Unbelief Is So Wicked
The reasonableness of faith. We can categorize beliefs into three groups: beliefs that are effortlessly accepted, beliefs that are moderately easy to accept, and beliefs that are difficult to accept. The categorization isn’t determined by the presence or absence of supporting evidence, but by our inclinations: some beliefs we desire to accept, some beliefs hold no consequence whether they’re true or not, and some beliefs we’d rather reject. Let me elaborate with an example: Suppose someone approaches me and compliments me, saying I am handsome with a pleasing personality. While I may lack substantial evidence to support this view and may even have evidence against it, it would be quite easy for me to believe it simply because I want it to be true.
A mother has a wayward son. He lies, steals, cheats, and displays laziness and selfishness.. Despite being caught and reprimanded numerous times, he repeatedly promises to change his ways. The mother is well aware of his fundamentally flawed behavior, yet she desperately wishes to believe he is good. So every little bit of evidence that shows improvement, she readily believes he is changing for the better. Others, knowing the boy’s true nature, find it hard to believe in this change. However, the mother’s desire to believe is so strong that it overshadows the compelling evidence against it, focusing on meager evidence for it. This illustrates how our natural inclination to believe something can lead us to downplay strong evidence to the contrary and exaggerate minimal supporting evidence. Similarly, in matters of Biblical truth, people may grasp onto even the most absurd doctrines without Biblical backing, solely because they wish to believe in them.
Let’s now consider things that are relatively easy to believe, which won’t significantly impact how I live whether they are true or not. In my early years of school, I was taught that Columbus discovered America in 1492, and I believed it. Similarly, I learned that George Washington was our first president, and I accepted that without any trouble. I don’t recall being provided with supporting evidence for these historical facts, but it was effortless for me to trust the accounts of historians. The reason is clear: whether these facts are true or not, it won’t affect my personal life or my actions. They don’t interfere with the plans I have for my own life.
I was also taught that the sun was 93 million miles away from the earth and much larger than the earth. If placed side by side, the earth would look like a pea beside a basketball. I never had any trouble believing that. I haven’t been to space with a measuring device trying to validate that information. I just believed it. I don’t need supporting evidence. The word of the scientist is enough for me. Those facts don’t interfere with my life. As long as the sun shines on me in the daytime, warms my body, helps my food grow, and disappears at night so I can sleep, I don’t care how big it is or how far away it is.
Now, since we don’t have any difficulty accepting those facts as true without supporting evidence, why do we have so much difficulty believing God? Why do men subscribe to the unsupported and confusing theories of evolution rather than the simple, straightforward Biblical account of creation? Why will they insist on theories of the innate goodness of man rather than the Biblical declaration of his moral ruin and utter depravity? All around them, they see the plain evidence of man’s inherent wickedness. They cannot deny it in themselves. The Biblical fact is the only reasonable thing to believe. Yet, men prefer to deny the truth and believe the humanistic lie. Why, in the face of all reason, will men refuse to believe that God has appointed a day for settling accounts, where He, the just judge of all the earth, will judge every man according to his deeds? Why, among those who confess there is a God and a way of salvation, do they refuse to believe that only He can save, and that He saves on His own terms according to His own purpose? Reason dictates that God cannot be less than sovereign in all things; otherwise, He is not God. If anyone can thwart His hand from His intended purpose, then that person who stays God’s hand is God instead.
The reason is clearly stated by 2 Thessalonians 2:12 (LSB): “In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness” The truth of God’s Word interferes with my personal plans and the unrighteous pleasures I look forward to. Evolution leaves no room for God in the universe, making me my own god: I can do as I please. My ego tells me that I am a pretty nice fellow. Everyone ought to love me because I am basically good. I don’t want to accept anything else. I want to believe that I can cheat and lie, use everyone I can to my own advantage, and get by with it. If there is a God and people need salvation, I want to be saved when and how I please, according to my own terms. This is why, as a natural man, it’s difficult for me to believe the truth of God’s Word.
Many people superficially accept certain truths of the Bible. Take the resurrection, for instance. It is a beautiful notion, especially in the spring of the year when birds are singing and flowers are blooming, life springing forth from the illusive death of winter. Nature renewing itself mirrors the concept of life emerging from death. But what does the resurrection of Christ in its true perspective mean to a sinner? It means that if he indeed rose from the dead, then he was crucified as the Bible said. He was buried, a mangled, bloody mass of flesh and bones after having suffered an indescribably horrible death. This horrible death signifies the wrath of God against me in my sins. It means that I have, by wicked hands, crucified the Son of God. Furthermore, it means that the same Jesus, whom I played a role in crucifying, is now my sovereign Lord, and I am at His mercy (Acts 2:23, 36). This old, natural man cringes at these facts. He would rather find an excuse to not believe them. Despite abundant evidence supporting their truth, he still can’t accept them. He doesn’t want to. He prefers to take pleasure in his unrighteous ways. Consequently, he rejects the well-established truth and embraces an unsupported lie (Romans 1:18-32).
Unbelief has been nourished in grace. “[D]o you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, LSB). Our text in Deuteronomy 32 demonstrates that Jacob had every reason to believe in God. He found Jacob when he was lost and unable to save himself. God led him when he had no sense of his own way. He taught Jacob when he was ignorant. He kept Jacob as the very apple of His eye. He fed and nourished him, making him strong and great. He protected him from his enemies so that none could harm him.
Is it not true for you too, my friend? Does not God make the rain fall upon the just and the unjust alike? Are not all men recipients of His benevolent goodness? Is there not plenty of evidence that Someone is looking after you? Are you so foolish as to think your own hand has earned the abundance around you? You breathe grace, eat grace, wear grace, walk on grace, sleep on and under and in grace. God’s grace surrounds you on every side. How can you be so wicked as to rob God of His honor and ascribe all this to yourself, luck, chance, or other men? Only one reason: you do not wish to serve Him. You want to serve yourself, so you believe the lie.
Unbelief serves other gods. Though man may imagine himself to be taking the throne, he cannot stay there. Like foolish Adam in the garden, listening to the Devil’s lie, “[Y]ou will be like God,” he takes the bait and falls captive to Satan. The minute man rebels against God’s sovereignty, he falls under the power of a lesser god. He becomes an idolater, and demons are the driving force behind all idolatry. “They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread” (Deuteronomy 32:16-17, LSB).
Of course, most men will deny that they are idolaters or worshipers of the devil, but they are nonetheless. They, by refusing confidence in God, will surely put their confidence in something else. It will likely be the thing they believe is most responsible for their blessings or protection. “Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net and burn incense to their fishing net because through these things their portion is rich and their food is fat” (Habakkuk 1:16, LSB). The idols are many: insurance, job, lodging, friends, crops, land, money, political power, church, denomination, good works, etc. It is whatever you depend upon more than God. It is no less devil worship than that practiced by a heathen with idols. And the root of it all is unbelief.
Unbelief forgets and despises Jehovah. “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who brought you forth” (Deuteronomy 32:18, LSB). Having found other sources that seem to supply his needs and enrich him, man completely forgets Who lifted him out of the mire. The other gods allow him to live more as he pleases, think as he pleases, and congratulate himself on his own achievements. What need does he now have for God? He puts God out of his mind and constantly dwells on his idols. No man can serve two masters. He will love one and despise the other. You cannot be neutral toward God. He must be to you either God or nothing. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. For those who come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. You cannot believe the first “He is” without the second. If God is, then He is the God that rewards those who diligently seek Him. You cannot, therefore, truly believe that He is without diligently seeking Him in faith, believing that He is your rewarder. Those who do not seek Him in this way despise Him. They seek another god whom they suppose will reward them.
For further reading
Conrad Murrell served in evangelistic ministry for over 50 years and was powerfully used by God in many Assemblies of God and Baptist churches in the United States and around the world. Throughout that time, Conrad pastored churches in Texas and Louisiana, successfully hosted numerous Bible conferences, engaged in continuous itinerant preaching, and diligently evangelized throughout the United States and Mexico. In addition to his fruitful ministry, he also wrote several books, many of which are read worldwide today. Mack Tomlinson's biography of Conrad Murrell is a testimony of God's grace and truth in the life of a man called by God for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Conrad Murrell was a significant contemporary and friend to two of the 20th Century's leading experts on revival, Leonard Ravenhill and Richard Owen Roberts, as well as a dearly loved co-laborer and associate of several other significant evangelists of our age, such as Manley Beasley and Al Whittinghill. Like them, he was a committed, passionate, and anointed itinerant minister. He was a man's man, a man of conviction and grit, but most importantly, he was God's man—a man completely devoted to his Lord and Savior.
October 21, 2023
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