We can turn away from God, but does God turn away from us when we repeatedly do things wrong?
Is it even possible for God to turn his face away from us?
What does the Bible say about this?
1. Jesus turned his back on them
Just prior to Jesus giving a detailed teaching on the end of the world, the religious Institution of that day refused to respect his authority. Was that a wise move or not?
Jesus told his disciples and the crowd:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat…Matthew 23:1, 3, 5, 6, 13, 16 & 33 NIV
But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach…
Everything they do is done for people to see…
they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues…
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.
You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to…
Woe to you, blind guides!
You snakes! You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell?
The disciple, Matthew, records Jesus’ verbal onslaught for a whole chapter and then Jesus confronts the inhabitants and visitors of Jerusalem:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.Matthew 23:37-39 NIV
Look, your house is left to you desolate.
For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Here we have insincere religious leaders along with a congregation that was unwilling to change and consider their ways.
So there was only one thing left to do, he turned away from them:
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.”Matthew 24:1 NIV
A sobering thought: ‘Jesus left the Temple.’
What hidden meaning there is in these four words!
Jesus was leaving the Temple for the last time.
The religious system was unwilling to submit and honour him and Jesus the Lord of Glory, was walking away from them.
2. God turned away and their house was left desolate
This place was now forsaken, and to be utterly ruined.
By Jesus walking away, it signified the departure of the Presence of God.
They were not open to what God had said in His Word, the Scriptures, and neither were they open to what Jesus Christ was saying to them.
They were unwilling to yield to the Lord, they were stubborn and proud.
They thought the Lord God was their God.
But in fact, they were rejecting Him, to go after gods of their own making.
Israel is described as forsaking God to go after idols and so because of this the Lord says:
Woe to them when I turn away from them!”Hosea 9:12 NIV
And that is what is happening here, Jesus leaves the Temple.
Just a few decades after Christ’s death and resurrection, tremendous misery and affliction descended upon Israel, because of their stubbornness.
They were not willing to submit to the Lord.
By August 70 CE the Romans had breached the final defenses and massacred much of the remaining population. They also destroyed the Second Temple. The Western Wall, the only extant trace of the Second Temple, remains a site of prayer and pilgrimage.‘Siege of Jerusalem’ Encyclopaedia Britannica 2
The loss of the Temple for a second time is still mourned by Jews during the fast of Tisha be-Av.”
3. It is terrifying when God turns away from us
We may be very familiar with the concept of someone turning away from God, but what an awful thought of God turning away from someone who refuses to submit and honour Him.
David, the king of Israel, knew how unbearable it would be if God departed from him.
So after David had committed murder and adultery and he was asking God to forgive him, he pleaded:
Do not cast me from Your Presence, or take Your Holy Spirit from me.Psalm 51:11 NIV
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”
Now we have nothing to fear if we run to Jesus Christ our Saviour for help. For Jesus said:
..whoever comes to Me, I will never drive away.”John 6:37 NIV
Whoever pushes God aside will have to answer for that.
But whoever turns to Him, He will never drive them away, He will accept them throughout eternity.
4. The beauty of the temple can take us away from God
It is interesting to see how untouched the disciples were after Jesus’ verbal onslaught and then his heartfelt plea to Jerusalem.
The only thing that the disciples saw was the stunning architecture of the temple.
Picture the scene: Jesus leaves the Temple and his disciples follow, saying things like:
“Aren’t these buildings impressive!”
“Yes, absolutely outstanding!”
“I think all the Temple trimmings make it superb!”
“What a magnificent place!”
The temple at Jerusalem may not have grabbed our attention, but it certainly was attracting their attention!
So how does Jesus answer them, as they gaze up at the impressive buildings and as they feast their eyes on the grand Temple?
Bear in mind that Jesus knew that all these impressive buildings were going to be pulled down by the Romans.
Does He say: “Yes they are wonderful buildings, but they have got to be knocked down. It’s a shame really, when you consider all those hours, those skilful craftsmen put into it?”
No, He said:
Do you see all these things?Matthew 24:2 NIV
I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another;
every one will be thrown down.”
Even a temple can become a ‘thing’ that takes us away from the Lord.
5. ‘Things’ can make God turn away from us
Notice how Jesus describes the magnificent temple buildings as just ‘things’!
We live in a society that says, “I’ve got to have that!”
Many just cannot live without ‘things’ in their lives.
These ‘things’ demand our attention and love.
But they are just ‘things’!
How many things in the world grab our attention, and worse still, how many things steal our hearts?
The image above is of a Ferrari 812 Superfast type F152M, but it is just a ‘thing’!
Do we ask God to give success to our undertakings, so that God may be glorified and that we can do good?
Or, that we may be enabled to eat and drink better and to wear more desirable clothes and to gratify our pride?
What about all the luxuries, rooms full of stuff and what about all the electrical gadgets, and other things that entice our hearts?
James calls worldly people adulterers because they give their best affections to other things, rather than God:
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?James 4:4-5 NIV
Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
We can also give our best affection to other people, our friends or family, rather than to God.
Of course that doesn’t mean we can′t have non-Christian friends.
It is a matter of priorities, number one has got to be God.
Perhaps the disciples looked at the magnificent buildings and were ready to weep for them because they were going to be torn down.
But Jesus had wept for the people!
He was concerned about the souls of men and women and not ‘things’.
Jesus was not held or attracted by the world’s finery.
We need to look at the things in this world and see that they are destined to crumble, rot, fade and disappear.
6. A heavenly home
The world’s glory is just a vapour which quickly vanishes.
But if we seek for the glory of God that will be eternal, everlasting.
The people mentioned for their faith in Hebrews had a correct view of this earthly life. It says that:
they admitted that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth.Hebrews 11:14-16 NIV
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own – they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
They saw themselves as strangers on the earth.
There wasn’t much that they could call their own, they didn’t want to accumulate wealth and treasures and too many things, because they were just passing through.
The time on this earth will be short, but eternity is a long, long time!
Our interests, hearts and affections should be focused on Jesus in heaven and that’s where our savings account and treasures should be.
References and credits – open in new tabs:
Scull and Roman building drawings thanks to GSP 100,000 clipart CD.