“But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart, but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16)
In the book “I Know Best”, author Roger L. Simon asks the probing question, “Why do so many people return to their original views so determinedly, even if they have altered them for a short while? What is this pull that makes people go back to where they were, wrapping themselves in what they always thought as if it were a childhood security blanket?” (p. 1). 2500 years ago Sophocles said, “What people believe prevails over the truth”.
The Stubborn Narrative
The generation delivered so amazingly and miraculously from Egyptian bondage refused to see the truth of their gracious deliverance. They refused to see how fortunate they were to have God and Moses leading them. Rather, I find them returning to the same false view of reality. They insisted on holding on to at all cost, to the very end of their lives the following narrative:
- We never wanted to leave Egypt: Exodus 14:12
- Life in Egypt was grand. We sat by the pots of meat in Egypt and simply gorged ourselves: Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5
- It was all Moses’ fault: Numbers 16:41
- All the promises about the Promised Land were false: Numbers 20:3-5; 21:5
I never find this generation changing their perspective, even though it was absolutely wrong. To the end they were issuing the same complaints. The people who had died before them were the lucky ones, they hated the manna, and Moses had failed in this mission. It wasn’t their fault, they had never wanted to be here in the first place. It was a generation that to their dying day firmly and stubbornly held on to the same false narrative.
It is easier to hold on to a false view when everyone around you shares the same point of view. Very few Israelites broke from the group think of that generation, yet Joshua and Caleb did (Numbers 14:6-9). When everyone around you is saying that life in Egypt had been grand, it is tempting to buy into that narrative. Simon wisely observes that the danger of group think is that “you assume you are better than you are because you have the same received and conventional ideas as your peers… There is only one way to be, one kind of idea and attitude to have” (p. 12). “If your intentions are good, if they conform to the general received values of your friends, family, and co-workers, what a person of your class and social milieu is supposed to think, everything is fine… it does not matter in the slightest what the results of those ideas and beliefs are, or how society, the country, and in some cases, the world suffers from them. It doesn’t matter that they misfire completely, cause terror attacks, illness, death, riots in the inner city, or national bankruptcy” (p. 12).
“I Know Best”
Centuries ago the Holy Spirit warned us about the alluring and deceptive “I know best” type of thinking:
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
- “Do not be wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7).
- “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
A False Standard of “Goodness”
Repeatedly the apostle John reminds us that goodness cannot be divorced from good behavior:
- “By this we now that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
- “Little children, make sure no one deceives you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous, the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8)
- “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).
- “By this we know that we love the children of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2).
By contrast, Simon argues that the following is a common measurement of “goodness” in our current society, “What is moral narcissism anyway? The short form is this: What you believe, or claim to believe or say you believe – not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be – defines you as a person and makes you ‘good’… no matter what you do, if you have the right opinions, if you say the right things to the right people, you’re exempt from punishment. People will remember your pronouncements, not your actions (pp. 11,13).
- The Social Cost is Too High
There have always been people who could see the truth, but refused to embrace it and practice it because doing so would mean the end of various relationships, including relationships with friends and family members. Jesus clearly warned us that the truth does divide families, “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household” (Matthew 10:35-36).
The truth has always been unpopular with the masses. Moses was not popular with the Israelites. Isaiah, Jeremiah and the prophets were not popular in their times. Multitudes followed Jesus and then turned around and cried out for Him to be crucified. There have always been people who when faced with the truth, decided to opt for what was more socially acceptable and popular (John 12:42-43).
- It Goes Against My Feelings
There are many things about the truth that do not feel good when you first hear it. Jesus’ teachings on hell does not evoke warm feelings (Mark 9:43-45). The truth that there is only one way to God is not something that feels good to many people (John 14:6). In both Testaments the Holy Spirit warns us about believing what “sounds good” and is “easy to accept” (Isaiah 30:10 “Speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions”; 2 Timothy 4:3 “Wanting to have their ears tickled”). The sad reality is that when we reject the truth and opt for feelings, we suddenly become incredibly blind. The Bible warns us about this (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; Romans 1:22). Modern examples of this include when Hollywood makes adultery or alcohol look glamorous, or when young people are sold the virtues of communism, which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 million under Stalin and 40 million under Mao. We can equally be blinded when some celebrity lectures us about being environmentally responsible, while at the same time owning many homes, traveling around town in large buses or limos, traveling the world via private jet, and living a lifestyle complete at odds with their lectures.
- Avoiding Personal Responsibility
The Israelites in the Wilderness blamed Moses, but they never looked at their own rebellious behavior. When Stephen reminded his contemporaries of the pattern throughout history of the Jewish nation of rejecting the teachings of the Holy Spirit, they turned on him (Acts 7:51-53). When Saul of Tarsus encountered Jesus he was brought face to face with the truth and Saul opted to see and acknowledge the truth, not only about Jesus, but about himself. Years later he would write, “Even though, I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:13,15). The good news is that the veil can always been removed from our eyes whenever we turn to Jesus! No one has to remain blind or stuck in a false narrative.
Mark Dunagan | email@example.com
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017