God screams. You know the kind–like those of a parent whose child runs into a street. God's screams don't sound human, but they are just as loud. We need only to recognize them. Unfortunately for Governor Mark Sanford, either he did not recognize them or he did not heed them.
During my tenure in public school, we often used the term “selective listening” to describe the student who heard only what he wanted to hear and claimed deaf to the rest. The ninth chapter of Nehemiah describes this all-too-common selective listening that man employs with God.
Repeatedly God showed the Israelites compassion–leading, protecting, providing–and they welcomed these blessings. Yet time after time they demonstrated unfaithfulness to Him in return. They “acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to (His) commandments. They refused to listen, and did not remember (His) wondrous deeds which (He) had performed among them.”
But God, being a God of forgiveness and compassion, “slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness,” did not forsake them (Nehemiah 9:16-17). Instead, God gave His good Spirit to instruct them (Nehemiah 9:20), and continued to bless them and expand their territory. Nehemiah says “they reveled in (His) great goodness.” But then “they became disobedient and rebelled” (Nehemiah 9:25-26).
It makes no sense, but it is the sin nature of humankind. God blesses people. People enjoy the blessings, and even recognize and thank the Giver. But then these same people turn a deaf ear when they don't like the message, like turning the channel on a television set. What an irrational cycle! We are selective listeners with the all-knowing, all-loving God. We hear what we want to hear, and ignore the rest. He graciously tells us how to avoid a mess, but too often we don't listen until we find ourselves in one.
Nehemiah goes on to explain that many times God did abandon His people, giving them over to their enemies, but then returned when they cried out for Him, only to have them turn away again the next time. Isn't that just like us? “God, if you will just rescue me this one last time, I promise to listen to you from now on.” Not.
Just like the Israelites, we turn a stubborn shoulder, stiffen our necks, and refuse to listen to the admonitions of our God. (Nehemiah 9:29) He sticks with us for years, screaming in His supernatural way for us to follow His plan for living rather than our own, cautioning us of the cost for doing otherwise. By His Spirit and through His divine orchestration of events, He admonishes us. He warns us of the consequences of failing to heed His direction, and then watches as we experience them over and over again. God will never forsake His people. But He does give us over to our own stupidity at times, in order that we might return to Him and walk with Him through this life more faithfully.
Unfaithfulness in marriage is merely a symptom of unfaithfulness to God. Certainly I am not in a place to judge the governor, nor is any Christian. But I pray I am in a place to learn. Are you? Have you committed yourself to sitting at His feet, desiring His wisdom and remaining sensitive to the Spirit's admonition? Are you listening to the whole of His counsel, or are you choosing to hear only that which your flesh desires?
God's desire for Israel is the same for His people today. “Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me! Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:8, Psalm 81:13)