If you web search a phrase like “abuse of God,” you’re likely to get results that deal with questions like “Where is God when a child is abused?” or “Is God abusive because He lets humans suffer?”
Thus, the search results tend to address God as “the abuser.” However, I really could not find results which dealt with the abuse of God by humans. In fact, lately, I have been thinking a lot about this and, if you read the Bible carefully, you almost cannot help but begin to think of God as a victim of domestic violence or spousal abuse (which can also include verbal, mental or emotional abuse).
I know this sounds wild, but hear me out…
I am currently studying the book of Exodus. What’s so striking is that, despite God’s glorious deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, all the amazing feats He did before their eyes—the plagues, the Passover and deaths of the Egyptian firstborn, God’s protective presence in the pillar of the cloud, the parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of the Egyptians—before you can even finish chapter 15, in which the Israelites sing a beautiful psalm of praise to God for His deliverance, the Israelites begin to murmur and complain (see Exod. 15:23-16:12).
This murmuring against God would continue and increase (see Exod. 17:7), even after God miraculously rained bread from Heaven, brought quails to the camp to nourish the children of Israel, and gave them water out of a rock. Shortly after this, the Lord gave the Israelites a glorious victory against their enemy, Amalek (Exod. 17:8-16).
God would then declare to the Israelites that He had borne them on eagle’s wings and brought them unto Himself, and that they would be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests to Him, if they simply obeyed Him (see Exod. 19:3-7).
Then, the Lord graciously made His presence known to the Israelites even more explicitly, actually descending—God came down!—upon a mountain, in a glorious demonstration (Exod. 19:16-25). He would make another glorious appearance shortly thereafter (Exod. 24:10-11).
On a quick side note, I believe that every appearance of God in the Old Testament—and there were many—was actually the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. I base this conclusion, largely, on John 1:18, 1 Tim. 6:16, and the entire biblical story as a whole, but I will get back to this at a later time…
And, how did the Israelites repay God for His deliverance of them from bondage, for the destruction of their enemies, the supernatural provision of food and water, His declaration of love for them, His desire to make them royalty, and His glorious, personal visitations?
With idolatry, rebellion, sin (Exod. 32)!
But wait—let us go back to the very beginning. God created Man because He wanted children He could love and with whom He could fellowship, and Man rejected God, rejected God’s love, and instead, chose rebellion and sin (Gen. 3).
This rejection of God would continue throughout Israel’s history; it is seen repeatedly in Judges. But I think one of the most heartbreaking scriptures in the Bible is 1 Samuel 8:7:
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
So, we have Man’s rejection of God in the Garden of Eden, rejection of and verbal abuse toward God in the wilderness, repeated rejection of and rebellion against God during the time of the judges, and more rejection, idolatry, and rebellion throughout the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel.
Hosea, a heartbreakingly beautiful book, lays God’s pain and humiliation bare as He tells the titular prophet to continue loving his serial-cheater wife, just as God continues to love His serial-cheater wife, His people.
Finally, Man’s abuse of God is nowhere more literal or graphic than Man’s abuse of Jesus. I do not think we truly realize the enormity of what took place: Almighty God, the same Person who created the galaxy, who created Earth, the same God who fashioned us with His own hands and breathed His very life into our bodies, the same God who parted the Red Sea, the same God who performed all the glorious feats in the Bible, came down to us. He actually came down to us! He arose from off His throne, laid aside His glory and majesty, put on one of the human dirt suits He had created, and became like us.
God clothed Himself in dirt to be near us!
He came down to love us, to teach us, to heal us, to save us.
And how did we repay Him?
We spat on Him, we beat Him, we whipped Him, tearing His flesh.
We mocked and humiliated Him. Finally, we killed Him.
We killed God.
I realize this was part of a larger plan, but this is still the evil that Man is capable of.
Even after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus retained the wounds in His hands, feet, and side (Luke 24:39, John 20:27).
We have marred, scarred God, for all eternity.
The only thing marred in Heaven is Jesus—and we did it to Him.
I have been guilty of verbally and emotionally abusing the Lord, of complaining against Him, of not appreciating Him, of taking Him for granted, of cheating on Him, and sinning against Him.
I have actually known victims of domestic violence (several have been in my family). One of the questions you often want to ask victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse is “Why do you (or did you) put up with it?” Often fear is one reason that victims remain with their abusers, but, sometimes, love for the abuser and the hope that the abuser will change are other reasons.
Do not get me wrong—I am making an analogy. In no way am I encouraging people to remain with someone who is physically abusing them.
But to return to my analogy, the more I read the Bible and see this pattern of abuse by Man toward God, I want to ask Him, “Why do You love humans? We have been nothing but awful to You since Day One—millennia filled with verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. I have been awful to You. Why do You put up with it?”
But, of course, I already know the answer: because He loves His abusers and hopes they will change.