Do you feel abandoned by God?


For the week of September 27, 2014 / 3 Tishri 5775
Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10 (English 14:1-9); Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17

Where Is God?

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" (Joel 2:17)

Where Is God?

Traditionally the Jewish High Holidays is a time of reflection and of making things right with God and our fellow human beings. Our quote is a challenge to religious leaders, both in ancient times and now. The prophet Joel calls the cohanim-the priests-of Israel to cry out to God that he would hold back his hand of judgment. The prophet's expressed concern here is not so much what God's judgment may mean to the people of Israel, but rather what his judgment of them may mean to other nations. He is concerned that they may conclude that God has abandoned Israel.

But why care about what the nations think? And why care what the nations think on this issue in particular? How could they conclude that Israel's God abandoned them, if they didn't even believe in Israel's God? It could be that since the prevailing worldview of the day recognized national deities, it was believed that each people group was governed by a god or gods. It would be commonly thought, therefore, that the condition of a nation would be the result of the actions of their associated supernatural beings. So if a nation did well militarily or economically, their god or gods would get the credit.

From the Scriptures we learn that this worldview is incorrect. There is no such thing as regional gods-at least not gods in the sense that the God of Israel is God. A case may be made that nations are influenced by all sorts of supernatural beings, but there is only one true God. There is only one Creator of the entire universe, revealed to Israel and proclaimed to all nations through the Messiah. Other beings may be acknowledged as gods, but, of those that exist at all, they are lessor, created beings, demonic in nature. But let's not get off topic.

The prophet is correct to be concerned about what the nations think of Israel's God, because whatever their theology might be, Israel's God is God of all. To make a false conclusion about the nature or actions of this God is to misunderstand everything.

But would they misunderstand? As they observe Israel's plight, would they not be correct to deduce that God had indeed abandoned them? Is this not the conclusion of so many for so long, who have observed Israel's history? The Torah is clear that ongoing disobedience to God would result in dire circumstances. Is not Israel's history filled with such dire circumstances, of which the prophets rightly interpreted as God's judgment?

Judgment, yes; but abandonment, no. What Israel was supposed to understand, but that Joel was concerned the nations would not, is that God's judgment is due, not to neglect and rejection, but to his fervent love and intimate concern for them.

Too often has Israel's plight been misinterpreted in this way, not just by the Gentile nations of Joel's day, but by people who have claimed to believe the Bible. For much of Church history up to the present day people have wrongly assumed that God has abandoned Israel. I know there are those who deny this by redefining Israel as the Church, but it amounts to the same thing, since God's covenant with Israel was made with the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joel's Israel, who were not abandoned by God, whatever the surrounding nations might have thought, is the same Israel ever since. Just as it was wrong then to think they were abandoned, so it still wrong now.

God's continued faithfulness to Israel is an essential theme of the High Holidays. It's tragic, however, that the awareness of God's love and faithfulness is often clouded over by great layers of humanly derived tradition that prevents so many from the kind of intimacy that God desires to have with his people through Yeshua. I wonder how many people attending synagogue this week will engage the rituals, while actually believing themselves to be abandoned.

And what about you? Whatever you might think about God's relationship to Israel, have you misunderstood your own circumstances and wrongly concluded that God has abandoned you? If you believe in the God of Israel through Yeshua the Messiah, you would do well to come to grips with his unfailing faithfulness. If he has not and will not abandon Israel, neither will he abandon you.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Comments? E-mail:

Subscribe? To have TorahBytes e-mailed to
you weekly, enter your e-mail address and press Subscribe


[ More TorahBytes ]  [ TorahBytes Home ]