To REJECT: ma’as. Verb. (Strong’s 3988).
Sounds like: mah’as
The rejection that stands out most in the Bible is people rejecting God, not the other way around. God created everything, but only humans rejected God and that that rejection came at a cost.
YHWH offered up this beautiful world and placed it at our feet. We were asked simply to have a relationship with our Creator, follow the commandments He commissioned, and look after (and tend to) the planet. But the people rejected YHWH, rejected His ordinances, and abused the planet.
The Bible lays out a pretty repetitive story. The people rejected their Creator; their choices led to bad consequences; God rescued them; the people were grateful, but then they forgot their Creator and turned to other gods; their choices led to bad consequences; God rescued them… again… and again. And on and on it went.
For example, God rescued the Hebrew people from the Egyptians and marched them towards the land He promised to give them, but it was not an easy venture. They complained about shelter, and thirst, and hunger. They stopped trusting God, and they even began to question the decision to leave Egypt in the first place. YHWH knew what was happening; they had no faith in Him. They weren’t questioning God, they were simply rejecting God.
When we feel rejected by others, we tend to dismiss them and, possibly, push them out of our lives, but YHWH responded quite differently. In reply to their complaints about hunger and the lack of meat, YHWH provided so much meat that they were sick of it:
[YHWH to Moses:] “And you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of YHWH, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.”
Therefore YHWH will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nose and makes you nauseated; because you have rejected [m’as’tem] YHWH who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”
Eventually they did reach the Promised Land and settled into communities with a series of judges presiding over them. But the Hebrew people saw and wanted what other nations had… a king to rule over them. They did not recognize that they had a King all along in YHWH. The prophet Samuel was devastated by their request, and in his agony he turned to God in prayer:
1 Samuel 8:7-9
And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected [ma’asu] you, but they have rejected [ma’asu] Me from being King over them.
Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have abandoned Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you as well. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall warn them strongly and tell them of the practice of the king who will reign over them.”
Rejected, God did not turn His back on His people (although they had turned their backs to Him). He honoured their request, but told Samuel to warn them that an earthly king would be no picnic. Unlike YHWH, who reigned over the people and gave things to them, this king would reign over them and take things from them:
1 Samuel 10:17-19a
Now Samuel called the people together to YHWH at Mizpah; and he said to the sons of Israel, “This is what YHWH, the God of Israel says:
‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you. But today you have rejected [m’as-tem] your God, who saves you from all your catastrophes and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but put a king over us!’”
By demanding a human king, they were rejecting YHWH as their One True King… and they would have to accept the consequences that came with that decision.
Saul rejected YHWH as King, so YHWH rejected Saul as king
So YHWH allowed them to have what they desired and Saul was chosen to be the first human king of the Hebrew people. But Saul acted more human than kingly and he blatantly disobeyed God. When the Hebrew people faced their enemy, the Amalekites, YHWH had told them to destroy everything, leaving nothing to take, but Saul and his warriors kept some things to take as spoils of war (see 1 Samuel 15:17b-19).
Saul denied his disobedience and blamed his subjects for the discretion. The spoils they took, he said, they had planned to give to God as a sacrifice. But God wasn’t buying it:
1 Samuel 15:22-23 (see also Samuel 15:26, Samuel 16:1)
“Does YHWH have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of YHWH?
Behold, to obey is better than a sacrifice, and to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as reprehensible as the sin of divination,
and insubordination is as reprehensible as false religion and idolatry.
Since you have rejected [ma’asta] the word of YHWH,
He has also rejected [wai-m’as’ka] you from being king.”
This reliance on traditions to bail you out, like a band-aid for bad behaviour, was despicable to YHWH:
[YHWH:] “I hate, I reject [ma’as’ti] your festivals,
nor do I delight in your festive assemblies.
Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fattened oxen.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
But let justice roll out like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Saul was out of a job, and Samuel needed to find a new human king to rule over the people. Seeing the appearance of Jesse’s eldest son, Eliab (whose name meant “My God is Father”), Samuel was certain that he would be the next anointed king:
1 Samuel 16:6-7
When they entered, he [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely YHWH’s anointed is standing before Him.”
But YHWH said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected [m’as’tihu] him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart.”
YHWH looked at the heart of Jesse’s sons and chose David to be the next king over Israel. The other sons were rejected, but David was chosen.
Rejecting the Laws of YHWH
Throughout the history of the Hebrew people, rejecting the laws, statutes, ordinances of YHWH was a common misdemeanor. Those who rejected and loathed the laws of YHWH (Leviticus 26:14-17) were at odds with God. Their rejection of YHWH caused Him to turn His face against them, which meant their enemies could easily defeat them. But this course of action was not set in stone. With repentance it could all be reversed:
Leviticus 26:40, 42-45
...‘But if they confess their wrongdoing and the wrongdoing of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me …then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will restore its Sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their wrongdoing, because they rejected [ma’asu] My ordinances and their soul loathed My statutes.
Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject [lo m’as’tim] them, nor will I so loathe them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am YHWH their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am YHWH.’”
If they confessed, YHWH had no choice but to forgive them. He had made a covenant pact with them and promised to remember it. The same refrain was repeated in the writings of the Prophets:
Ezekiel 20:15-22 (see also 2 Kings 17:14-20)
Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all the lands, because they rejected [ma’asu] My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they also profaned My Sabbaths, because their heart continually followed their idols. Yet My eye spared them rather than destroying them, and I did not bring about their annihilation in the wilderness.
Instead, I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols. I am YHWH your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and follow them. Sanctify My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, so that you may know that I am YHWH your God.’
But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to follow My ordinances which, if a person follows them, then he will live by them; they profaned My Sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to use up My anger against them in the wilderness. But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, so that it would not be defiled in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out.
This was like a broken record. They skipped forward, they skipped back, they obeyed God’s laws, they rejected God’s laws. But YHWH was always willing to withdraw punishment and bring them back to Him. All they had to do was ask. For the most part, though, they remained silent:
Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says:
“Since you have rejected [ma’as’kem] this word
and have put your trust in oppression and crookedness, and have relied on them,
therefore this wrongdoing will be to you like a breach about to fall,
a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant,
whose collapse is like the smashing of a potter’s jar, so ruthlessly shattered
that a shard will not be found among its pieces to take fire from a hearth
or to scoop water from a cistern.”
For this is what the Lord YHWH, the Holy One of Israel, has said:
“In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.
But you were not willing.”
Ultimately, rejecting the word of God showed a great lack of wisdom:
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the Law of YHWH is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie.
The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected [ma’asu] the word of YHWH,
so what kind of wisdom do they have?
Rejecting God and His word also showed a lack of knowledge:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Since you have rejected [ma’as’ta] knowledge,
I also will reject you [w-em’as’eka] from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the Law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
Priesthood was the intermediary role between human and YHWH, but without knowledge or wisdom they had no right to be a priest. A priest who rejected God could not be an authentic priest. He could wear the role like a garment, but that did not give him any authority.
Scrapings and Rejects
The Babylonian invasion was a result of the people rejecting YHWH. After years of people neglecting God, He turned His back and let the Babylonians do what they did best: conquer and destroy. The Jewish people were exiled and Jerusalem was demolished. God had turned His back on them, because they had turned their back to Him, and they felt it:
You have veiled Yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.
You have made us mere refuse and rubbish [scrapings and rejects: s’khi u-ma’os]
in the midst of the peoples.
The writer of the book of Lamentations deeply understood what it felt like to be rejected but they also understood that YHWH could restore them:
You, YHWH, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation.
Why will You forget us forever? Why do You abandon us for so long?
Restore us to You, YHWH, so that we may be restored; renew our days as of old,
Unless You have utterly rejected [ma’os m’as’tanu] us and are exceedingly angry with us.
“Unless you have utterly rejected us” comes out of a double use of the Hebrew word ma’as. More literally it would be, “Unless you have rejected-rejected us”. This was an all inclusive, overwhelming, rejection!
We also see this in Jeremiah 14 where the double rejection gets translated as “completely rejected”:
[Jeremiah to YHWH:] Have You completely rejected Judah [ha-ma’os ma’as’ta et Judah]?
Or have You loathed Zion?
Why have You stricken us so that we are beyond healing?
We waited for peace, but nothing good came; and for a time of healing, but behold, terror!
We know our wickedness, YHWH, the wrongdoing of our fathers, for we have sinned against You.
Do not despise us, for the sake of Your own name; do not disgrace the throne of Your glory.
Remember and do not annul Your covenant with us.
I Have Chosen You, Not Rejected You
But the people were not beyond healing. YHWH would remember them and have mercy on them:
And the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah, saying, “Have you not observed what these people have asserted, saying, ‘The two families which YHWH chose, He has rejected them [wai-m’asem]’? So they despise My people as no longer being a nation in their sight.
This is what YHWH says: ‘If My covenant for day and night does not continue, and I have not established the fixed patterns of heaven and earth, then I would reject [ehm’as] the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so as not to take from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and have mercy on them.’”
YHWH announced Himself as the Redeemer. He chose and gave; He did not reject and take away:
“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend,
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its remotest parts, and said to you,
‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not rejected [w-lo m’as’tika] you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you, I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonoured; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them, those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent.
For I am YHWH your God who takes hold of your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’
Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you people of Israel; I will help you,” declares YHWH, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
Rejection in the Book of Job
We’ve looked at how large groups of people rejected God. But in the book of Job we get a snapshot of an individual who suffered the feeling of rejection.
Rejection was a core theme in the book of Job. Job had lived a good life. He was a faithful servant to God, but Job’s life went through a terrible crisis at the hands of God’s adversary (ha-Satan). He lost everything: his home, his children, his health. During this time of horror, three of Job’s friends came to comfort him.
The first friend, Eliphaz, suggested that the horrors Job was experiencing were the result of God’s disciplinary actions for Job’s sinfulness:
[Eliphaz to Job:] “Behold, happy is the person whom God disciplines,
so do not reject [al ti-m’as] the discipline of the Almighty.
For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, but His hands also heal.”
But Job had nothing to be disciplined for, and his response to Eliphaz reflected his state of despair as he suffered a gruesome health crisis. Job’s mind was not concerned about God’s discipline, all he could feel was his body rejecting him:
Job 7:5, 16
[Job’s response to Eliphaz:] “My flesh is clothed with maggots and a crust of dirt,
my skin hardens and oozes [rejects: wai-yi’maes]…
…I waste away [I am rejected: ma’as’ti]; I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are only a breath.”
“Oozes” came from the Hebrew word ma’as (rejecting). The rejection from his body was expressed as pus (which is rather graphically gross). And Job’s announcement, “I waste away” was more literally “I am rejected”. In other words, his body and his soul was rejecting him and death seemed imminent.
Job’s next friend, Bildad, stepped in and suggested that Job must be lacking in integrity. There must be some sort of evil in his life that he was hiding because those living with integrity under YHWH should be happy and joyful, not mournful and depressed:
[Bildad to Job:] “Behold, God will not reject [lo yi-m’as] a person of integrity,
nor will He help evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with joyful shouting.”
In the eyes of Bildad, if God did not reject anyone with integrity then Job must be lacking in integrity. But Job disagreed. He responded to Bildad announcing his innocence:
[Job’s response to Bildad:] “I am guiltless; I do not take notice of myself; I reject [ehm’as] my life.
It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys the guiltless and the wicked.’
If the whip kills suddenly, He mocks the despair of the innocent.
The earth is handed over to the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges.
If it is not He, then who is it?”
Job was in a crisis and he was starting to question the integrity of the God he worshipped. Did YHWH mock the despair of the innocent? Did He hand the earth over to the wicked? And if it wasn’t YHWH doing these things, then who was it?
Job continued to respond to Bildad. He knew he was innocent, so it stood to reason that God favoured the wicked and punished the blamesless. How could God reject His creation? How could God reject him?
[Job’s response to Bildad:] “I am disgusted with my own life;
I will express my complaint freely; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject [ti-m’as] the work of Your hands,
and to look favourably on the plan of the wicked?’”
Job and Bildad had another conversation and Job lamented over all who had turned on him:
[Job’s response to Bildad:] “My breath is offensive to my wife,
and I am loathsome to my own brothers.
Even young children reject me [ma’asu vi];
I stand up and they speak against me.
All my associates loathe me, and those I love have turned against me.”
Job was in the depths of despair. He felt utterly alone. Not only had God rejected him (or so he thought), but all the survivors in Job’s life (wife, brothers, neighbourhood children, and friends) had also rejected him.
All of Job’s musings were valid expressions during his crisis. God wanted Job to search Him out, cry out to Him, and question everything. But Job’s questions turned to blame and he accused God of some terrible things (mocking the innocent, favouring the wicked, oppressing the righteous).
A fourth friend, Elihu, came to defend YHWH’s character from the charges that Job brought forth:
“Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil, and from the Almighty to do wrong.
For He repays a person for his work, and lets things happen in correspondence to a man’s behaviour.
God certainly will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.”
Elihu was a rather mysterious (and somewhat controversial) character. Today people are split on whether Elihu was just another friend with bad advice, or an agent of God, expressing the will of YHWH.
Regardless of where you land on the debate, Elihu did not hold back any verbal punches:
[Elihu to Job:] “Shall God repay on your terms, because you have rejected [ma’as’ta] His?
For you must choose, and not I; therefore declare what you know.”
Men of understanding will say to me, and a wise man who hears me,
‘Job speaks without knowledge, and his words are without wisdom.
Oh that Job were tested to the limit, because he answers like sinners.
For he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us, and multiplies his words against God.’”
Elihu countered Job’s earlier character assault on God. YHWH did not favour the wicked and He didn’t reject anyone. In fact, YHWH was a God of justice and He showed compassion on the afflicted:
[Elihu to Job:] “Behold, God is mighty but does not reject [w-lo yi-m’as] anyone;
He is mighty in strength of understanding.
He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives justice to the afflicted.”
After Elihu spoke (chapters 32-37), YHWH Himself spoke to Job, starting in chapter 38:
Then YHWH answered Job from the whirlwind and said,
“Who is this who darkens the divine plan by words without knowledge?
Now tighten the belt on your waist like a man, and I shall ask you, and you inform Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the measuring line over it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
YHWH did not defend His character, He simply laid out the mysteries of the universe to Job, and what Job came to understand was that he did not understand anything at all.
Then Job answered YHWH and said,
“I know that You can do all things, and that no plan is impossible for You.
‘Who is this who conceals advice without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I do not know.
Please listen, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract [I reject (my earlier words): ehm’as],
and I repent, sitting on dust and ashes.”
God had not rejected Job. Loss and suffering did not come from God; there were greater mysteries at work. All Job could do was reject his own words of blame and misery. Job took back his words, and repented in dust and ashes.
In the end, God saw Job as trustworthy. He had conversed openly and honestly with God, even though harsh words were expressed. After Job repented, YHWH restored all that he had, twice over. Job had never been rejected by God; God had always wanted to embrace him.
Yeshua: The Rejected Cornerstone
When YHWH laid out the mysteries of the universe to Job He spoke of the foundations of the earth:
[YHWH to Job:] “…who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The cornerstone was an architectural metaphor. It was the stone laid at the foundation from which to expand and build. It was the anchor stone of the home, and it was YHWH who laid the cornerstone of the universe.
The cornerstone would pop up a few times in Scripture:
Therefore this is what the Lord YHWH says:
“Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
The one who believes in it will not be disturbed.”
Just as God laid a cornerstone for the foundation of the universe, He would send a precious cornerstone from which to build His Kingdom.
The Psalmist expressed that the cornerstone, given by God, would be rejected by the people:
I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of YHWH.
YHWH has disciplined me severely, but He has not turned me over to death.
Open the gates of righteousness to me;
I will enter through them, I will give thanks to YHWH.
This is the gate of YHWH; the righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation.
A stone which the builders rejected [ma’asu] has become the chief cornerstone.
This came about from YHWH; it is marvellous in our eyes.
In YHWH’s plan of salvation a precious cornerstone would be rejected by the people. The New Testament writers identified Yeshua (Jesus) as the cornerstone, with Yeshua quoting the Psalm:
Matthew 21:42-46 (see also Luke 20:17)
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘A stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone;
This came about from YHWH and it is marvellous in our eyes’?”
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and on whomever it falls, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. And although they sought to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, since they considered Him to be a prophet.
Peter would have heard Yeshua’s claim and he later pulled from Isaiah’s writings when he spoke of Yeshua as the living stone rejected by the people:
1 Peter 2:1-6 (see also Acts 4:10-12)
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, and like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by people, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah. For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I am lying in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
For Peter, Yeshua was the cornerstone and from Him we could become living stones. And as living stones, built upon the cornerstone, we were tasked with the duty of building each other up as spiritual houses where YHWH resided. Being spiritual houses filled with YHWH make us clear targets of rejection. We will be rejected but we will not be put to shame.
The Rejected Messiah
Yeshua, the rejected cornerstone that held up the foundations of the earth, announced, Himself, that He would be rejected:
Luke 9:18-22 (see also Luke 17:25, Mark 8:31)
And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”
They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”
And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
And Peter answered and said, “The Messiah of God.”
But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”
Rejection was a part of life and it was a very big part of Yeshua’s life. It sent Him to the cross.
Yeshua warned his disciples that they would be targeted for their beliefs and be rejected throughout their lives. When you live contrary to the way most people live, you’re bound to feel rejection:
[Jesus:] “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; but the one who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
It’s better for you to be rejected for your relationship with YHWH than accepted for your compliance with the world. Since rejection is something we should expect in our lives, we must be carefully not to reject others in return:
1 Timothy 4:4
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
We are all created in the Image of God and what the Creator has made is good and should never be rejected. So let us treat each other with kindness, respect, and compassion… regardless of how we feel about a person’s choices and beliefs. God wants us to bring people into the family, not reject and turn people away. Let us build up the Kingdom, not tear it down.
Next week: Revisiting LAMB