05 February 2014

What God's Wrath Tells Us About His Love

Walking once again around "our" salt lake (La Sal del Rey), I kept watching one of my favorite natural phenomena:  a sun dog.  Before long, there was a little rainbow splotch on either side, and then, to my utter excitement and delight, I could see an almost unbroken ring of light all around the sun.

Do you find, like I do, that the more time you spend thinking about or memorizing something, the more you notice it in the details of every-day life?

Another good reason to train ourselves to think about good things, for sure.

So the ring of light around the sun, clear yet faint, had me thinking of something I'd been typing out by memory quite a bit recently:

"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat upon the throne.  And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald."  Revelation 4: 2, 3.

John had the privilege of seeing something not many human beings ever see, this side of the second coming.  In fact, the Bible tells us that no one can see God in His full glory, and live--at least not before sin has been completely removed from us and our world.  (See Exodus 33:20.)  Thus the vision John saw, glorious and incredible as it was, must have been to some extent a veiled vision.

This thought occupies my mind a lot lately, this thought about my God who is so great that His very presence has power to give life as well as destroy sin and those who love it.  Who parts the Red Sea as well as devours His enemies and the enemies of His people.  Who sets foot on rugged mountains in the wilderness and simply by being there makes even Moses "exceedingly fear and quake" (see Hebrews 12:21).

Yet this same powerful-beyond-comprehension God comes down, asking His people, May I be your neighbor?  I want to dwell with you.

They build Him a tent, they fill it with the things He tells them how to make, furniture and curtains that must have been some of the most exquisitely beautiful things human beings have ever made.

And this God, who doesn't dare reveal Himself in His fullness lest they perish, finds a way to live among a stubborn, fool-hearted, complaining camp of Israelites.

The centuries roll by, and Solomon builds another house for the Lord God omnipotent, a house whose beauty surpasses the glories of every earthly kingdom.  It's still a humble house for the God of heaven, but again He graces His undeserving people with His presence, keeping enough distance to preserve their lives, and promising that no matter what, if they turn and genuinely seek Him, He will hear from heaven.

More centuries roll by.  It's hard not to be upset with stubborn Israel, until I remember I'm stubborn and slow, too.  A temple destroyed, another one built, the all-patient God still pursuing His people, still looking for ways to get closer, to show them more of His saving love, to draw them to repentance by His goodness.

It wasn't enough for Him to be near them; this time He finds the only way to be truly among them, able to take the children in His arms to bless them, without His overwhelming might consuming them.

That way is Jesus, in human flesh.

We have a hard time reconciling the gentle Jesus on earth with the displays of thunder and smoke on Mount Sinai in the old days.  We can't imagine how the God who stays the same yesterday, today, and forever, could be both full of wrath toward sin as well as full of the kind of love that dies for filthy sinners.

Yet without catching at least a glimpse of the power of God's wrath, we can't grasp the fullness of His love.  

Without knowing how much He hates sin, we can't bring ourselves to reverence the One who holds vengeance in His all-righteous, nail-pierced hand.

Without knowing just how powerful God really is, and how His fire consumes sin in a flash, we can't appreciate the way He worked profoundly long and hard to win Judas, trying to save the traitor from wrath.

Without remembering how the people begged God to stop speaking to them for fear they would die by the glory of His voice, we can't appreciate how mercifully he dealt with the woman caught in adultery.

He told the accusing crowd they were welcome to cast the first stones at the woman, if they were without sin themselves.  Which meant He alone had the right to stone her.  Indeed, if it hadn't been for the human flesh veiling His glory, the whole crowd would have been consumed on the spot.

Instead, He took up His cross, and let her go free, focusing all His wrath not on her, but on Himself.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

It's not a love to be taken lightly.  It's not a love to be treated casually.  It's not a love to shrug your shoulders at, or to ignore while immersed in the faint and worthless pleasures of this world.

This love, unbounded and unfailing, brings me in utter and awestruck humble submission to the One who promised to guide me through this life and bring me safe at last to the home He's preparing for me in that city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

1 comment:

  1. Deep thoughts and beautiful, worthy of endless contemplation.


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