Our Awesome God | 1

Over the next number of days, we will be examining the attributes of our awesome God. This word, awesome, has been cheapened nowadays through overuse and misapplication. People will have a relaxing holiday and say, “I had an awesome time.” Ladies who go to the hairdresser will have friends gaze admiringly and say “it’s awesome.” Men who watch an exciting sporting match will loudly declare “that was awesome.” This cheapens the word. The earliest use of the word awesome comes in the late 16th century and meant “filled with awe.”

OMNIPOTENCE
One of God’s names is El Shaddai which means God Almighty. God’s power can helpfully be examined under three headings.

  1. IN CREATION – In Jeremiah 32:17 the prophet declares “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” In Job 38 the Lord finally interrupts the never-ending round of speeches by Job and his friends by taking Job on a tour of creation. In vrs 31 God says, can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? The distance between two stars in Orion’s belt is over 600 light years – a vast distance! God is so awesome that he can loosen a cord between the two with as little effort as it takes us to untie a shoelace! In Job 5:9, 10 we are introduced to the miracle of rain. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. Imagine that you are a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. Where will your water come from? Water that evaporates from the Mediterranean Sea will be desalinated in the clouds and carried hundreds of kilometres before being dumped on fields. How much does it weigh? If 2,5cm of rain fell on an area of 2,6 square kilometres that amounts to 780 million litres which is 748 million kg. If that amount of water was just dumped it would crush wheat and so it is dribbled. This is why Job calls rain a wonder that cannot be fathomed. God is so awesome that Isaiah 40:12 says who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?
  2. IN SALVATION – As awe-inspiring as creation is God’s power in salvation is even more awesome. In fact in 2 Corinthians 4 the apostle Paul describes our salvation by drawing on creation language. In vrs 6 we read, for God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Creation depends totally on the spoken creative word of God “let there be light and there was light” etc. Mankind in sin is dead and to make us alive takes a miracle on the scale of creation itself. The same creative God who spoke in Genesis 1 must speak again “let there be light” if we are to made spiritually alive.
  3. IN CHRISTIAN LIVING – In Ephesians 1:19, 20 Paul prays that believers
    would experience the power of God that is already working in them. I pray that you may know his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. The same power that was utilized to raise Christ from the dead is available to every believer. There is no excuse for a believer to say, I just cannot love my husband. I cannot forgive this person, I cannot stop my malicious gossip or I can’t seem to be able to control my temper. When we stop to consider that the power that raised Christ from the dead is available to me to overcome my sinful habits we should never say, “I cannot!”

Our Awesome God | 2

Joshua 6 describes the unfolding destruction of the city of Jericho. Israel were given strict instructions not to take any of the loot for themselves. In the ancient world, when an army captured a city the spoils were divided among those who did the fighting. By not allowing Israel to indulge themselves the Lord was making it clear who was to receive the credit for the defeat of Jericho. In Joshua 7 Achan rebelled against the Lord and took some silver and gold and a beautiful robe and hid them under his tent. He thought that no one had seen. He ignored one important fact – God sees all things and knows all things.

OMNISCIENCE
When it comes to God’s omniscience we mean:

  1. God knows everything there is to know. In Psalm 139:1-4 we read, O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. If you go out into the country where there is no light pollution it feels as if we can see millions of stars but in actual fact we can only see about 9000 stars with the naked eye. Astronomers run out of names for these 9000 visible stars and settle for names like SAO – 067173. There are however 3 septillion stars in the universe (that is a 3 followed by twenty four zeroes). To give you some idea as to how huge that number is, one million seconds takes you back 11 days, one billion seconds takes you back 31 years and 8 months and one trillion (1 followed by only 12 zeroes) seconds would take you back to 29672BC. We are still only halfway to a septillion. In Isaiah 40:25, 26 we are told, to whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. God can give names to each of those 3 septillion stars.
  2. God knows everything has not yet happened. In Isaiah 46:10 God tells us, I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. In 1 Kings 13:2 we are told three hundred years before it happened that a son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. In Isaiah 44:28-45:1 we are told over 150 years before it happened that God would raise up a man called Cyrus who would be instrumental in allowing Israelites to return to Jerusalem after the exile. This is not only true for certain people in the bible, but it is just as true for us as well. In Psalm 139:16 we read all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How should we respond to such a truth? In Psalm 139:6 David says, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

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Isaiah prophesied during the reign of four monarchs over a period of 60 years. The first of these kings was Uzziah, who reigned a long time and was a successful ruler until he was overcome by pride. God punished him with leprosy for his arrogance. In the year that Uzziah died, Isaiah had a life changing vision of God’s majesty, holiness, glory and power. It is recorded in Isaiah 6. In vrs 1 we read, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah is saying, “in the year we lost our human king, I saw the real king.”

HOLINESS
Angels are magnificently powerful creatures and whenever humans encounter them in Scripture their first thought is – “we are going to die!” Even these sinless beings however fear God. In vrs 2, 3 Isaiah says, with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” This is the only time in Scripture that we find a threefold repetition. In the gospels Jesus frequently uses the words “truly, truly” (John 5:24; 6:47; 12:24; 16:20 etc). This is called a superlative. In Isaiah 6 we have the only occurrence of a threefold superlative in the bible. God is loving and merciful but nowhere in the bible do we read God is love, love, love or mercy, mercy, mercy. Yet he is “holy, holy, holy.” God’s holiness defines all his other attributes. His love is a holy love. His justice is a holy justice and his kindness is a holy kindness. When we say that God is holy, we mean that His very being is completely absent of even a trace of sin (James 1:13). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him.

Notice Isaiah’s response to the holiness of God in vrs 5, “woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” The Hebrew word “unclean” is used in Leviticus 13 & 14 to refer to someone who is ritually unclean because of leprosy. It is used again in Isaiah 64:6 all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. If our righteous acts (the very best that we can do) is unclean in God’s eyes what must our worst acts be like? Exposed to the holiness of God Isaiah comes undone at the seams. Before a holy God Isaiah sees self as moral leper.

How do the angels respond to Isaiah’s cry of desperation in vrs 6, 7. Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah has seen the holiness of God but cannot use his lips to sing along with the angels. He is too sinful. One of the angels takes a live coal from the altar. After the sacrifice for sin had been offered at the altar all that remained was a blood-soaked coal. The angel takes this coal and touches Isaiah’s lips thereby removing his guilt. The only way in which sinful people can be reconciled to a holy God is if someone removes the guilt of their sin. At the end of Isaiah, we are told that what Isaiah feared, Jesus bore in our place. In 53:6 we read, we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The result of this is (Romans 8:1) therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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In 2 Chronicles 33 the life of King Manasseh is described. He was a wicked king whose lamentable reign is described in vrs 2, he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He ended up ruling for 55 years (695-642 BC) and serves to remind us of the marvelous patience of God.

PATIENCE
When the OT says that God is patient or slow to anger (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8, Nehemiah 9:17, Joel 2:13) the original Hebrew actually says that God has a long nose. It is a peculiar figure of speech! Apparently, the idea was this: When a person gets angry, his or her nose turns red or burns. Hebrew speakers believed that, when God gets angry, He doesn’t act until His nose burns all the way down to His face. Since God’s nose is so long, it takes a long time for it to burn up; as a result, He does not act on His anger quickly. Today we would say that God has a long fuse. God’s patience means that He often graciously withholds judgment for long periods of time from those who are sinning. Notice how vrs 3-6 describes the depths of Manasseh’s wickedness.
a) In vrs 3 he erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. These deities were associated with fertility rites.
b) Vrs 3 goes on to say he bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.
c) In vrs 6 we read the horrifying words, he sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom.
d) Vrs 6 goes on to say that he practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists.

In vrs 10, 11 we read that although the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people they paid no attention. So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. Manasseh responded to the Lord’s discipline and in vrs 13 we read, and when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God. The Lord is indeed slow to anger and abounding in love? We might wonder why God allowed this man to reign longer than any other king in Judah. He ruled for 55 years. This is even more remarkable since vrs 21-25 says that God only gave his son, Amon two years before pulling the rug from under his feet. This serves to remind us that although God has a long fuse His patience is not infinite. Aren’t you thankful that the Lord is indeed slow to anger and abounding in love? It supplies even the greatest of sinners with hope. The apostle Paul many centuries later could say in 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. If the Lord in his great patience worked salvation for Paul, there is hope for even the worst of sinners today. As we read in 2 Peter 3:9 the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

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In Psalm 89:14 we read; righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. In Deuteronomy 32:4 we read; He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. We see a great demonstration of God’s justice in Genesis 18.

JUSTICE
In his book Knowing God, JI Packer says; Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of God as Judge. Speak to them of God as a Father, a friend, a helper, one who loves us despite all our weakness and folly and sin, and their faces light up; you are on their wavelength at once. But speak to them of God as Judge, and they frown and shake their heads. Their minds recoil from such an idea. They find it repellent and unworthy. The doctrine of God’s judgment is a good thing. If there is no Judgment Day there are only two options left for us – lose all hope and live as you please or resort to vigilantism. On the one hand if there is no judgement then it matters not whether you live a life of justice or one of cruelty. If however the Hitler’s and Stalin’s and IS masterminds of terror bomb attacks will be judged we live with vibrant hope – because all wrongs will finally be redressed. On the other hand, if there is no judgment then there will always be the irresistible temptation for us to take up the sword and smite the wrongdoer. Round up the posse, take the law into our own hand. All that results is a world that resembles the old American Wild West – everyman for himself. If we believe in the Day of reckoning it enables us to live with hope and peace.

What is involved in God being the judge?

  1. A judge is a person with authority. As our creator, God has the right to make laws for us, and reward us according to whether or not we keep them. In Genesis 18:17 God says then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?
  2. A judge is a person who is identified with that which is good and right. Any judge who has an interest in seeing wrong triumph over right, is by biblical standards a monstrosity. A judge who is willing to be bought by powerful people should be disbarred. The bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity. In Genesis 18 Abraham feels confident in pleading on behalf of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. If fifty, forty, thirty, twenty or ten righteous people can be found God assures him he will spare the city. The basis for Abraham’s confident appeal is found in vrs 25 far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
  3. A judge is a person with wisdom to discern the truth. In a court of law a judge can be hoodwinked by the slick arguments of a defence lawyer. In God’s courtroom this is not possible. In Judges 18:21 God tells Abraham that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” In God’s courtroom he knows everything including the very thoughts of defendants. Trials in his court can never be frustrated by lack of evidence or eye-witnesses.
  4. A judge is a person with power to impose sentences. In Genesis 19 God’s judgment descends on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

How then is God’s justice against sinners satisfied so that we can receive mercy? The answer is found in the cross. In Romans 3:25, 26 we read, God presented him (Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Notice the two references to God’s justice in these verses. God’s justice is satisfied in that our sin was punished in Christ. This is why God is described as just and the justifier of those who exercise faith in Christ.

Our Awesome God | 6

With the USA elections looming large the debate surrounding the best form of government rears its head once again. We are of course not so naïve as to assume that democracy is the best model out there. In recent years, crippling weaknesses have been exposed in even the more mature western democracies. Democracy is however preferable to communism or despotic rule. When Peter and John were released from prison in Acts 4, they gathered the church to pray. In vrs 24 they prayed, “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. The Greek word they used to refer to God is despotes, from which we get our word despot. A despot is someone who has absolute power but who wields it in a cruel and oppressive manner. It has well been said that the best form of government is a benevolent dictator. Someone who has absolute power (a despot) but who can be depended on only to use such power for the good of the people. No such human being exists but the apostles addressed this benevolent dictator in prayer. The same word despotes is used of God in Luke 2:29; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4 and Revelation 6:10.

SOVEREIGNTY
Over the years, theologians have written many long and complicated definitions of God’s sovereignty. In the end, they all come down to one word – authority. God can do whatever He wants, and also has the authority to make everyone do whatever He wants also. In Psalm 115:3 we are told, our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. In Ephesians 1:11 we are told that God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. The “all things” in Ephesians 1:11 extends to –

  1. Satan – In Job 1:11, 12; 2:5, 6 Satan has to ask God permission before he does anything to Job. In Luke 22:31 Jesus affirms this when he says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”
  2. Little things – In Proverbs 16:33 God’s sovereignty extends to the roll of a dice. In Matthew 10:29 Jesus says, are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
  3. Big things – In Proverbs 21:1 we are reminded, the king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. The same truth is articulated in Daniel 2:21.
  4. Everyday providences – One of the most encouraging assurances we have as God’s children is taught in Psalm 139:16 all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Nothing can happen to me that has not been ordered by the Lord. Think about how this worked itself out for Joseph who was sold into slavery by jealous brothers, and then after distinguishing himself in Potiphars’ household ended up in prison for righteousness sake. Later in life in Genesis 50:20 he could tell his brothers, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
  5. Bad things – In Isaiah 45:7 God himself says, I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. In Amos 3:6 we read, when disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? The most notable example of this truth is the cross of Christ itself. In Acts 4:27, 28 the apostles prayed, indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
  6. Human salvation – God’s sovereignty extends to the salvation of men and women. In John 6:44 Jesus says, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul states, for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In Acts 13:48 we have a summary of Paul’s first missionary journey; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

The best form of government is a benevolent dictator. God would be a terrible tyrant if He had absolute authority but was not at the same time infinitely good. But He is good. Lord Acton’s famous saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” may apply to men and women – but not God.

Our Awesome God | 7

James Montgomery Boice once said that Hosea 3 is the greatest chapter in the whole bible and that the story of Hosea is the second greatest story in the bible. Of course, the greatest message in Scripture is the incarnation, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story of Hosea however is a stunning picture of this greatest story. Hosea 1:1 tells us that Hosea was a prophet to Israel for about forty years up until the calamitous last days of the Northern Kingdom when Assyria took them into exile.

LOVE
The first three chapters of Hosea reveal three dimensions of God’s love.

  1. THE FORSAKEN LOVER – The ESV translates 1:2 quite literally; go take to yourself a wife of whoredom, and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord. There are many people who quite understandably protest, “it is inconceivable that God would require a prophet to marry a prostitute. Should we not merely regard the episode as an allegory?” No! We must take it literally. Hosea’s marriage is meant to shock us. Hosea’s domestic life you see is intended to serve as a parallel of God’s life with us (2:4, 5, 7, 8). Israel’s sin was a gross act of betrayal to the God who had committed himself to them in love. This is spiritual adultery. We are no better. As James Montgomery Boice says; “we all need to put our hands up and say; “I am Gomer!”
  2. THE FURIOUS LOVER – In 1:3 we read, so he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. It would appear that the first child was definitely Hosea’s. There is a strong suggestion in vrs 6, 9 that the second and third child were not Hosea’s. Hosea would have been furious with Gomer for her marital unfaithfulness just as God was furious with Israel for forsaking Him. This is very clear from the names of the three children – Jezreel, Lo Ruhamah (not loved) and Lo Ammi (not my people). Jezreel is the name of a place where King Jehu (2 Kings 9&10) massacred all 70 of the royal princes and chopped off their heads and placed them on a pile. To call a child “Jezreel” is tantamount to calling a child “Auschwitz” today. God was furious with his people’s sin as is clear from 5:8; 9:15, 11:5, 6. Shortly after Hosea uttered these words the Assyrians did come and Israel was deported and not heard from again.
  3. THE FAITHFUL LOVE – Gomer deserved a divorce certificate from Hosea. Israel deserved God’s judgment. For one sin we deserve to be destroyed by God. And yet, God’s love is doggedly persistent. In 11:8, 9 we read, how can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. We must now consider why James Montgomery Boice called Hosea 3 the greatest chapter in the bible. At this point Gomer had left Hosea and had sunk lower and lower into sin. She had become a slave and was being sold. James Boice uses his imagination, her clothes are taken off and the men start to bid. “Twelve pieces of silver!” Hosea counters – “thirteen!” “Fourteen pieces of silver!” Hosea bids “fifteen!” The counter comes “fifteen pieces of silver and a homer of barley!” Hosea counters with “fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and lethek of barley.” The auctioneer slams his gavel down “Sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a lethek of barley.” At this point Hosea owned his wife and could do anything to her – even kill her. He doesn’t because Hosea’s love for Gomer is an illustration of God’s love for us. Instead of seeking vengeance he puts clothes on her and leads her away. Then I told her, “you are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you. Does God love us like that? Yes, he does! God steps into the marketplace of sin and buys us out of bondage by the death of His son. In John 3:16 we read for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. We are the slaves on the auction block and the world bids for us. The world bids, fame, wealth, prestige, power – you name it. Then the Lord Jesus Christ places his bid. “What I bid for these poor, hopeless, enslaved sinners is the price of my blood.” The auctioneer who is God the Father says, “sold to my Son for the price of his blood.” As Romans 5:8 says but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There are two rivers that flow throughout the OT. The first river is the river of God’s righteous anger at our sin. His wrath must be appeased. Then there is the river of His love which longs to forgive the sinner. These rivers flow and gather momentum and grow equally in strength until finally at the cross they converge. The cross is where we see what God feels about me and my sin. The question is. Will we allow that love to melt our hearts or harden them?

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If God’s holiness is a 300 foot high tidal wave curling over to crush sinners, then His compassion is a divine hand stretched out to save them from eternal drowning. God’s compassion is His warm, merciful love. His compassion is the ocean of pity resident in His heart that moves Him to love the loveless, to comfort the sorrowful, and to forgive the sinful. The book of Jonah has God’s compassion as a dominant theme.

COMPASSION
The Hebrew word for compassion (rachum) is taken from the root word which means womb. God’s compassion can be defined as his womb-like love. In the womb a baby experiences warmth, safety and enfolding love. The child is nurtured and given what is good for them. They are carried until they are strong enough to come out of the womb. The Hebrew word for compassion is found in Deuteronomy 4:31 for the LORD your God is a merciful God. In Exodus 34 on Mt Sinai the Lord appeared to Moses in a cloud and declared; the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. In the NT the Greek word for compassion is translated as “bowels of mercy” (Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22; Colossians 3:12). The idea of being moved in your stomach is a powerful image indeed.

In Jonah 1:2 God summonsed Jonah to go to preach to Nineveh. This would have shocked Jonah. Assyria was the cruelest and most violent empire of ancient times. After they captured their enemies, they would often cut off their legs and one arm so that they could shake the victims, other hand while he died. They forced family members to parade with the decapitated heads of their loved one on a pole. They would stretch out captives and flay them alive and display their skins on the city walls. Jonah was called to invite these people to repent. Initially Jonah refuses the Lord’s commission but a few days in the belly of a big fish brought him to his senses! In Jonah 3:4 we read the substance of Jonah’s sermon. Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned. The response was a large-scale repentance. In Jonah 4, the prophet sat outside the city walls and sulked. In vrs 2 he prayed, O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate (rachum) God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. The Lord responded by allowing a plant to grow to provide Jonah with some needed shade. Jonah was happy for the plant (this is the only time that Jonah is happy in the entire book!!). The next morning the Lord provided a worm which chewed the vine. Jonah’s angry response is recorded in vrs 8, it would be better for me to die than to live. What was God teaching His rebellious servant? He was forcing him to face up to his sin sick prejudiced heart. Jonah was more concerned with a vine than people. He was angry that a vine was removed but was cheerfully prepared to consign the Ninevites to hell. In vrs 10 the Lord summarised the lesson. You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

Jonah needed to learn what the psalmist declared in Psalm 103:8 the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. God is like a water balloon: the pin of human repentance always bursts Him. When sinners repent, warm compassion explodes out of God’s heart and He drenches repentant sinners with forgiving grace. Jonah was confronted that day by the God of compassion, the God of womb-like love.

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When God brought Israel out of Egypt to Sinai, to give them His law and covenant, His jealousy was one of the first facts about Himself which He taught them. In the second commandment (Exodus 20:5) God has the following to say about idols, you shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God. A little later God is even more emphatic with Moses. In Exodus 34:14 we read; do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Some people find the very idea of a “jealous god” to be offensive. Isn’t jealousy the green-eyed monster? It is one of the most cancerous and soul-destroying vices. God is perfectly holy – how then can He regard Himself as jealous.

JEALOUSY
The bible has a good deal to say about God’s jealousy. The Hebrew word is qanna. There are reference to it in the Pentateuch (Number 25:11; Deuteronomy 4:24, 6;15, 29:20, 32:16, 21) in the history books (Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22) in the prophets (Ezekiel 8:3-5, 16:38, 42, 23:25, 36:5, 38:19, 39:25; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8; Zechariah 1:14, 8:2) and in the Psalms (78:58, 79:5).

  1. In Galatians 5:20, jealousy (zelos) is described as an act of the sinful nature and also has negative connotations in Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 3:3 & 2 Corinthians 12:20. How can jealousy be a virtue in God when it is a vice in us? There are two sorts of jealousy among men and only one of them is a vice. Vicious jealousy says, “I want what you have got, and I hate you for it.” But there is another sort of jealousy – zeal to protect a love relationship, or to avenge it when it is broken. The colour of God’s jealousy is not green but white. Think of an unmarried man who is keen on a lady. He buys her gifts, writes her poems and serenades her. But the woman does not return his affection. She is keen on another guy. Now her potential suitor is jealous. The colour of this jealousy is green – it is fuelled by possessive envy. This is to be condemned. He has no right to the ladies affection. But imagine a married person who discovers their partner is flirting with someone else. They are jealous and justifiably so. This jealousy is white. Their partner is expressing his/her affection in an illegitimate fashion. Now in the same way, there is only one God. He deserves our worship. There is no other legitimate claimant to our worship. If we choose to worship at the various shrines of the world, we will justifiably arouse his jealous anger. He will move to avenge the broken relationship.
  2. The proper response to God’s love for us is to love Him. In the same way a right response to his jealousy for us is to be jealous for him. Consider a few biblical examples:
    a) In Numbers 25 an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into the Israelite camp to sleep with her. When the priest Phinehas saw this, he took a spear and followed them into the tent and drove the spear through both of them. God’s verdict on this act is found in vrs 11, for he was as zealous (same Hebrew word, qanna, for jealous) as I am for my honor among them.
    b) In 1 Kings 19:10, 14 Elijah the prophet declared “I have been very zealous (qanna) for the LORD God Almighty.
    c) In John 2 Jesus made a whip out of cords and drove people who sold animals and money-changers out of the temple courts. In vrs 17 we read, his disciples remembered that it is written: “zeal (zelos – same word as Galatians 5:20) for your house will consume me.”
    d) In 2 Corinthians 11:2 the apostle Paul explained why he was so opposed to the false teachers who were leading the church at Corinth astray, I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy (zelos).
    e) In Revelation 3, the Lord Jesus wrote a letter to the lukewarm church at Laodicea and warned them that he would spit them out of his mouth. The required remedy to their malaise is written in vrs 19 those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest (the same Greek word zelos), and repent.

We must beware of the green-eyed monster (wanting what others have got, and hating them for having it). We do however need to cultivate a holy jealousy for God, the same jealousy that He demonstrates for His name.

Our Awesome God | 10

There are many people (Christians included) who are uncomfortable with the idea of a wrathful God. An angry God does not sit well with their thinking. We hear people say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God. I want a God of love.” This is incredibly naïve. If you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. If you as a parent are walking down the street and your young child veers into the main road with fast approaching oncoming traffic what do you do? “You will shout at them to get off the road rush up to them and yank them by the arm off the road. You will then angrily address them.” If you are walking down the road and see an unknown child veering into a road with fast approaching traffic – what will you do. “You will shout at them and rush up to them and yank them by the arm off the road. You won’t however angrily address them. Why not? Why is a parent angry whereas a stranger isn’t? A parent gets mad out of love. The more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. God’s anger is a function of his love and goodness.

WRATH
“Wrath” is an old English word defined in the dictionary as ‘deep, intense, anger and indignation.” The modern church plays down this aspect of God’s character. We mumble on about God’s kindness, but say virtually nothing about His judgment. AW Pink said, a study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. To cite just a few of them, (Romans 1:18, 2:5, 5:9, 12:19, 13:4f; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:6; Revelation 6:16, 17, 16:19, 19:15). In his book Knowing God, JI Packer writes, the Bible could be called the book of God’s wrath, for it is full of portrayals of divine retribution, from the cursing and banishment of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 to the overthrow of “Babylon” and the great assizes of Revelation 17, 18 and 20. Perhaps the most terrifying passage that deals with this subject is Revelation 14:14-20. It recounts two harvests at the end of the age – that of the righteous (vrs 14-16) and the unrighteous (17-20). The second harvest is the most fearful. An angel with a sickle is commanded to harvest grapes and they are tossed into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Harvested grapes would have been stored in huge vats with holes in the bottom. Servant girls would trample the grapes and the juice was collected. In vrs 20 the metaphor changes. Now, instead of grapes being tossed into the vat it is people and servant girls are replaced by God Himself (Rev 19:15) who is trampling them until the blood flows for 300 kilometres and rises to the height of the horses bridle. This is one of the most fearsome pictures of God’s wrath in the bible.
The picture of God’s wrath in Revelation 14 should lead us to ask the question – how can I escape that winepress of God’s wrath? If we scour the entire bible to find the place where God’s anger is most clearly displayed, we would find a number of possibilities. In Genesis 6-9 God’s was so grieved by the sin on the earth that he sent a flood which washed away every single person except Noah and his family. Later in Genesis 19 we see God’s anger rain down in the form of burning sulphur and destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course, God’s anger is clearly manifested in these (and other passages), but the place where God’s anger is most visible in Scripture is at Calvary. For three hours darkness descended over the land as wave after wave of this world’s sin cascaded on Christ’s sinless soul. This was a supernatural darkness. In the Bible, darkness during the day is a recognised sign of God’s displeasure and judgment (Isaiah 13:9, 10, Jeremiah 15:9, Amos 8:9). When darkness descends over Jerusalem it was a sign that God was acting in judgment. But who was God judging? His judgment is not falling on the whole world. Rather it was focused on Jesus Christ. Why? At the cross Jesus was acting as our sin bearer. As Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 4:10 remind us, Jesus bore our sin and turned God’s anger away (propitiated) from us. At Calvary we see a clear demonstration of God’s anger, but we also see bright rays of His love. God’s anger is a function of His love. Through simple faith in Christ God’s anger that we ought to have endured is absorbed by Christ so that we can be forgiven and enjoy an eternity of fellowship with God.

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