"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Forget the Bad - Fear the Good!

God's self-understanding is beyond questioning.  Thus His descriptions of His many counterfeits, those would-be comers in the sealed arena of deity, are always crushingly perceptive.  For instance, when He warns His people in Jeremiah 10 not to trifle with idols, He says this of them in verse 5:

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good.

In other words, idols do not possess even the vigor needed simply to move or to speak.  Where, then, is the logical basis for fearing acts of judgment or vengeance from such as these, when they have no more strength or volition than a head of cabbage?  (Though, to be sure, there are those who do fear cabbage.)  God renders this crystal clear when He explains that idols cannot do evil (a better translation than "harm," it appears), and certainly they can do no good either.

A god who can act evilly is surely one to be feared:  what sort of tragedies, calamities, or injustices might be visited upon us, without warning, cause, or explanation?  What promise could be made that we could trust?  What assurance could we enjoy, even of our continued existence?  How could such a god be appeased beyond doubt?

However, all the terrors that would attend a god capable of evil are nothing compared to the very real terrors of our living, holy God, who can do only good.  A perfectly good and holy God is a God of integrity, a God of preserved promises, and a God of faithful, fulfilling action.  While this means that we may trust His salvation with a grip that even death's cold fingers are helpless to loosen, it also means that we must trust His condemnation in the same way.  His holiness is relentless, and it will be satisfied and avenged. 

This should devastate our glib, cavalier hearts.  An evil god may tire of punishing a certain enemy, or else this god may feel that the punishment has at last become equal to the crime.  A perfectly holy God, on the other hand, knows that any offense against Himself is immeasurable, and must be punished immeasurably.  His integrity will see His work done, and His justice does not permit Him to parole His enemies.  His honesty cannot overlook the treachery of a sin, so every one must be accounted for, either on the cross of Christ, or in an eternity of hot, dark, agony.

To die, unrepentant and prideful, and thus to fall into the hands of a holy and offended God, is a prospect overwhelming in its hopelessness.  To live, unrepentant and prideful, in the knowledge that you are actively offending a holy God should provoke an urgency of fear sufficient to dwarf and obscure any other concern of life.  Even to live as believers in the throes of unrepentant sin should cause our hearts to quail, for if we look at ourselves in this dreary light, we will find all of our former assurance unceremoniously stripped away (1 John 2:3-6, 2 Peter 1:3-9).

To summarize, then, God uses the nature of idols to reveal something about Himself.  He says, in essence, "Do not fear idols; they can do nothing.  Do not fear evil gods, for these are not real.  Fear Me, because I am real, and because I am holy."  There is no hope found in the folly of defiance; the only real hope is the hope that God extends to us in the blood of His Son, spilled for the punishment of the sins of those who would believe in Him and turn from those sins.  To the believer and the unbeliever alike, I say simply this - do not harden your heart to this.  Believe in His justice, and then live in His grace.  He extends certainty of that eternal salvation which alone can deliver us from the certainty of eternal destruction.  Repentantly seek this with all your heart, and when God has blessed your humble frame with this salvation, do not fritter away the blessed assurance of that salvation through persistent disobedience!  Take fullest advantage of His unspeakable kindness, friend.

We will let Jeremiah's fittingly humble response ring in our ears as we close:

There is none like You, O Lord;
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
Who would not fear You, O King of the nations?
Indeed it is Your due!
For among all the wise men of the nations
And in all their kingdoms,
There is none like You.
- Jeremiah 10:6-7


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