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Judge

I suppose this attribute of God is one of the most rejected in our culture, for a people who have self-ascended into their own divinity surely deem themselves immune from judgment. Spurning the notion of transcendent truth, we now get to make up our own. “My Heart” becomes a divine voice and everyone should be obligated to acknowledge it as holy and unassailable. If I want to define my own sexuality, then the world should bow down and pay homage. The individual’s heart is revered as sacrosanct. This is why we have become a culture filled with little angry gods who are incensed with those who fail to pay them tribute.

But, alas, there is reality.

This is the reality that Paul writes about where the divine nature of God is evident to all men because of what God has made, yet man stand’s in defiance before Him and He therefore judges them[i]. Peter writes of scoffers who deliberately overlook the fact that God judged the world with a flood in the past and choose, therefore, to ignore that He will judge the world with fire in the future[ii].

The reality is that God and His transcendent Truth not only really do exist, but that He also judges the evil works of men:

“God’s judgment is against people who do evil acts.” Revelation 2:23

This is quite unnerving to us today.

God judges rebellion. He really does. Regardless of what your heart tells you, regardless of how much our culture scoffs at it, regardless of the snarky Hollywood quips, God judges rebellion.

This was a reality for Adam and Eve and all creation[iii]; it was a reality for those in Noah’s day[iv]; it was a reality for Pharoah and Egypt[v] and for Sodom and Gomorrah[vi]. Time does not allow us to speak of Ananias and Sapphira[vii] or Babel[viii] or Israel (judged over and over again) or Uzziah[ix] or Jezebel[x] or the 185,000 Assyrians that God put to death[xi] or when God opened up the earth and it swallowed the entire tribes of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their households, their tents and every living thing that followed them[xii].

It is, indeed, “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31

These are things our culture doesn’t want to hear. And, if we were honest, we don’t either. It is possible that you really don’t like the picture and verse I posted at the beginning:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. Isaiah 13:9

It just seems so... well, so judgmental! We would rather hear of a God of Hollywood love… a God of the wink and nod, “tsk tsk” and “boys will be boys” and “aren’t they just so adorable”. That’s the God we want… the God of pleasant things.

Yet, God is both Creator and Holy, and He therefore has the right to judge rebellious acts by His creatures that are contrary to His Holy character and plans. But here we must be careful, for it is more than that He has the “right” to do it. He doesn’t judge simply because He has a right to, as if His judgment is merely an emotional reaction to being offended… a God pounding someone in order to assert His rights. He righteously judges because this is who He is. He doesn’t “judge” simply because He gets angry with someone. He judges because He is the Judge. This is sometimes hard for us to contemplate for we are so finite and depraved in our nature that we can only see judgment as a violent emotional outbreak rather than a holy, righteous attribute of God. When you step into a courtroom and the bailiff orders “All rise!” it is not because an emotional outbreak is about to enter the courtroom. The one who steps to the bench, wearing the judicial robes is a “judge”. So, too, is God. He is the Judge who judges rightly in accordance with what is righteous and holy. I sometimes wonder if the anthropomorphic language of God adorned in His robe is just as much the robe of a Judge as it is the robe of a King.

The Judge of the universe will uphold righteousness and holiness. It may not be immediate and it may not be according to how you want it to be meted out. For our own rebellion, we would like for it to be overlooked; for our enemies, we want it swift and thorough. But, in the end, always according to His good plans and purposes, God will judge. His delay is often seen by the foolish as getting a pass or sometimes leads them to scoff “where is this God?” Sometimes we do the same, complaining when wrongdoers prosper or evil seems to reign.

Of course, we are more than happy when God delays His judgment on us. This is the God we like.

When my oldest daughter was a little girl, just learning to read, she was looking over my shoulder as I was studying J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God”. She looked at the title of the chapter I was reading and sounded out “God the Fudge”. It was written in a script and she mistook the “J” for an “F”. I thought it was funny and when I explained it to her we both laughed. But I’ve never forgotten that because it is in our nature to want to carve out the hard things in God and make them into soft things… sweet things that are more delightful to our own desires.

But, the Judge has already meted out the most horrible of judgments, though there is yet a horrible one to come. This was the judgment rendered upon a totally innocent Man… a Man who lived a sinless life… a Man who obeyed God perfectly, even an obedience that took Him to the scourge and the cross. Jesus bore the entirety of God’s judgment and wrath for His people. All of it. God said that He would not let the guilty go unpunished. And if there had not been a substitute for us, this promise would have doomed us for all eternity. But God was pleased, for the sake of His elect, to place all of our rebellion on Him.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53

It was the Judge who smote Him. It was the Judge who pierced Him and crushed Him. For this we cringe at the massive weight He bore; yet for this we also rejoice and clap our hands in gladness for the judgment due us is no longer. The Judge didn’t lay aside our crimes; He just laid them on Someone else.

Oh what a glorious mystery, this Good News! Let us ponder this week the goodness and the severity of God.

P.S. I suppose I ought to here do the most unpopular thing and comment on the “Only God can judge me” mantra of our culture. You see it tattooed on a lot of body parts and you see it on posters and in songs and, well, everywhere. Although it has its genesis in a rap by Tupac Shakur in 1996, it is used today as a shut-down phrase for anyone or anything that attempts to tell me I can’t do what I want to do. It certainly isn’t an endorsement for God as Judge. But, as we all tend to use biblical sayings for our own purposes, so, too, does this phrase attempt to silence all who would disagree with the right to follow the longings of my own heart. Don’t be fooled by it.

 

Verses to contemplate throughout the week:

God’s judgment is against people who do evil acts. Revelation 2:23

The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son. John 5:22

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. Psalm 7:11

The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah Psalm 50:6

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly? No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth. Psalm 58:1-2

Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. Isaiah 13:9

For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us. Isaiah 33:22

The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 7:27

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.” Ezekiel 18:30

Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Joel 3:12

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide disputes for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; Micah 4:3

Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. John 8:50

And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. Acts 10:42

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

“…on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:16

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…” 2 Timothy 4:1

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. Revelation 19:11

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Revelation 20:12-13

 

 

[i] Romans 1:18-32

[ii] 2 Peter 3:3-10

[iii] Genesis 3:1-20

[iv] Genesis 6-9

[v] Exodus 5-12

[vi] Genesis 19:1-29

[vii] Acts 5:1-11

[viii] Genesis 11:1-9

[ix] 2 Chronicles 26

[x] 2 Kings 9:30-37

[xi] 2 Kings 19:35

[xii] Numbers 16:1-35


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The Genesis Issue: Four Views

[The response to the “Is Genesis History?” film has been quite phenomenal, ranking No. 1 at the box office on the day of its release and was Fathom’s second highest grossing event of 2017. Because of this, it will be re-released in theaters on February 22. Therefore, I thought it would be of some value to talk about some of the issues that it raises. We will do this in a series of smaller chunks leading up to the release so that we don’t burn your eyes out. :) ]

When one comes to the “issues” surrounding science and the Bible, they almost always focus upon the different ways that one looks at the book of Genesis. Some ignore it as insignificant to the scientific discussion. Others feel it should be read and interpreted in the light of the conclusions of science. Another segment believes it is to be read as historical narrative and should therefore inform scientific inquiry as a valid witness to what really happened. Hence the title of the film: “Is Genesis History?”

As weak as it is to “classify” and “stereotype” people’s beliefs, it is of some value to recognize that there are fundamentally four competing views concerning the record of Genesis and therefore “origins”, for Genesis 1-11 deals primarily with the “beginning” of almost everything. Consider the list. Genesis makes claims for the beginning of all of these:

  • the origin of the universe and light,
  • the origin of the stars and their order,
  • the origin of the earth and seas and sea life,
  • the origin of plant and animal life,
  • the origin of human life and imago dei,
  • the origin of male and female, marriage and sexual order,
  • the origin of sin and death, evil and violence,
  • the origin of current geological structures and fossils,
  • and the origin of languages and major people groups.

With such ubiquitous claims regarding the origin of everything, one's view of Genesis is quite important.

The four competing views are, in their traditional labels: atheistic and theistic evolution, old earth and young earth creation. I think those titles are not completely accurate or descriptive, so I will take the liberty to rename them as follows:

1. Secular (Atheistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, both atheistic and agnostic (secular) view

2. Deistic (Theistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process

3. Deep Time (Old Earth) Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline

4. Historic (Young Earth) Creation – near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh

It is true that there are nuances and variations within each of these positions and even continuums that exist between them (i.e. the Gap Theory), but most people fall clearly into one of these four. With that caveat, let’s look more closely at each:

Secular Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, atheistic or agnostic view.

This is obviously the most prominent position in our culture. It is the view presented in academia, media, museums, and our national parks, etc. This position is entirely naturalistic, believing that everything in the universe, including life forms, have come about as the result of slow evolutionary processes under no guidance, no intelligence, no purposive forces. Only naturalistic causes and effects are allowed to be considered within this perspective. Deep time is absolutely necessary to maintain the evolutionary position. This view rejects any divine or historical aspect of Genesis.

Deistic Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process.

This is the growing position represented primarily by BioLogos, where both evolution and the existence of God is embraced. God’s role in all of this is vague or unknown. I have often asked this question of my theistic evolutionist friends: “What is it that you find lacking in evolution theory for which you believe God must fill the gaps?” The answer has been consistent: “Why do you think that I find anything lacking in evolution?” This often leads one to wonder what the “theistic” part plays in this position and various answers are given, from none to getting life started to “guiding evolution in the background”. That is why I believe it is better labeled, as “Deistic Evolution” for God’s role is primarily one of creating the evolutionary process, winding it up and then letting it go. I'm not saying that the people in this group are "Deists" but that the view is deistic. This group accepts Genesis, but starts first with the conclusions of science and therefore must read the text in a different genre, usually myth or metaphor. This has deep implications. Accepting deep time and evolution is increasingly leading to the textual view that Adam and Eve are non-literal, most likely a "hominid group of about 10,000) that evolved to a state where the Genesis myth metaphorically labeled them as a man and woman. This is closely followed by a “spiritualization” of the fall and viewing the additional accounts in Genesis, like the Noahic Flood and the Tower of Babel, as more pieces in the Genesis metaphor and not to be read literally.

Deep Time Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline.

This position holds that God has been the creative force in bringing about life in its basic forms as we know it today. Deep time and the evolutionary timeline are assumed to be true and it therefore normally holds to a “cosmic evolution” regarding star, sun, planet, earth and elemental development. God periodically intervenes with creation acts (i.e. every 20 millions years per Hugh Ross) and the rise of life and its various forms through God’s creative work is matched to the standard deep time framework, including man, who arose millions of years ago. Because of this, and by necessity, the Genesis account is viewed as a combination of historical and metaphor or allegory, where the order is held loosely (the sun and stars evolved earlier, marine life earlier, etc.) and the “evening and morning, day ____” phrases are not literal, but symbolic, meaning instead vast periods of time.

This position includes many who are involved in the critical and excellent work of “Intelligent Design”, which is held by both Deep Time and Historic Creation positions, arguing that the presence of complex design in the universe points to the need of an “intelligent designer”. Some Deep Time Creationists hold this position without elaborating on Who that designer might be, while others openly state that the designer is the God of Genesis. Accepting deep time, which primarily comes from the rocks, necessitates that this position view the flood as not literal nor global, but a local flood, in order to maintain the deep time in the rocks.

Historic Creation - near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh.

This position holds that the universe and the earth were created and completed in the literal timeframe and order given (i.e. one literal week) in Genesis. It also accepts the literal understanding of a global flood in which “all the mountains of the earth were covered” and “all the animals that had the breath of life” were destroyed. As such, it concludes that the heavens and the earth are measured in thousands of years, not billions.

Now, I can almost guarantee that there will be some who will read this high-level classification and complain that their particular position is somewhat different than I have characterized. I accept your complaint! :) I believe, however, that if you study the primary authors and formal positions of these views, that these summations accurately portray what they believe and their approach to the Genesis text and the claims of science.

Next time, we will examine more deeply the contrast among these views and the line or "dichotomy" that we addressed in the film.


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Father

I tremble writing this devotion of gazing upon the face of God, for I sense it could be the most important of all. J. I. Packer writes that the whole of the New Testament could be summed up under the heading “the Fatherhood of God” and that it is in this name that we find the “climax of the Bible”.

I fear my words are not capable of doing justice to this aspect of God’s nature. My prayer is that His spirit will make up for all that is lacking here.

When God introduced Himself to Moses, He gave him the name by which those under the Old Covenant were to primarily know Him: “the great I Am”… “Yahweh”. Appropriately, this Name focused our eyes upon the self-existence of God, his majesty and sovereignty, His holiness and purity, His utter transcendence and the absolute separation that existed between God and man. Nothing illustrated this more than the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year and then only after a thorough ritual cleansing. Moses was not permitted to see the face of God lest he die and was told to take off his sandals, for while Yahweh was present he was walking on holy ground. The Law, therefore, became central in the Old Covenant—a revelation and daily reminder of man’s inability to sufficiently purify himself before this Holy, Transcendent Yahweh. A personal relationship with God was not primarily in view here.

But under the New Covenant, something radically changed. God did not change, but because of the work of Christ, the relationship with God changed and the New now revealed what the Old held in the shadows. Not only is Christ unveiled, but through His propitiation, God has acted to make us His children and He, our Father. This title has become the primary name of God for those who are now in Christ Jesus.

In fact, under the Old Covenant, the Jews considered it blasphemous to call God “Father”. They wanted to kill Jesus for saying such. But now, under the New Covenant, the Scripture explodes with this name of God. Jesus teaches us to pray, addressing God as our ‘Father’: “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name.” Notice that God has not changed. He is still “Holy”. But because of Christ, our relationship to Him has changed… radically.

The veil has been torn!

As we read in Hebrews, we have been granted to enter the holy place, through the veil, because of the work of Christ. But this is not just getting to go in to the holy place… we walk in there because we are a son or daughter of the great I AM.

We are even enjoined to come boldly before Him!

… and call Him Daddy!

Oh my!

And this is not because of anything we have done, but because of the grace of God and His act of adoption whereby we are now declared to be His children.

My daughter and her husband have adopted two special needs children from China. It was totally their doing, under the providence of God, of course. But the point is that adoption is not a mutual selection process. It was initiated by the parents-to-be, paid for by the parents-to-be (with the gracious help of others, I must add), the children were chosen by the parents-to-be, the parents-to-be went a long distance to take them to themselves, etc. There was nothing my now grandchildren did that was necessary in this process. They didn’t sign any papers, they weren’t consulted, they didn’t choose their parents-to-be, they didn’t pay anything—no down payment, no closing costs, no co-pay… they didn’t even have to say “I do”.

So too, is God’s sole action to adopt us into His family… given rights as sons and daughters… now a child who has the privilege to call the holy, transcendent, I Am, our Father.

By the way, have you ever noticed just how “family” all of this is? We now call Him Abba, Daddy, Father. He calls us “sons”, children. Jesus is not only called our brother, but He is also called the Bridegroom and we are called the Bride. These are “family” names… and that is what we are now.

Maybe there is a clue here as to why the enemy is so fiercely dedicated to destroy the family on earth: he is determined to destroy any relational meaning behind these precious words.

When we contemplate the immensity of what it means to have God as our Father, the implications are profound. We are rightly in awe of the grace extended to us for our salvation—the justification that comes to us through Christ’s sacrifice. But we too often fail to realize that the grace of God did not stop there, for He then extended that grace in His adoption of us. I suppose one could imagine that it might be possible to be justified but not adopted. This, unfortunately, is the unattainable lot of those who are trying to be justified by their own works. Not only do they fail to reach that level of holiness before God, but they are left with no way to then force their adoption. The Scripture makes it clear that adoption only comes to those who are justified through Christ… and Christ alone:

“No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14;6)

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:26)

“But as many received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

“… God sent forth His Son… in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)

So if we try to justify ourselves, we not only fall short in that justification, but we are also left without the means of adoption to become God’s child… and He our Father. This is why, for those under Islam, there is nothing beyond the Law… no sense or assurance of any real relationship with God.

But the truth is that the grace of God both justifies and adopts. And it will be the grace of God that will one day restore us in the last resurrection.

So, we contemplate the unfathomable reality that God has made us His children and that He is therefore now our Father. This truth provokes within us our deep desire to now please Him in all we think and say and do. Not because of some “quid pro quo” or obligation to earn something from Him, but simply out of love for Him in response to what He lavished upon us.

“See how great a love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3: 1

There is an extremely radical difference between the obedience of a child to their Father and the obedience of someone seeking to gain acceptance or even salvation by their works. The former is motivated by their deep love for the Father and carried out in the safety of His love for them; the latter is motivated by a fear of ultimate rejection and carried outside of the security of a “family” relationship with God.

How often do we fail to walk as a child of the King? How often do we take for granted the right that He has graciously given to us? Are our minds and hearts continually filled with an awe of this deep relationship that has been freely given to us? Are our thoughts and words and actions motivated by our eternal family position?

If we really believed that God was truly our Father, and we were really and truly His child… would it change our prayer life? Our Christian walk? Our attitudes?

May we, the “children of God”, come to an ever-deeper understanding  and reverence of what it truly means to be given the right to call Him Abba, Father.

 

Verses to contemplate throughout the week:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  Ephesians 1:5

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil… Hebrews 10:19-20

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:26

For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.  Hebrews 12:18-24

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:3

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6


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Holy

In one of my favorite texts, Isaiah cries out in anguish, “Woe is me, I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips…” His cry does not come because God has verbally chastised or rebuked him for his failures, but simply because Isaiah has come into the presence of a Holy God. When this happens, you and I are exposed. No matter how good we think we are nor how good we are at pretending or faking it or wearing a mask, the pure holiness of His being strips us naked and leaves us totally exposed before Him.

Of all the attributes of God, this is the one that overwhelms us simply by being in its presence. It is not an act of God that does this, or any speech from His mouth that shakes us to our very core. It is finding ourselves in the mere presence of pure, infinite holiness that buckles our knees and causes us to cry “Woe is me!

It is for this reason that Adam, who had before walked with God, was now ashamed, hiding from His presence, lest he be openly exposed in his new depravity before God’s holiness.

It is why Moses was told to take off his sandals, for he was standing upon holy ground because of the presence of God.

It is why the tabernacle and the temple were both built at the specification of God with a Holy of Holies in which only the high priest could enter, once a year, and then only after significant cleansing.

It is a fearful thing, indeed, to come into the presence of a holy God.

Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. Revelation 15:4

In a culture that daily shakes its face in the face of God and increasingly flaunts its unholiness before Him, it is a wonder that He doesn’t evaporate us all.

Behold… the patience and grace of God! For there will arrive a day when the Holy One will stand and the world will not. Judgment will eventually come, and it will come because He is absolutely Holy.

Our movie industry takes great pains now to make sure that all heroes are portrayed with some sort of dark side… creating in us a deeper and deeper distrust of each other. But in God there is no darkness… at all. He is pure holiness in all His attributes and all of His ways. The fear of God does not come because He has a “dark” side, but because He is totally pure; completely and immutably holy.

And we are not.

Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty.” This is the cry of the seraphs in His presence. And after declaring this the doorposts shook and the temple filled with smoke. Understandably, Isaiah then cries, “Woe is me!” Because it is the holiness of God that exposed Isaiah’s unholiness and the unholy cannot dwell in the presence of pure holiness.

Ever.

But this brings us to the good news! And, one might even say, impossible news!

God has made it possible for the unholy to become righteous in His sight. His sacrifice tore a path through the veil that separated fallen man from the presence of God. Clothed now with the righteousness of Christ, we come boldly before the throne. Not because of our righteousness, which is no righteousness at all, but because of His righteousness.

Oh my!

We wear a robe that cannot be earned. The holiness of God can’t be reached by any amount of good works. In comparison to His infinite holiness, our efforts are but filthy rags in His sight. No, the robe we wear is not earned. It is placed upon us by the unmerited grace of God. Only then can we, dare we, stand in the presence of “Our Father, who art in heaven. Holy is your name.”

 

Verses to ponder throughout the week:

 

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Habakkuk 1:13

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. Revelation 15:4

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: 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.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “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.” Isaiah 6:1-5

“Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:4-6

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6

Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. Psalm 30:4

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; Holy is He. Psalm 99:5

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:17


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Take Heart: "...I have left for Myself a remnant..."

One of the most fascinating stories in the Bible is one that has a bunch of “greatests” in it, including Elijah’s greatest moment of triumph, immediately followed by his greatest moment of despair and self-centeredness.

Israel was battling one of the greatest lies of its day, but it was losing the battle and had gotten deeply caught up in it. Isaiah 44:20 equates the idol to a “lie” and that was certainly true of Baal, the false god that was sweeping the land, just as we have many sweeping ours today.

God directed Elijah to speak to the king and warn him that judgment was coming—a drought of three years. I have a tendency to equate drought in the Bible with a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. Yes, there was a physical drought in Israel, but God also pulled Elijah, and it appears as if no Word was spoken to the nation during those years. When that time was over, just as the brook the Lord had graciously provided for Elijah dried up, God called him to stand again before the king. And, as one might expect, the king immediately accused Elijah of being the “troubler of Israel” rather than recognizing that it was his sin and the sin of the nation that had brought the discipline of the Lord. Elijah called for the king to assemble all the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, where the greatest and most amazing “contest” between God and Baal occurred. It was here that Elijah cried out to the people, saying,

“How long will you limp back and forth between these two opinions? If the LORD, the “I AM”, is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21

The people said nothing. But God sure did…in a big way. The contest ended up being no contest at all. The “I AM” showed Himself in a fire ball that brought them all to their knees. They seized the prophets of Baal and Elijah put them all to death. And when this had been done, the Lord brought refreshing rain upon the land.

But Jezebel, the original wicked queen of the East, got mad and threatened the life of Elijah. And, in one of the greatest “head shakers” of the Bible, Elijah, who had just seen the Lord show Himself in a mighty way and had slain hundreds of the prophets of Baal…fled like a scared rabbit. He ended up on another mountain, Horeb, and God confronted him.

What are you doing here, Elijah?

Elijah’s response is the greatest “poor me” of Scripture as he began to blubber before the Lord about how he, Elijah, had done all of these great things, how he had been so jealous for the Lord, how the people of the nation had been so rebellious, and how he was now the only one left (dab a tear for Elijah here), and now they were trying to kill poor ol’ me, blah, blah, blah.

Bam! All of a sudden, a tornado-like wind rips at the mountain, breaking off rocks, followed by an earthquake, that, no doubt, also rattled Elijah’s teeth, followed by a fire, possibly a raging forest fire that surely must have buckled his knees. The Lord then whispered and Elijah hid his face. But God spoke to him again, asking the same question. When the Lord asks you the same question twice, it may be because you didn't quite understand what He meant the first time and He didn't quite care for your initial answer.

What are you doing here, Elijah?

And, unbelievably…I mean, really, really, unbelievably…Elijah blubbers out the same “poor me” once again, loosely translated, “I’ve been faithful, the people are wicked and rebellious, I’m the only one left, they’re trying to kill poor o’ me…blah, blah, blah.”

The Lord’s response was actually quite gracious, because He could have opened up His mouth in a roar and blown Elijah into the nether-nether world. Instead, the Lord gave Elijah a little bop on the nose…a truth lesson about the reality of the situation:

“…I have reserved 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal…” 1 Kings 19:18

Elijah had whined about being  “the only one left”, and God made it clear that he was not.

God had kept a remnant in the land.

(Note: the Lord also told Elijah to anoint his successor. It is a serious thing to complain and puff oneself up before God and point a finger at others and declare you are the only one left who really “gets it”.)

Now, before we get too hard on Elijah here, we must confess that many of us have been at this exact same place, if not right at this very moment. We look around and see the world appearing to have the upper hand; all the while it is sinking into a bottomless pit. The media is against us. Academia is against us. Government is against us. Judges are against us. Hollywood hates us…

It appears to us as if our entire culture has gone insane.

And we stand before the Lord, filled with hopelessness, and blubber something deeply negative and despairing and cry that we are the only one left…the only one who “gets it”.

We have gotten a serious case of the “poor me’s”. We think we are all alone...and losing.

Wrong.

Look back at The Victory and then look around. God has kept for Himself a huge remnant in the land and across the globe. You are not alone and we are more than conquerors through Christ.

This may actually be our finest hour.

Don’t let the enemy snatch it from you.

(We have set up a Group that we are simply calling “The Remnant”. If you are so led, please join us there. We will be posting short notes of encouragement, perspectives, thoughts, items for prayer, etc. for discussion.)

 


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