November 7, 2011

A Complete Picture of God

Those who reject the revelation of God in the Old Testament (because they don’t like His wrath on wicked people) are missing more than they realize. Besides giving us a picture of how God hates sin (which Jesus will also do at His Second Coming), many passages describe His incredible faithfulness to His people. If He is not a God of wrath, does that mean that He is not a God of faithfulness either?

The Bible offers a cohesive description of a holy God who hates sin, but also a loving God who cares about sinners. When I read the following, I am reminded that this is the same God that promised in the New Testament that He would never leave me or forsake me.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders (or your children) make haste; your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you. Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, declares the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does. “Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land — surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’ Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?’ ” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 49:14–23)
God’s people felt abandoned after they turned away from God. All that they enjoyed had been destroyed and they were taken into a foreign land. Their future looked hopeless.

But God did not abandon them. He compared His love for them like a woman nursing a child. He told them they were carved into His hands and He thought about them all the time.

Not only that, He said that those who had destroyed or abandoned them would return, and the space where they lived would not be big enough to hold these who would change their minds about God. This included their sons and daughters. Those who came back would be put on as a bride adorns herself with ornaments, and all who had pulled away would bow down before God’s people.

This is the same God that I worship. He never stops loving His people. He never abandons me. Not only that, He will bring those who stray back into His kingdom. He can touch the hearts of even pagan kings so that they know He is the Lord God, the One who is worthy of their worship and homage. He can even signal them to be part of the return of my family to the fold of God.

Of course Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation of Himself to us. Even in His first coming, we see God’s hatred of sin when Christ made Himself the ultimate sacrifice for it. If God did not hate sin, He would have spared His Son yet His terrible wrath was poured out on Jesus at Calvary.

Calvary also reveals God’s love for His people — even in the same horrible death. Yes, the life of Jesus showed a loving and caring attitude toward sinners (except religious hypocrites), but it was His death for my sin that sums up both wrath and love in one incredible declaration. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Oh that our eyes would stay open to all that God reveals about Himself!

Oh Jesus, I know that You love sinners. But I also know that You hate sin. If You didn’t, You would not have gone to such extremes to provide a way of escape from it and from its consequences. You are the ultimate demonstration of the love of God. This love would not let Israel fall away or let them be forsaken. This love would not even let those who walked away from the fold stay away. You are totally faithful to Your people and to Your own nature.

Words like this passage from Isaiah build my confidence in You. I know that You will never forsake me. I also know that You are totally able to bring back into Your care those who turn away, even those who turn from me because I belong to You. As I pray for them, You give me confidence that one day they will also bow down and again ask for room to dwell with me in your kingdom. Nothing is impossible for You.

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