“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The God of love and war

We said that the Lord is a man of war. (Ex. 15:3). Can we be glad for this? Yes. If He is only a warrior toward our enemies. But what if He turns on us? Has He ever been known to do this? Does the Bible record Him doing this to His people? Yes.

Then how can He be a God of love? This very issue has created millions, even billions of agnostics, atheists, and skeptics through the ages. Listen to them talk and you hear them bring up all the killing and death in the Bible, and then the question of Jehovah as a God of love.

Can you trust someone who might hurt you? Even if he claims to be doing it for your own good? Even if you can intellectually agree that punishment is good for you, can you trust God if He hurts you? It may or may not be much consolation to hear that He has been good to you. What if He changes His mind? Or His mood?

“Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Rom. 11:19-22). Whoa! God is good? Yes. Assuredly, He is very good to us shameless and despicable rebels.

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” (Lev. 19:15). “For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Rom. 2:11). Can we trust Him for being fair? What He does to the wicked, He does to His children if they act wickedly. Fair enough? Reasonable?

I’ve heard it said in jest, “I don’t play favoritism. I hate everyone equally!” Is this what we think of God? Is this why we fear to trust Him implicitly? Trust is the settling of nerves and perfect peace with someone. Its knowing the person to be a friend that won’t let you down, ever. Trust must be proven. Trust is earned. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:16).

But can a sinner ever trust someone who hurts them? Even if the sinner was only hurt once, can he ever trust again? Can a sinner forgive and forget? Negative. Sinners remember a slight, even the slightest slight forever and a day, even for ever and ever. As long as they have a brain with memory, they cannot forget. So if God ever allows a sinner to be damaged in any way, God can’t be trusted, never. But we see some who have come to trust God. Then they must have forgiven Him for the troubles He allowed them to go through in life.

But we said sinners don’t do that. Then they must have stopped being unforgiving sinners. They must have become saints. Only saints can forgive and forget. Justification by trust?

God has made a lot of threats and He has executed many of those threats. “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no God with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.
For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.” (Deut. 32:39-41). Is God a fiend? or a friend? Can you see either here? This strong language can’t possibly be good for relationships. Or can it? Can we really trust God as a friend? But, still, what if He turns on you?

No one can trust God unless they have spent time seeing Him work. We must know Him by His fruits before we can trust Him. Right? Can we receive His punishment and learn to trust Him? Could this ever be possible?

Yes. But how?

When we wait until He has finished His discipline for us. “Blessed are all they that wait for Him.” (Is. 30:18). If we stick with Him until He is done disciplining, then we comprehend the fullness of His love. We see how much we needed the discipline. We see how much we needed Him. Then we trust in Him. And we really trust Him.

He wounds, yes. But He only—only—wounds to heal. This is the key to knowing Him! Forever and a day, His sole purpose in wounding us is to break our pride and heal us of sin, permanently! As broken bones must be reset to truly heal, which is very painful, in order for us to healed of self-centeredness we must first experience tremendous sorrow and tragedy, which seems counter-intuitive to our self-indulgent natures.

He made a beautiful promise to Egypt (of all places!) “And the Lord shall smite Egypt: He shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.” (Is. 19:22). You mean, Yahweh loved Egyptians, too?! He sought to save them? This was His message from Israel. There is hope for us all!

But, what is it that the father wounds when he must spank his dear child? The pride, the rebellion. A spank doesn’t make the parent abusive. It corrects pride, which is a blessing for the child, especially later in life. It also makes a way for his love to enter that child’s mind blocked with self-centeredness. The source of all misbehavior is the partial or complete lack of love.

The Bible teaches the psychology of all misbehavior, bad habits and practices, even crime. The absence of being loved, accepting love, responding and returning it. Can we see love in God’s actions throughout His auto-biography, His personally recorded history in His Bible? Can we discern His care for us in His discipline. Is it possible for the consequences of your mistakes, which He allows, to be motivated by love for you? If it is possible, will you look for love to know that He does love you? Will you talk to Him and ask Him if its true that He loves you? He promises that if you ask Him, you will receive; if you seek His love you will find it, when you seek Him with all your heart. Will you look long and hard for His motive of love?

He says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.
For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.” (Is. 57:15-19).

Will you soften your stiff neck and loosen our brass brow? Will you let your hard heart crumble and let His goodness lead you to repentance?

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Is. 1:18-20). Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Just come.

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17).

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20).


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