Growing up, there were a couple of constants that I could count on each time I went to my grandparents house. For starters, I could always be sure upon entering their house that the aroma of some sort of pie and or cake would fill the air. I could count on the fact that I would have my grandmothers lip stick smudged on my cheek within 5.1 seconds of walking in the front door. I could count on being spoiled rotten with frequent trips to the toy store. And I could always count on sipping one of grandmothers delicious homemade chocolate milkshakes each night as we curled up on the couch with her and watched movies. But we didn’t just watch any movie. Usually it was a very specific genre of movies. As grandaddy would call them, “Good old western flicks.”
I was intimately familiar with all the major players due to my grandparents love of Western shows. One night we would cheer as sherif John Wayne cleaned up Silar City from the bandits trying to over throw the town. Another night we would watch Clint Eastwood as he dished out justice to the wicked men who killed his family. And I could never forget watching Gunsmoke and Marshall Matt Dillon with his trusty sidekick Chester, as they stood to uphold law and order in Dodge City. If the television was on at Grandmothers house in the evening, you could be sure that we were watching a show about the good guys upholding law and order and dishing out punishment to the wicked, in defense of the land, woman, or family they loved. Law, order, and justice were the themes of our favorite shows. The bad guys always got the punishment that was coming to them, and the good guy always got the girl or the reward. In the end, justice was always served.
Westerns were popular and well loved to those in my grandparents generation. And today, although television show concepts may have changed, our society gravitates towards entertainment with the same major theme as the old time Westerns….
We want the good guys to always win and the bad guys to receive what is coming to them. Case in point, how many different spin offs of the television shows CSI and Law and Order will it take before we get tired of those shows? The answer remains unknown. Because television producers keep repackaging the same show over and over. They only change the location and the actors. CSI Atlanta. CSI Miami. CSI Houston. CSI New York…and the list continues to build. Why do tv executives keep basically making the same show again and again? Because the American public continues to tune in every night! Even in the movies we watch, we want justice extracted on the bad guys and we want the good guys to be the ones to do it. At our very core, we love to see justice served and the evil punished for their crimes.
But when it becomes personal, our society has double standards. Particularly, when it comes to breaking God’s law. The quickest way to make many Christian evangelicals nervous and to infuriate a lost person is to start talking about God’s justice and wrath against sinners. One of the worst thing many lost people and even some Christians will do is disregard the second commandment.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:4.
We want to serve a God, we just want him to be made in an image that makes us comfortable. If you ever confront a lost person about their sin and point them towards verses about Gods wrath, here is an argument that you might hear….
“Well I dont believe in a wrathful God, I believe God is love .”
I can personally recall trying to witness to a family member who was living a very sinful lifestyle. I pointed out that God calls all men to repent, and turn from their sins. This family member’s argument was that God is love and a loving God would never have wrath on his creation. Unfortunately, its not only the lost who will use this argument, but also many professing Christians. Many church goers will continue to justify their sins by claiming we are all sinners and that God is loving and he forgives.
To be sure, God most definitely is a loving God and he does forgive. But the problem in these arguments is that we take these two words, love and forgiveness, and we bend them so that they mesh with our sinful lifestyles. Let me point out a very key component that we dont like to hear.
If God is love, then he MUST be wrathful.
Imagine a criminal had murdered one of your family members. The criminal goes before a supposed, “just judge.” This judge was said to have the reputation of upholding the law and being fair. Would that judge be considered righteous and fair if he said to the criminal, “Im not going to punish you, just try not to do it again.” Of course not. That judge would be evil and unjust if he let evil go unpunished. Even in our own personal relationship, we grow wrathful against the ones who hurt our families. And the reason we want justice carried out against those who wrong our families is because we love our families. If we didnt love our families, then we wouldnt care if someone trespasses against them. We love the idea of justice, we just dont want it to apply to our relationship with God.
Even in the case of a parent with a child, a loving parent will always discipline their kids. Remember the movie, “Charlie and The chocolate Factory”? There was a little girl in the movie named Veruca Salt. Her daddy was very wealthy, and she constantly demanded things from her father. Candy, money, and large expensive gifts. To which her father always gave her exactly what she wanted. She didnt ask her father for things, she demanded them. And her father begrudging gave her anything she wanted, regardless of how bad it may be for her.
We can draw the conclusion that Veruca Salt’s father hated her. Because a loving parent will at times, tell the child no, and even discipline them when their behavior proves harmful to them. A loving father will always discipline their children. And the degree of punishment always fits the crime. If my son draws with a crayon on the wall, his punishment may be an early bed time. However, if he strikes another child or is disrespectful to me or his mom, he’ll get a spanking and an early bed time. In Hebrews, God tells us of his love through discipline……
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11.
Lets also look at the concept of forgiveness. A righteous forgiveness can only exist if it is balanced with wrath. Once again, imagine that someone has deeply hurt you. This person comes before and you and asks your forgiveness, only to turn around and hurt you in the same way again. Over and over the person comes to you and asks forgiveness, only to turn around and betray you again. Would you think this person had any love for you? Now think of that same situation. A person hurts you deeply. Only now, this person comes before you truly broken, weeping over their sin. They are disgusted by how they have wronged you and vow to never do this again. All they ask is your forgiveness. Forgiveness would be possible. Because forgiveness requires a true change of heart in the actions of the transgressor.
God is a just God. And because God is loving, he must also be wrathful against those who break his commands. At times, the justice of God is a point of contention and defense for unbelief in God. Atheist use the concept of God’s wrath for building their case against the existence of God. Who hasnt heard these arguments against God……
“Well if the God of the Bible is loving, why would a loving God allow something like 9/11 to happen?”
“If God is loving, then why are their so many violent deaths?”
And one question that many Christians have been known to ask recently is this……
“If God is loving, why would he allow a government to be put in place that condones abortion and homosexuality?”
Scripture gives us the answer to all of these questions through a book of the Bible called Habakkuk. It is a book that is so relevant to our culture today but so often overlooked, and rarely preached on. But Habakkuk asked God these same questions, and God answered him. To make a long story short, Habakkuk was a prophet of God and he loved the Lord. He was a good man. Recently his land of Judah had gone through a great time of revival. God was turning the land back towards Him and people were following the ways of the Lord. But just when things were looking great, people in the land began to fall away from God. Massive idol worship took place, and Gods people chose to gratify the lusts of their flesh instead of being obedient to God. In short, sin was rampant and immorality ruled in the day of Habakkuk. And this Godly man Habakkuk looks out over the moral decline of Judah and this is what he says…..
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” Habakkuk 1:2-4.
Habakkuk is crying out for justice! He can’t imagine a loving God allowing such atrocities to take place! And he is basically asking God…..
“What in the world are you doing?
Why do you sit back passively and do nothing about this immorality!”
Habakkuk is asking how a loving God can just stand by and watch as these horrible things take place. But you see, Habakkuk had fallen prey to the same ideology that we today find ourselves in. He had tried to separate the love of God and the wrath of God, not realizing that both are inseparably linked together. God’s response to Habakkuk reveals this great truth.
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” Habakkuk 1:5-11.
God’s response to Habakkuk’s cries…..
“Oh, Im not passive about immorality, and here is what Im doing about it…”
“Im going to allow the Godless and blood thirsty nation of Babylon with their evil people, the Chaldeans, to come into the land of Judah where the people are sinning against me….and kill all of them”.
But on to that in a bit. I want to point out two things. First, the idolatrous people of the land abide under the passive wrath of God. In which God gives them over to their lusts. It’s basically Gods way of saying, Oh, you want sin more than you do me…..have at it!” God gives them over to their sinful desires. This is describe in Romans 1:24-27.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Letting the people chase after their own lusts is the passive wrath of God because disobedience to God always ends bad. Its Gods way of saying, “If you want sin, you can also take the consequences that come with them.” Case in point, sexual immorality leads to diseases and heartache. Idol worship leads to wars and strife. And God gives them over to face the consequences of their sin. And Habakkuk is asking the question of God, “How can you let such immorality go rampant in our land. And look back to the verse in Habakkuk at Gods answer. God told Habakkuk that he was about to do something that would leave him speechless.
God said he was raising up the Chaldeans. Look back at the verse to how God describes them. They were a bitter and Godless nation. They had no respect for anyone and loved violence. They were a ruthless people who conquered anyone that stood in their path with great bloodshed. And God was going to allow them to attack and dominate this land of immoral people as an act of judgement.
Our nation currently, despite waving a Christian flag, is one of the most Godless nation on the earth. We promote homosexuality and condone the killing of babies in the womb and have instilled these evil rights into our law. Marriage is seen as a contract to be broken, and the God of the Bible is distorted into a deity that puts up with sin because he is loving. We worship money and comfort, while we shudder at the thought of actually sharing the gospel. We entertain ourselves with the things that God hates and avoid the things that God loves. And then we tragedies such as terrorist attacks or murders take place, we want to question God as to how he can allow such a thing. But you see, God has only given us what we wanted. We wanted rebellion and a life apart from the laws of God. We wanted God out of schools, so God gave us a society where depraved people will committ horrible crimes. When the Chaldeans attacked Habakkuk’s land, it was Gods punishment on the land for breaking Gods law. It was Gods righteous justice in action.
Our nation as a whole, chooses sin over God…..just like in Habakkuk’s day. And God is still the same as he was then. How scary is it to see the similarities of sinful rebellion in our nation and in the story of Habakkuk. Gods judgement in Habakkuk was to send a ruthless army to invade the land and terrorize the people. There is the strong possibility, that in cases such as 9/11 or atrocities that invade our nation, that God is not sitting back passively. In examining the story of Habakkuk, we see that to a Godless nation, the destruction of that nation is actually Gods justice in action. The question is not, “Why has God abandon us?” Rather, the statement should be, “Woe to us who have abandoned God!”
To the unbeliever, God doesn’t exist. Because how could a loving God allow criminals to go unpunished. But sometimes, we are the criminal. Judah was the land in which Habakkuk lived, and was part of the nation of Israel, which we know that Israel is God’s chosen people. God executed judgement on His own people for their sins in much the same way a parent would do a child. When a child becomes an adult, there comes a time when he or she must stand on their own two feet. Good or bad, they make their own decision. And at times, those decisions may not be good ones. Sometimes life’s best lessons come out of the most painful moments that stem from disobedience. Habakkuk did no wrong against God. But he stood witness to the destruction of his homeland of Judah because of the sins of his people.
It’s ironic that a nation that presumably loves the idea of law breakers being punished, doesn’t want that same justice to apply to God’s law We use excuses to justify our sins as acceptable. We say things like”Everyone else is doing it.” And, “I’m not as bad as that guy.” We judge our standard of good by comparing ourselves to other people. But the problem with that is that one judgement day, God wont judge us using our next door neighbor as a measuring stick. The measuring rod will be His Holy law. The Bible says that no man is good….not one. Thats why we so desperately need to daily throw ourselves at the mercy of the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty and absorbed the eternal wrath that was in store for you and me. He offers forgiveness, to those who would be broken over and turn from their sins in repentance. A judge is not viewed as evil for sentencing a murderer to death. The murderer is receiving justice for his disobedience against the law of man. God is a righteous and just God, and because he is loving, his wrath must be executed against the wicked. Was was murdered for the sins of mankind, so we all stand guilty before God. We murdered his only son. But there is hope………
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21.
Jesus offers forgiveness for those who would step out of the darkness and into a life of following Him in the light. Sadly, many want to hold on to the pleasures of sin and continue living in the darkness while at the same time expecting God to just accept our transgresses. And although at times we as Christians will stand witness to God’s wrath on a disobedient world, we are not to stand passively. He has given us a great commission. To go and tell the world about Jesus. Maybe the cure for the immoral society we live in is for the word of God to penetrate the hearts of those living in darkness.
I once heard a preacher say this…..”If Jesus comes back before I die, I hope all I can see is the back of his head.” The book of Revelation says that in the end times, Jesus will return on a white stallion with his enemies in front of Him.
” I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s.” Revelation 19:6-21.
Notice that Jesus will wage war on the evil, those who rejected Him, with justice! His eyes will be like fire, and his robe will be dipped in the blood of his enemies. Behind Him are those who are His…the armies of Heaven. Only the enemies of God lie in front! Why would this preacher say he hoped to only see the back of Christ’s head? Because if you find yourself staring into His eyes of fire, that wrath of God is now unescapable, and the time for repentance has past. This new year, make a resolution to proclaim Christ to the nations. There is not a new sheriff in town. He’s been in control since the very beginning. Jesus Christ is Just and righteous. And contrary to what many want to hear, he is also wrathful. But his wrath is what best displays his affection for us. This is the character and nature of the God we serve. And through seeing His wrath, we see that his love is much greater than we could have ever imagined.