Friday, April 26, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
A Holy and Just God
What comes to mind when you hear the lesson title for this week? Perhaps we should take a closer look at each attribute. Let us start with holiness.
In a recent program panelists were asked to define holiness. None had a concrete definition, but all agreed that Holiness is all that God is. While most would understand it is still a vague definition. (Implied, however, is that Holiness is everything we are not.).
What is God? God is love (agape). What is Love? Also hard to define, but Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13,
1 Corinthians 13
13:4 Agape suffereth long, [and] is kind; Agape envieth not; Agape vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
13:8 Agape never faileth…
This means that 1st Corinthians 13 also describes holiness. The issue is that we typically think of 1 Corinthians 13 in terms of performance. But, what God does is a reflection of who He is. There is no inconsistency between God's character and His performance. There seems to be another dimension: God's character is evident when you see Him. God's character shines through His body. In other words, if you see God, you see His character. God does not have to act for you to know He is Love. His mere presence shows that. What you see God you see 1 Corinthians 13 in person. This is Holiness.
Let's look at justice. Is Biblical justice equal to the justice of the world? Justice in any system is based on the laws or rules of that system. There are two ways to conceive of God's law – the design protocols life is built upon – natural law, and an imposed Roman type law construct. If one views God's law as a Roman imposed law then in that model justice requires imposition of punishment by the ruling authority.
If one views God's law as the protocol upon which he built life to operate then justice requires the Designer to heal and fix what is broken. Let us look at some texts and see what system is biblical justice.
· "Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy." (Ps 82:3)
· "Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil and learn to do right. See that justice is done---help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows." (Is 1:16-17 – GN)
· "The LORD is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The LORD is a God of justice." (Is 30:18 – GW)
· "This is what the LORD says to the dynasty of David: 'Give justice each morning to the people you judge! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors.'" (Jer 21:12 – NLT)
We can see that God's justice, according to Scripture is, delivering the oppressed not punishing the oppressor.
How does God show holiness and justice in the book of Joel? Joel was called to announce impending doom and destruction. Why would God allow such destruction? How can He be a God of love and allow such disasters to be inflicted on Israel? God loved Israel. God chastens whom He loves (Revelation 3: 19). God used these disasters as chastening. The idea was to bring Israel to repentance. So, that Israel realized their need for dependence on God.
There is no mention on whether the people's repentance would stop the destruction, but there was a guarantee, "…whoever calls in the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2: 32). Even if the Lord would not stop the trial, He would help those who called on His name to go through the trial. In this disaster, instead of having the people rend their garments, the prophet Joel says that the people should rend their hearts and make them open to God's grace and compassion.
The message in this book is especially important to us because, just like in the days of Joel, the impending events of these final days will not be prevented, they will be disastrous and, only those who "call in the name of the Lord will be saved." Ellen White invites us to reflect on this, "We must realize our true condition, or we shall not feel our need of Christ's help. We must understand our danger, or we shall not flee to the refuge. We must feel the pain of our wounds, or we should not desire healing" (Christ's object Lessons, p. 158). The question is will we heed God's calling? I pray that we do!
Friday, April 12, 2013
Longsuffering is a compound word in English. It is also a compound word in the biblical Greek. In the Greek longsuffering is composed of two words, one meaning long, the other word meaning passion, hard breathing, indignation, and or wrath. This second term is derived from a word that means rush to kill, sacrifice, or immolate; it gives a connation of someone who reacts by rushing to lash out when they feel wronged. The first word - long- modifies this word to mean the opposite. Longsuffering can be defined as a trait of someone who when wronged responds by not lashing out at those who wronged them. Or, in other words, a longsuffering person takes a long time before they lash out.
This is not a trait that is typically admired in our society. We tend to admire those who lash out and put others in their place or give others a piece of their mind. These feel justified in doing it. Even those of us who seem calm secretly rehearse in our minds what words we will say and how we will say them in case we feel wronged by anyone. Sadly, many who profess to be Christians also share this trait and also feel justified. We tend to see long suffering as weakness.
But, the Bible says that God is longsuffering (Exodus 34:6, Romans 2:4). He waited at least 80 years before executing judgment on the Amorites (Genesis 15:16). Forty years the Lord tarried with Israel in the wilderness. Thousands of years he waited for Israel to repent and turn to Him. He said to them through the prophet Hosea,
Hosea 11:8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repenting's are kindled together.
This is an amazing insight into both God's own suffering due to human sin and His desire to save us. Even though sinful Israel deserved total destruction, the Lord in His enduring mercy continues to love His people while striving for their repentance. Hosea 11 teaches that God's ways transcend those of sinful humanity. He will not let bitterness govern His decisions. God's love seeks to bring healing, health, and restoration to His people. Many are the examples of God delaying judgment when repentance was found in Israel or Judah. The purpose of divine discipline is to correct, amend, and reconcile, not to destroy and avenge. Many people have difficulty reconciling these two visions of God. Some professed Christians, do not understand the long suffering aspect of God; instead, they see Him as vengeful, angry, and just looking to find fault with them in order to punish them for their sins. Even worse, some believe that He burns the lost in hell for eternity. That, however, is not the picture of God presented here. Others, fault on the other side that God is so good, that He will never punish or discipline. That picture is not presented here, either. We read in the book of Hebrews that God chastens whom He loves,
Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Heb 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
So, just because God is long suffering it does not mean that He will not discipline or chasten us. When God chastens it is not to punish, but to correct and heal. He gives us time to repent and turn to Him, but He will not delay forever. He wants us to reproduce His character in us. He wants us to love as He loves; and God's love suffers long (1 Corinthians 13: 4). This, by the way, means that He wants us to be longsuffering. And, it is possible for us to be longsuffering, if we abide in Him and He in us. Only as we abide do we bear much fruit (John 15: 4- 8). We know that this fruit is Spiritual and that long suffering is part of that fruit (Galatians 5: 22).