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A Tribute: Dancing with the President

To the volume of wonderful comments on President George H. W. Bush, I wish to add my very small two cents.

Indeed he was a noble man. When people have asked me over the years of my assessment of him, I have always responded with “He was a real gentleman, in every sense of the word.”

There is a reason why so many people, during these days of memorializing President Bush, have commented over and over again upon his character. Yes, they have rightly, now, pointed to his extraordinary ability of forging relationships with foreign dignitaries, his handling of the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, his command during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and a number of other noteworthy achievements that unfortunately during his lifetime didn’t get press in a blue journalistic world. There is a long list of commendable performances, I believe, as President. But the most frequent and compelling comments are with regard to his character and how he treated other people.

I offer my own small example.

Early on in my time at the White House, I was rushing somewhere in the West Wing when I rounded a corner, only to nearly bump into President Bush headed in the opposite direction. The hallway was not very wide there and so I immediately jumped to my left, mumbling a humble “excuse me, Mr. President”. But he had, at the same time, moved to the same side. I immediately mumbled another, more humble, “I’m sorry” and jumped to my right… just as he had moved back too. I was obviously embarrassed by all of this and was about to offer another deep apology for delaying him from no doubt some important task, when he just smiled, put his hands on his hips and did a short little jig to the right and then to the left. I don’t know why, but I quickly did the same and for two steps I danced with the President. We laughed and he went on his way and I mine.

I think of that interaction with him often over these past days, because it speaks of his humble and kind character. He could have just ignored me or he could have even been miffed at my being in his way. But instead, I believe he recognized my discomfort and sought to put me at ease. He paused in his busy day to have a brief moment of light heartedness with a lowly staff member who needed it.

Barbara was similar. I recall a Christmas event in the East Dining room. The party was in full swing awaiting the arrival of President and Mrs. Bush. A young marine was jiving to the live music in front of the band and was totally unaware that they had silently entered the room. While everyone parted to let them through, he continued to jive away. Barbara slipped up behind him and put her arms around him. When he turned around and saw her, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. She and the President just laughed and she gave him another big hug and continued on their way to greet other guests.

She and the President were two peas in a pod.

I suppose the other thing that will forever stick in my mind is what he said in his “farewell address”. He spoke of a value that must be forever cast in stone: decency and the moral courage to say what is right and condemn what is wrong. This requires even a greater measure of courage today than when he spoke it 26 years ago, for doing so will reap one a firestorm of hatred and scorn.

This is a walk for only the brave and the faithful.

Yet many, many have walked that difficult path in the past… some to their graves. Our call is to nothing less.

He also spoke against what he saw back then as the rising “tide of incivility”, a tide he believed America must strongly reject. He longed for a nation that was closer to “the Waltons” rather than “the Simpson’s”.

President Bush always believed that he had a responsibility to give back to this nation and to its people. This belief caused him to see others through the eyes of humility and kindness and an obligation to do what he could for the betterment of others.

He did that for me in an obscure little hallway in the White House.

We have lost a good man.

 


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Healer: Yahweh-Rapha

When we are sick, there is nothing we want more than to be restored to health. I can think of several times in my life when I was so sick (Lima, Peru and Cairo, Egypt) that I ashamedly admit I thought it would be better to die. That’s how “bad sick” it was. I can remember lying out in a field during pilot training after a bad parachute landing with my shoulder way out of joint. I thought I was going to die from the pain. I HOPED I would die from the pain!

But these are just physical ailments.

Much worse to be emotionally sick or spiritually sick and feel as if there is no way out. Increasingly, more people, especially young people, are seeking to “escape” life through suicide because they feel so emotionally sick (lonely, isolated, unloved, worthless) that death is the only way they think they can be “healed”. Others try to escape through alcohol or drugs or entertainment or any number of ways to attempt to numb the pain or mask the negative emotions that seem overwhelming at times, trying to pull us into a black hole.

Ah, but there is balm in Gilead. There is a great Physician… the God who heals.

If you were to tally up all of the miracles of Jesus and then classify them, by far the largest category would be His role of healing people. Here is one of the great understatements for which the Scripture is so famous:

“And Jesus was going about in all Galilee… healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people… and they brought to him all who were ill… and He healed them.” Matthew 4:23-24

Think about this: “every kind of disease and sickness … and He healed them”. Cancer? He healed it. Withered arms? Healed. Diabetes, hemorrhages, bad hearts, kidneys, gout, blindness, mute, deaf? All healed. Every kind of disease and sickness. Including the demoniacs… people who were physically, mentally and emotionally impaired due to a spiritual force. Healed by the Great Physician… Yahweh Rophe or Rapha, as it is more popularly known.

There are more than sixty references in the Scripture describing God as Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals or restores. One of the early ones is in Exodus 15. Here is the back-story:

The children of Israel were in misery, slaves in Egypt until God intervened and restored them to freedom. God showed Himself mighty before their eyes, through the miracle of plagues, release from the captivity of a hard-hearted Pharaoh, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, destroying Pharaoh’s army, and leading them with what must have been an eye-popping, jaw-dropping cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. No one has ever had more open, physical evidence of God’s miraculous desire and power to restore than did the Israelites.

But they soon started to grumble and complain.

They travelled through the desert of Shur for three days without water until finally coming to what was probably a set of springs, looking cold and delicious. But the water was bad, “bitter” as can be found in similar locations in Saudi Arabia today. And the hearts of the people then turned bitter too and they began to whine and complain, “grumbling against Moses”. So Moses went to the Lord and prayed and God gave Moses a medical “instrument”, a piece of wood, which he threw into the water and it was restored and became “sweet”. God then told them that if they would listen and follow Him, He would keep them from all the plagues He had brought upon the Egyptians, for He was their healer… literally, “for I am Yahweh-Rapha”, the first time this name of God is used. And it was Yahweh-Rapha who had Elisha use instruments of a jar and salt to purify the bad water in Jericho (2 Kings 2:21) and flour to cleanse the poisonous stew (2 Kings 4:41).

As I write this, we are praying that God will use the instruments of human physicians to heal our dear friend of cancer. We desire for this to happen now, but we know that all of those in Christ will be ultimately healed, in the day of restoration, when the God of Restoration, Yahweh-Rapha, will restore everything.

And, ultimately, the real healing that we need is not physical, for our deepest and most serious disease is spiritual. Jesus made this connection plain:

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17

Through Jeremiah, God spoke of how the Israelites had an “incurable” wound, that there was “no healing for their sore” and their “injury” was serious. But He wasn’t speaking of a physical wound or sore, He was talking about their spiritual state:

“… your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous.” Jeremiah 30:14

After speaking of Judah’s rebellion, sin and iniquity, calling them evildoers, sons who act corruptly, abandoning the Lord, despising the Holy One of Israel, God says of them:

“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.” Isaiah 1:5

David cried for healing from the Lord, but it wasn’t for physical ailments:

I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Psalm 41:4

In Psalm 147:3, it is Yahweh-Rapha who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

In one of the great passages concerning Christ’s work on our behalf, that He has healed us of our wounds… not physical wounds, but the spiritual sickness that would have separated us from God forever:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Many, unfortunately, misunderstand this passage and make it apply to our physical ailments, when it is so clearly speaking of Christ healing us of our transgressions and our iniquities. Nowhere are we promised, in this fallen world, to be free from its ubiquitous pull toward decay. But much of our maladies are caused by spiritual rebellion. It is here that we can find rest for our souls, if we would let go of our hold on the world and what it offers, and turn to Him. Every one of our negative emotions are birthed in our belief in the lie that if we can just get our own personal script fulfilled, we will be happy and content and pleasured. But the world around us continues to step on our scripts and sometimes just downright trashes them. As long as we desperately fight for our own scripts, we will be doomed to anger, disappointment and the host of dark emotions that follow.

Are you brokenhearted? Is your soul downcast? Does a darkness pervade you from within?

There is a balm in Gilead.

Do you feel lost and alone, isolated? Are you filled with dread and fear? Does guilt or bitterness eat at your heart?

Does your past weigh upon you so heavily that you can barely take another step? Are you sick with sorrow or despair?

Behold! Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals!

Draw near to Him… gaze upon His face.

Do not neglect the instruments of healing that He has decreed for us. Meditate upon His Word; call upon Him in prayer; and do not forsake the deep fellowship of the saints.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

 


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Gazing Upon the Face of God: Jesus

[preface]

Seldom do we think of “Jesus” as an attribute of God. But I believe it is profitable to do so and not without good reason. All of the “names” of God present us with an aspect of His character:

-YHWH: the God who is self-existent

-JEHOVA RAPHA: the God who heals

-ADONAI: the Lord

-EL SHADDAI: the God who is all sufficient; almighty

-EL ROI: the God who sees

So, too, when we come to what could well be God’s most beautiful name: Jesus.

It was dictated to Joseph by an angel of the Lord:

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Names are critical in the economy and Word of God. It isn’t like our culture today, where we name our babies based upon what is trendy, or a name we think will stand out for its uniqueness, or maybe a family name from the past. In the biblical scheme of things, names represent something about the person, like their character or the divine task God has for them. Therefore we find Eve: mother of all living; Moses: drawn out of water; or Jacob: cheater. When God changes someone’s name, it was to indicate their new mission, as in: Jacob, cheater, becomes Israel, rules with God; and Abram, father of height, become Abraham, father of many.

Therefore, the name “Jesus” was bestowed because He would “save His people from their sins”. Jesus, in His character and in His mission, is Savior of His people.

And there is something powerful in that name. Philippians 2, says that it is “a name above every name” and that at this name “every knee should bow”; John 20:31 says that we have “life in His name”; Colossians 3:17 tells us that everything we do, “in word or deed” ought to be done in this name; and Acts 4:12 says that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”.

Now here is something curious for us to ponder. Look at what Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“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. 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.” John 3:17-18

Why does Jesus say this? Why not just “because he has not believed in the only Son of God?” This is not unusual, for we see this in many places. Jesus told some they would not see Him again until they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Paul says we were “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Why? Because the name Jesus points us to the character and the mission of the One who justifies us.

God is not calling us to some sort of belief in the letters J-E-S-U-S. He is calling us to believe in the nature, the character, the attributes, the essence of “who” Jesus is and therefore what He has done.

This is important because some have slipped into serious error here.

Jesus is a name, a beautiful name, but it would be wrong to begin to think that there is something “magical” or “animistic” in these five letters as assembled. This might be shocking to some and possibly even considered heretical to others, but it is critical to understand. “Jesus” is not some magic wand or incantation. You don’t receive goodies by chanting His name or by rubbing your fingers over it or kissing it. Never forget that we worship Him, not his title or name or artifact.

An illustration from Scripture might be helpful.

The Israelites were in the desert and complaining again against God and Moses. As punishment, God sent “fiery serpents” among the people; poisonous snakes that bit them and therefore many had died. Moses intervened for them and God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so that if anyone were bit and looked at the bronze serpent, he would live. Moses did this and the people were spared further death. This was obviously one of those representations in the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus, who later said “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” But, the people began to think that it was the bronze serpent that saved them and started to worship and make offerings to it. Hezekiah, a king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”, broke the bronze serpent into pieces along with the other idols in the land. The Israelites wrongly thought there was something magical or spiritual residing within the object.

There is a reason why God commanded that we not make any image of Him. He does not reside in clay or wood or letters.

The name of Jesus is not a magical potion, but there IS something about that name. We are not saved by the letters, but we are saved by One to whom those letters are pointing—the person of Jesus, our Savior.

Keep your eyes upon Him. 

Gazing on that should put a big thanks in your Thanksgiving!

 

[illustration by Brendon Ward]

 

 


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Deliverer

The word “deliverer” in the context of God’s nature is one that conveys His desire and propensity to “rescue” His people or “take them out” of danger or distress. This is true in both the Old and New Testaments where God delivers from physical, temporal danger, but ultimately, and more importantly, from the infinite danger of the coming wrath of God and the eternal separation because of sin. God has been gracious to record for us the many, many instances of delivering His people from the temporal to help give us the assurance that He has and will eventually deliver us spiritually.

To a great extent, God has been “delivering” His people since the fall. Instead of wiping everything out, He promised a deliverer would come and crush the head of the serpent. When the depravity of mankind had so filled the earth that God had to destroy it, He delivered Noah and his family from the catastrophic deluge. When the children of Israel had fallen into slavery in Egypt, He delivered them from the bondage of Pharaoh.

He delivered David from the sword of Goliath and Saul.

He delivered Daniel from the lions, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego from the king’s furnace.

He delivered Peter from Herod’s prison and Paul from the assassins.

In Hezekiah’s day, He delivered His people from Sennacherib and the Assyrian hoard.

He delivered Joseph from the evil intentions of his brothers.

He delivered the disciples from the storm and Christ from the tomb.

There is hardly any place in the Scripture where we do not see God delivering His people.

He is not only the Deliverer, but He is the faithful Deliverer. For He has not only showed us over and over again that He has been the mighty Deliverer in the past, but He will also be the mighty Deliverer in the future.

This is the basis for our hope.

For one day, as Paul cried, He will deliver us from the body of this death…both the outer man that physically decays by the day and the inner, sinful man, that seeks to decay us from within.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

In the meantime, He has delivered us from hopelessness…a woeful state of being enemies and haters of God, spiritually dead and slaves to our sinful nature, to a glorious state of being alive with Christ, redeemed from our bondage to death.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Sometimes God delivers through a miracle; sometimes He delivers through an angel or a human agent, like Moses or Jonah. Most often, however, He chooses to deliver by providing us a way of escape: through saying “no” to our sinful nature and the temptation of the world; by walking away from the edge of a cliff or a cat that is hissing; by working hard to overcome the obstacles or challenges in front of us.

What this means, contrary to our selfish desires, is that God will seldom deliver us from those things which He has given us the means by which we can deliver ourselves. He may not deliver you from starvation if you refuse to work. He may not deliver you from consequences if you refuse to say "no". He may not deliver you from loneliness if you refuse to engage with others. If you foolishly jump into a den of lions, you may get eaten. If you stick your hand into a furnace, you will most likely get burned. Don't mistake the Deliverer as One who rewards foolishness or laziness or self-centeredness. The Deliverer is not a grand Genie by which we can rub the lamp to remove the consequences of our folly. Now, he has certainly rescued this fool from his folly on many occasions, but it is not that we can demand it of Him.

When we pray “deliver us from evil”, He may do so through a miracle or a Moses. But most likely it will be through the means by which He has graciously granted us to walk and persevere in this life: prayer, the Word and a band of brothers, for example.

And, when He calls us to do this work through these means, it is His Spirit that enables us to do so.

He may deliver, therefore, immediately through the miracle. He may deliver sometime soon, through a Moses. But it may be that He delivers after a long time of hard work and perseverance.

But it will come.

The Deliverer will deliver.

In the end. Always.

In the meantime, Remnant, persevere with great hope.

 

May we contemplate this aspect of God’s nature throughout the week. Here are some passages to help us. Remember that all of the stories of God’s deliverance in the past are means of encouragement to us in the present, that God has proven Himself over and over again and He will be faithful to deliver us as well.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer… 2 Samuel 22:1-2

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. Exodus 6:6

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Genesis 45:7

When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them… Judges 3:9

And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37

But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” 2 Kings 17:39

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

All my bones will say, “Lord, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?” Psalm 35:10

For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living. Psalm 56:13

But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:5

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. Psalm 107:6

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. Daniel 3:17

He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

…we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us… 2 Corinthians 10:9-10

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father… Galatians 1:3-4

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15


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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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