A Christian’s Heart 3-25-2013
A God To Fear
Note: In past blogs, I have given internet links through New Bible Gateway to the verses I have referred to, which are from the NIV 1984 version. But that version of the NIV translation of the Bible appears to be no longer available on the web. Since I detest the 2011 NIV which is gender neutral and has many other distortions of the original documents, I will not link you to that.
We have always been taught, and rightly so, that our God is a God of love (1 John 4:8) and life (John 1:4). If this were not true, I would not be writing this blog. But what we have not been taught, unfortunately, is that He is also a terrifying God, a consuming fire (Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29), who will readily destroy evil and those who bring it into the world at a time that suits His righteous purposes. This chilling truth is one that God’s people have forgotten to our great peril. It is this terrifying aspect of God’s nature that I want to talk about here.
Ancient Israel refused to fear God. In their arrogance they thought that being sons of Abraham exempted them from the horrors of God’s righteous judgment. “He will never do anything to us,” they claimed. “No harm will come to us. Our prophets are prophesying wind.” (Paraphrase of 5:12—13, NIV 1984.) God reminds them of this through Jeremiah when we says, “‘Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should you not tremble in my presence?’” (Jer 5:22a.) Those of you who know the history of Israel, know that God eventually did destroy both the northern and southern kingdoms, resulting in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of God’s people.
Here is a close up and personal example of God’s terrifying judgment—on the one hand and of His grace and love on the other—at work in one man, Abimilech king of Gerar. (See Genesis 20 for the story.) On entering Gerar, Abraham had lied to the king about his wife Sarah, telling him she was his sister. So the king sent for Sarah and took her into his household. Now the king had made God angry by doing this, for God came to him in a dream and said, “‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman, … if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.’” (Gen 20:3, 7b. My emphasis.) God promised not only to take Abimelech’s life, He promised also to take the lives of his family; even, apparently, to the point of destroying all of Gerar!
But Abimilech, who had not had any relations with Sarah, correctly replied, “‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did [Abraham] not say to me, “She is my sister,” and didn’t [Sarah] also say, “He is my brother”? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” (Gen 20:4—5.) This is how our gracious and just God replied: “‘Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.’” (Gen 20:6.) Note that our just and righteous God had proactively intervened in the king’s life to keep him from being destroyed and to give him a chance to repent and live.
At this point Abimilech had two choices: take God seriously and repent or ignore God’s warning and bring great disaster on his country. God gave the same choices to Israel. (See Deut 30:19.) But unlike Israel and Judah (see 2 Kings 17; see also the Lamentations), the king wisely chose life and not death. Not only did the king repent of his sin and return Sarah to Abraham, the Abimilech also showered Abraham with wealth and opened up his country to Abraham to live wherever he wanted. (Gen 20:14—15).
We in this country have not been so wise. Among the many other horrific evils that we have allowed to take over this country, we have allowed abortion on demand—the murder of innocent children—and sexual immorality to flourish. We stand under the same judgment that Gerar did, which will be much worse because America was founded in his Name, and we have His word and still we have knowingly turned our backs on Him.