Saturday, May 17, 2008
Jeremiah 25 God’s Wrath
Nahum 1:2-7. The Lord is a jealous God and avenging,
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and of great might,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry,
he dries up all the rivers;
Bashan and Carmel wither,
the bloom of Lebanon fades.
The mountains quake before him, the hills melt;
the earth is laid waste before him,
the world and all that dwell therein.
Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken asunder by him.
7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress;
He cares for those who take refuge in Him.
Jeremiah 25:8 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, 9 I am going to send for all the families of the north’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘and send for My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will bring them against this land, against its residents, and against all these surrounding nations, and I will completely destroy them and make them a desolation, a derision, and ruins forever.
15 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. 16 They will drink, stagger, and go out of their minds because of the sword I am sending among them.” 17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations drink [from it], everyone the Lord sent me to. 18 These included: Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah, its kings and its officials, to make them a desolate ruin, an object of scorn and cursing—as it is today;
29 For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts
1. God’s Wrath is Righteous Wrath
2. God’s Wrath is Holy Wrath
3. God’s Wrath is Ironic Wrath
4. God’s Wrath is Patient Wrath
5. God’s Wrath is Earnest Wrath
6. God’s Wrath is Unpopular Wrath
Dr Leon Morris says of the Old Testament in his The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross: ‘There are more than 20 words used to express the wrath conception as it applies to Jehovah’ and ‘these are used so frequently that there are over 580 occurrences to be taken into consideration’ [p 131]. He adds that this conception ‘cannot be eradicated from the Old Testament without irreparable loss’ [p 156]. So the Old Testament is full of the concept of the wrath of God.
The wine with which the cup is filled is the wrath of God. The figure is not an infrequent one with the prophets and the psalmists
Jeremiah 49:12 For thus saith the LORD; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it; 51:7Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.;
Isaiah 51:17Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.
Ezekiel 23. 31-34Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.
32 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou shalt drink of thy sister's cup deep and large: thou shalt be laughed to scorn and had in derision; it containeth much.33 Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria.34 Thou shalt even drink it and suck it out, and thou shalt break the sherds thereof, and pluck off thine own breasts: for I have spoken it , saith the Lord GOD.
Psalm 60:33 Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.; 75:8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them
Rev 14: 6 Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 He spoke with a loud voice: “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” 8 A second angel followed, saying: “It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, who made all nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.”9 And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, 11 and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name.
The centrepiece of Jeremiah’s preaching is divine wrath against sin and the impending doom of those who do not believed his Word.
1. God’s Wrath is Righteous Wrath
Like the other great prophets, Jeremiah makes no apologies for the fact, or the ferocity, or the intractability of divine wrath. It is the just desert of those who rebel against God and spurn his kindness and mercy and who make a life of selfish and sensual pursuits.
2. God’s Wrath is Holy Wrath
A. W. Pink “The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evil-doers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God’s government shall be made to know that God is the Lord. They shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regarded. Not that God’s anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No; while God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.” "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven" (Rom. 1:18). Robert Haldane comments on this verse as follows: It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise; and afterwards by such examples of punishment as those of the Deluge and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain by fire from heaven; but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed in the curse of the law on every transgression, and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice. In the 8th of Romans, the apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity, and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. The same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes His glory, also proclaims that He is the Enemy of sin and the Avenger of the crimes of men . . . But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the Divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in His sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of His displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation there are two revelations given from heaven, one of wrath, the other of grace.
3. God’s Wrath is Ironic Wrath
THE WRATH OF GOD IS LIKE INTOXICATING WINE.
a. It is powerful. The wine is strong drink. We are too ready to close our eyes to this aspect of the Divine nature. The love of God is so treated by some that it leaves no room for anger. But God is not weakly indulgent; if he were so, even his love would be found wanting, for there is no wrath more terrible than that of outraged love.
b. The anger of God produces terrible effects. The wine intoxicates. It cannot be a matter of no concern to us to know how God feels towards us. All affections tend to actions. The anger of a man is not likely to waste itself in aimless fury; it will flow out in deeds. God is a King whose wrath will find expression in acts of sovereignty, a Father whose anger must necessarily affect his treatment, of his children. If there are men at whose anger we may smile, there are others who cannot be safely despised. But who dare disregard the wrath of God? Once it is outpoured it must be overwhelming, must take possession of men.
c. It will not only produce outward distress, but inward confusion and helplessness, so” that they shall reel to and fro, and behave themselves madly.” Therefore the man who is smitten by Divine wrath has not those internal sources of comfort and strength with which we try to hear up under outward calamity.
Churchill expressed the certainty of God's retributive justice when, speaking of Mussolini, he said.
Mussolini is swept into the maelstrom of his own making. The flames of war he kindled burn himself. He and his people are taking the stinging lash of the whip they applied to Ethiopia and Albania. They pay for Fascist sins with defeat, despair, death. Mussolini's promise of life like a lion turns into the existence of a beaten cur!
Years before the statesman, Winston Churchill, spoke these words, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his Compensation wrote: Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure that concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, can rot be severed, for the effect already blooms in the cause. The end pre-exists in the means -- the fruit in the seed.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar showed wisdom as great as the wisdom of Churchill and a knowledge of Nature's laws as great as Emerson's knowledge when he wrote the autobiography of many individual sinners in these poetic and potent words:
This is the price I pay -- Just for one riotous day --
Years of regret and of grief, And sorrow without relief.
Suffer it I will, my friend, Suffer it until the end,
Until the grave shall give relief. Small was the thing I bought,
Small was the thing at best, Small was the debt, I thought, But, O God! -- the interest.
All these statements are but verification of Bible truth:
• Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him (Prov. 26:27).
• Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them (Prov. 1:31,32).
• Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same (Job 4:8).
• For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7).
4. God’s Wrath is Patient Wrath
“God’s mill goes slow, but grinds small; the more admirable His patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which ariseth out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea, yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rageth more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God, and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire” (William Gurnall, 1660).
5. God’s Wrath is Earnest Wrath
It is against unbelief. The centrepiece of Jeremiah’s preaching is divine wrath against sin and the impending doom of those who do not believed his Word.
8 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, 9 I am going to send for all the families of the north’
Jeremiah 26:4 You are to say to them: This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to Me by living according to My law that I set before you 5 and by listening to the words of My servants the prophets I have been sending you time and time again, though you did not listen, 6 I will make this temple like Shiloh. I will make this city an object of cursing for all the nations of the earth.”
If our age has taught us anything of human nature, it has taught us that all mankind is constitutionally inclined to disbelieve what is unwelcome; that even very clever people will refuse to believe what they do not wnat to be true, however strong the evidence may be.
In reading Richard Rhoade's history of 20th century physics, THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB, I have been struck by how many brilliant Jewish physicists and chemists nearly lost their lives, because they could not bring themselves to believe that the Nazi government of Adolph Hitler would really do what it threatened to do
On April 16, 1991, several tornadoes tore through the town of Andover, Kansas, and 13 people lost their lives. The sad thing is that at least some of these deaths could have been prevented. Many people didn't heed the warnings to take cover. A newspaper account of the tragedy said, "When police and fire officials, TV forecasters, and the weather service began telling people to take cover, some waited too long to respond. Others apparently ignored the warnings. At the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park, where more than 225 trailers were destroyed, many people never even left their homes. Only about 200 of the park's 700 residents headed into its storm shelter. All 13 victims were killed at the trailer park. For 40 years, Andover has warned its residents of tornadoes by sending police and fire vehicles into the streets, lights flashing and sirens wailing. This time the vehicles were out even before the weather service told people to take cover (about 20 minutes before the twister hit). Despite the warnings, many people were still casually walking along the street. The man in charge of the National Weather Service office in Wichita commented, `Researchers and sociologists have told us people don't do a thing when they hear a warning. They don't do anything until they perceive they are at risk.'"
6. God’s Wrath is Unpopular Wrath
The message of God’s wrath was not popular for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 26: The priests, the prophets, and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the temple of the Lord. 8 He finished the address the Lord had commanded him to deliver to all the people. Then the priests, the prophets, and all the people took hold of him, yelling, “You must surely die! 9 How dare you prophesy in the name of the Lord, ‘This temple will become like Shiloh and this city will become an uninhabited ruin’!” Then all the people assembled against Jeremiah at the Lord’s temple. 10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they went up from the king’s palace to the Lord’s temple and sat at the entrance of the New Gate. 11 Then the priests and prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man deserves the death sentence because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” 12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and the people, “The Lord sent me to prophesy all the words that you have heard against this temple and city. 13 So now, correct your ways and deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God so that He might relent concerning the disaster that He warned about. 14 As for me, here I am in your hands; do to me what you think is good and right. 15 But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its residents, for it is certain the Lord has sent me to speak all these things directly to you.”
A.W. Pink wrote ‘While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.”
Today there is a rejection of the belief n God’s wrath amongst some theologians and preachers.
For example, Clark Pinnock, wrote in 1990,
I was led to question the traditional belief in everlasting conscious torment because of moral revulsion and broader theological considerations, not first of all on scriptural grounds. It just does not make any sense to say that a God of love will torture people forever for sins done in the context of a finite life . . . It's time for evangelicals to come out and say that the biblical and morally appropriate doctrine of hell is annihilation, not everlasting torment. Clark Pinnock and Delwin Brown, Theological Crossfire: An Evangelical/Liberal Dialogue, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), pp. 226-7.
This is the classical process for how a person moves from being orthodox to unorthodox. Personal emotions and desires combine with speculative reasonings about general ideas, and they take precedence over specific Biblical texts and teachings. You can see the process at work leading people to abandon other Biblical teachings that from time to time don't fit the spirit of the age--and seem unacceptable to enlightened modern people.
A few years ago John Stott wrote, Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain . . . Scripture points in the direction of annihilation. David Edwards, Evangelical essentials, with a Response from John Stott, (Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1988), pp. 314-320.
But the main problem with the view that unbelievers simply go out of existence is that the Bible teaches that those who do not trust in Christ will be punished with eternal suffering. In other words, annihilation leads the church away from Biblical truth. And that always hurts people and dishonours God. Piper
When the Bible says, "Behold the severity of God," we should do that. And the severity of God includes the truth about hell as endless suffering.
We can scarcely surpass the horrid images Jesus used. "Weeping and gnashing of teeth,"4 "their worm shall not die" (Mark 9:48); "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43); "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41); "the hell of fire" (Matthew 18:9); "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46); "anguish in the flame" (Luke 16:24). The point of all these is that we are meant to shudder. We are meant to tremble and feel dread. We are meant to recoil from the reality. Not by denying it but by fleeing from it into the arms of Jesus, who died to save us from it.
Revelation 14:11 is probably the most graphic New Testament statement of the eternal suffering of the unrepentant. "The smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day or night." Torment for ever and ever. The endless suffering of unrepentant sinners is a reality taught in Scripture and therefore good for us to know about.
Preachers who talk about hell are often termed old fashioned, sadistic or cruel. But “Is it cruel to tell a man the truth? Is it cruel to arouse sleeping people whose house is on fire? Is it cruel to jerk a blind man away from a rattle snake? Is it cruel to declare to people the deadlines of their disease and to tell them which medicine to take? I had rather be called cruel for being kind, than kind for being cruel.” R.G.Lee. You can scoff at hell. You can laugh at it. You can even laugh your way into hell. But you cannot laugh your way out of it. -Adrian Rogers.
Daniel 12:2; Matthew 3:12 (Luke 3:17); Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 18:8; Matthew 10:28 (Luke 12:4-5); Matthew 25:41,46; Matthew 26:24; Mark 3:29 and Matthew 12:32; Luke 16:26; Romans 2:6-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 6:1-2; Jude 12-13; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 19:3; Revelation 20:10.
Matthew 8:12;13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.
The forerunner of Christ warned his hearers to "flee from the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:7). The Savior bade His auditors, "Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke 12:5). Paul said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11).
But why do we and why did the Jews of Jeremiah’s day, minimise God’s Wrath?
1. WE GROW USED TO OUR SINS
Vice is a monster of so frightful a mien, That to be trusted needs but to be seen.
Yet, seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
And so it has been in our society and even in the church of God. We have become so used to sin, that we cannot any longer see it for what it is, as the abominable thing which God hates! And as soon as sin becomes a light thing in our minds, the very idea of divine wrath and judgment must give way, for no one can believe in a God who flies into great rage over nothing.
2. WE MUST GROW SERIOUS ABOUT OUR SALVATION
There is a trivialization of Christian thought and ministry, by which things of little importance have wholly displaced things of massive and all consuming importance. The church clearly seems to be more interested today in whether a person is finding self-fulfillment or has a healthy self- image, than whether he or she will fall forever under the punishing and unrelenting judgments of the Almighty. We seem to be in the Church too much today as the driver of a car who worries about his passenger spilling coffee as the car plunges through a guardrail and hurtles over the edge of a high cliff toward the rocks below. We are preparing a race of people who will, like the character in Robert Louis Stevenson's story, be nursing a toothache on the judgement day.
Now the Lord obviously wants us to know these things; to believe them and to attend to them in our thinking and our living. They are part of that sound doctrine, that is, that life-giving, healthy doctrine of which the Scripture is full. The prophets of the Old Testament had to contend in their day, just as we must in ours, with many whose message was all sweetness and light. Micah in his prophecy says: 'If a liar and a deceiver comes and says, "I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer," he would be just the prophet for this people.' (2:11) Today this prophet would have a TV program and it would be popular! But the end of that kind of thinking and preaching, which denies the wrath of God, is not happiness and salvation, but judgment and destruction. So say Micah and all of the prophets!
The fear of hell is a good and useful thing. Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear. Fear him who, after he has killed has the power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:4-5). In other words, fear the judgment of God.
Richard Baxter put it this way: 'Seriousness is the very thing wherein consists our sincerity. If thou art not serious, thou art not a Christian. It is not only a high degree in Christianity, but the very life and essence of it. As fencers on a stage differ from soldiers fighting for their lives, so hypocrites differ from serious Christians.'
Does the peril, the impending doom of people round about us really touch us? Does it drive us to warn them and call upon them to believe in Christ that they may be saved from the very real wrath to come? Are we constrained by the knowledge of what will befall those who are outside of Christ to say that we are a debtor to all men, and 'Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.'