“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
The end God has in mind regarding our sufferings is not just our personal conformity to Christ, but also the conformity of the whole church to Christ, so that all of God’s people will be fit to enjoy fellowship with God forever. It is one thing to be entitled to eternal life; it is another thing to be fit for it. We therefore suffer for the sake of the church (those who are already in it, as well as those who will someday be in it). We die that others may live; but if they live, we live too, in the sense that we all become fit to enjoy the presence of a holy God. Holiness is pleasant only for those who are fit to bear it; otherwise, it is a consuming fire. There will be degrees of nearness to God in heaven, depending on our holiness. All the redeemed will be there, but some will be nearer to God than others. We will all be perfectly happy in heaven, but the joy of some will be greater than others. They have wept more profusely, therefore they will rejoice more exceedingly.
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“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation everyday.” (Psalm 7)
God can and does feel anger, but it is a righteous anger consistent with his righteous character. The Bible depicts God as a being who has emotions, but these emotions are under his control. If ever he becomes angry it is because he chooses to be. It is in this light that we should understand the biblical passages that describe him as being provoked by our sins. Being omniscient, he is not caught by surprise by them; nevertheless, he is genuinely provoked and his anger is genuine as well.
“If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword.” (Psalm 7)
The threat is real and should not be taken lightly. In 1 Kings ch. 16, because Baasha provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger with his idols, the Lord destroyed all his house (i.e., family) through the hand of Zimri, in accordance with what the Lord spoke by Jehu the prophet.
Do we take the Lord’s anger lightly? Do we provoke him to anger?
Lord, forgive us for the many times we have provoked you to anger. Help us to fear you with a holy fear. Amen.
My God is not stupid;
He’s wiser than you are.
Do not presume to judge Him;
He knows you from afar.
His thoughts are higher than our thoughts,
His ways above our ways;
Our wisdom’s but a tiny drop
In the ocean of His days.
If it were easy to discern Him,
Then He would not be God;
To pit your puny mind against His
Is proof that you are mad.
Look to the mighty stars of heaven,
The worlds that fill the sky;
Great is the wisdom that has made them.
Kneel, then, and weep, and cry!
What shall I pursue
with vigor unrelenting?
A face no man can see,
a voice heard only in stillness,
a presence too real for mere sense.
All other things lose their relish
sooner or later.
I have tasted heaven once,
and now all else is insipid.
For the meantime I am dull;
my heart is hard, unfeeling.
But Hope hopes on:
it is its nature.
Oh, to delight once more
in things eternal!
To taste the sweetness of Deity,
To have Joy fill the heart to brimming,
To have Love prompt the soul to singing!
Maybe Tears will flow soon;
that is the way.
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)
Faith is a commitment in the context of relationship. It is the response of intimacy, issuing or arising from the sense or realization that that relationship has been in place all along, from the very beginning. From my youth up – even from my mother’s womb – I have been protected, guided, cared for. “My times are in your hands!” Why are my times not absolutely chaotic, such as we would expect from an absolutely godless world? The forces of chaos do not reign supreme; they are held in check. His hands are there caring for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. My times are my times – a bit of meaningful history, even if not completely comprehensible – because his hands are there: He is there, and my times are in his hands.
Berkouwer, on page 258 of his The Providence of God writes about the wrath of God:
Apart from God’s wrath neither His righteousness nor holiness, neither His love nor mercy can be understood… Wrath is the implication of God’s holiness. It must direct itself against evil… God’s wrath is not arbitrariness… It is the exalted reaction of His holiness.
But he also points out that –
God show His goodness and forgiveness in this, that He does not keep His anger forever (Mic. 7:18) The question “who knoweth the power of thine anger,” is the converse of the question, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity…?” (Micah 7:18)
Thus, Berkouwer can conclude that “In God’s forgiveness, it is also possible to recognize His righteousness, His wrath and His holiness.” How come? Because this same righteous and wrathful God gave his Son for our redemption, who bore the penalty of our sins (i.e., the wrath of God) so that we might receive forgiveness. And in fact when Christ hung on the cross as our sin-bearer and substitute “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (II Cor. 5:19). The wrathful God is the God of love!
Plain theology delights in its very act of thinking, reading, praying, and communing – not for the effects, written artifacts, or social consequences … but for the beauty of their subject …. The study of God is to be simply enjoyed for its own unique subject: the One most beautiful of all, most worthy to be praised.
– Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 96