GOD'S FEELINGS CAN TURN NEGATIVE
THE LAMB AND THE LION
In his book Discover Yourself in the Psalms, Warren Wiersbe recalls a story told by an evangelist he heard many years ago. It went like this: "In a frontier town, a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon that had a little child in it. Seeing that the child was in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop it. The child who was rescued grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before, had saved his life, so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced all his pleas: `Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.'"
Jesus stands now, with arms outstretched, as the compassionate Savior of the world, but one day He will be the Judge of all the earth.
This is study number five in our series on the biblical doctrine of compassion. We are presently studying the magnificent compassion of God. Four messages ago we embarked on a long expedition through the uses of various Hebrew and Greek words translated "compassion," "compassions," and "compassionate." We are presently looking at all the Scriptures where the Hebrew word racham (raw-kham'), 7355, is translated "compassion" in relationship to God. Today we shall complete our study of this particular Hebrew word.
After observation and interpretation, I drew from these Scriptures various propositional statements or principles. The particular principle that we have been working on is
Principle #1: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate.
Well, believe it or not, in our last message we completed our concentrated study of the Scriptures that led to that principle. We are now moving on to a new set of Scriptures. We are still looking at the same Hebrew word racham (raw-kham'), 7355, but we will now take up the six times that the word is used with respect to the fact that God's compassion does run out! Yes, God's feelings can turn negative.
My study of these Scriptures led to a new propositional statement or principle:
Principle #2: Jehovah God, as to His nature, is love. He consistently demonstrates His love by being compassionate. But God does have self-imposed limits and boundaries. These limits and boundaries have to do with how we handle sin in our lives. His compassion can run out due to high-handed and unrepented of sin. This running out of His compassion seems to be temporal, with respect to Israel, and not eternal. He sets conditions for restoration to His temporal compassion, but seems to state that in the final analysis His immanent lovingkindness and transitive compassion will be eternally bestowed upon Israel.
We have been working towards the formal stating of this proposition all along, as we studied the first set of Scriptures. Now we have stated it formally.
(As we look at how each of these principles concerning God's compassion is represented in the Scripture, we have been making specific observations in each individual passage of Scripture. Let's begin the study of this new principle with:)
Isaiah 27:11, "When its limbs are dry, they are broken off; Women come and make a fire with them. For they are not a people of discernment, Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And their Creator will not be gracious to them."
Observation 2.1: Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is prophesying about Israel. The previous Scripture states that Israel would lie down and feed on its own branches. Here we see that Israel's branches would be dry and would be broken off. Then women would come and make fire with them. The interpretation and application of this particular metaphor entails more than I really want to get into now! Let it suffice to say that this is a picture of God's judgment upon Israel! Some of her people would be broken off and scattered throughout the Gentile nations. He described Israel, in the process, as a nation that lacked discernment. During this time God would not be demonstrating His compassion or grace towards Israel. A lack of discernment, with respect to sin, short circuits or restrains the compassion of Jehovah God.
This is something that is very important for us to understand. God's temporal compassion does run out! We can sin with a high hand or sin to such an extent that He will no longer be inclined to express His temporal compassion towards us. This is called the sin unto death!
1 John 5:16, "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."
Of course this person does not lose his salvation. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:5, this person's flesh would be destroyed but his spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord! This is because, as we have already studied, God's temporal compassion is the relative, transitive, temporal demonstration of His absolute, intransitive eternal loving kindness.
With respect to the passage of Scripture before us, perhaps Paul is commenting on this passage of Scripture in
Romans 11:17-18,24, "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?"
Here, once again, we have it confirmed that God is not through with Israel. God's love and absolute compassion towards Israel are unconditional and eternal. That is simply remarkable! But remember: His temporal demonstration of His compassion is conditional!
It behooves us then to cultivate Biblical and Spiritual discernment with respect to sin, so that we don't cut off the temporal compassion of God in our lives!!!
Hebrews 5:14, "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
I can tell as I talk to many of us, that we need practice. We have yet to fully learn the difference between good and evil, i.e. good and evil attitudes, good and evil thought patterns, good and evil habits, good and evil people, etc.
This was graphically illustrated to me in the book What Americans Believe. The book is a 1991 survey including the opinions of 1,005 adults randomly chosen from across the nation. The geodemographic profile of the people interviewed very closely reflects that of the population at-large. In this survey, the majority of Americans strongly believe the notion "God helps those who help themselves. Blacks are more likely to agree strongly with this philosophy than whites. Blacks, in particular, are likely to believe strongly that the Bible says God helps those who help themselves.
(This is sad,but it get's even sadder.)
Most people (56%) strongly agree with the statement "Every person has the power to determine his or her own destiny in life." The overall agreement with this statement ought to raise concerns among Christian leaders concerning the underlying philosophy of believers. Self-determination is one of the guiding principles of the New Age Movement. It is possible to argue that believers would respond affirmatively to this statement because they believe that through the acceptance of Christ as their Savior they have the power to determine their eternal destiny.
However, other research has underscored the reality that most Christians are susceptible to embracing perspectives championed by religions which are antithetical to the Christian faith. The facts drawn from this study must challenge us to consider the possibility that many Christians have unwittingly embraced elements of the philosophy of the popularized religions of our society.
(That is sadder, but this is the saddest!)
One-third of all adults strongly agree that Satan is merely symbolic of evil, but does not exist as a true presence. Overall, three out of five adults are inclined to disbelieve in the existence of Satan. Only one in four adults strongly disagreed that Satan is symbolic rather than real. Even Christians and adults associated with Evangelical churches are divided on the real existence of Satan. Can you see why many of us are not experiencing the full compassion of God. We have no discernement concerning good and evil!!!
(Let's move on to the next Scripture.)
Jeremiah 13:14, "`And I will dash them against each other, both the fathers and the sons together,' declares the Lord. `I will not show pity nor be sorry nor have compassion that I should not destroy them.'"
This is in line with observation 2.1.
(Let's hurry on to the next Scripture.)
Jeremiah 21:7, "`Then afterwards,' declares the Lord, `I shall give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword, and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes, and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.'"
This is in line with observation 2.1.
(Let's continue on to the next Scripture.)
Hosea 1:6, "Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, `Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them.'"
Observation 2.2: What an important Scripture. God states that He would never forgive the house of Israel. In light of all the Scriptures that we have read concerning His immanent, absolute, intransitive compassion and the temporal forgiveness that is extended conditionally in time, what does this mean? It means that God cannot, in some cases, forgive sin. He cannot, in hardened cases of sin and rebellion demonstrate His relative, transitive compassion in time. He could no longer have pity upon Israel. He had to operate from His immanent attribute of holiness and His transitive attribute of justice.
Therefore, at this point, He could not forgive Israel and would allow the chastening that was due her to be inflicted. Forgiveness means to remit or release from payment or penalty. God could no longer release her from paying in full for her temporal sins. She would never and could never pay for her eternal debt of sin, that was paid for by God Himself through Jesus Christ.
God's love and compassion toward us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ is immanent, absolute, intransitive, unconditional and eternal because of the death of Jesus upon the cross. Jesus died for the sins of the world. In actuality, He died for the sin of the world to which all other sins are attributed. What sin is that? The sin of unbelief (John 16:9)!!! People are sent to hell not because they sin, but because they have rejected Jesus Christ by refusing to believe in Him. People sin, because they are by nature sinners, i.e. they don't believe in Jesus Christ! But Jesus died and God is now propitiated, i.e. satisfied. Jesus rendered the world savable by His death. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ have been forgiven forever for the sin of unbelief! Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have been forgiven forever and finally of all sins with respect to salvation, but they have not been forgiven for sins with respect to their service and reward!
Neither can God forgive some kinds of sin, i.e. highhanded, premeditated, presumptuous, persistent sin after salvation. We will have to face the temporal wrath of God which manifests itself in chastening His children through physical suffering even to the point of death. You say, "Why?" Because God has sovereignly decreed that every Christian be conformed to the image of His Son, for His own glory! And we will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through growth, chastening or death!!!
Neither can He forgive the sin of ultimate or final disbelief in His Son. The one who finally rejects Jesus Christ must then face the wrath of God. The wrath of God is the lake of fire and brimstone.
(Let's move on to the next Scripture.)
Hosea 2:4, "Also, I will have no compassion on her children, Because they are children of harlotry."
Observation 2.3: We have already seen that God's compassion can run out, i.e. certain kinds of sin will short circuit or prohibit God from demonstrating His temporal compassion. Well in this passage of Scripture, we see a specific sin which, when persisted in, will short circuit the compassion of God. That sin is harlotry. Harlotry represents here idol worship. Israel was God's chosen bride, but she played the harlot before other gods. God repeatedly and tirelessly extended His compassion and forgiveness towards His wayward wife, but she persisted in her harlotry until God gave her up to her vile affections. God had to divorce her, until he could justly reconcile her to Himself.
O Christian, O church, herein lies a warning for us! Don't short circuit the compassion of God in your life by sinning against Him and choosing others over Him.
Hebrews 10:31, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Ephesians 4:30, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
(Let's consider the final Scripture under this principle.)
Zechariah 1:12, "Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, `O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which Thou hast been indignant these seventy years?"
Observation 2.4: The angel of the Lord was talking to the prophet Zechariah, when the Israelites were exiles in the land of Persia? This is in keeping with the observation made in observation 2.1. God's compassion ran out and He allowed His people to be taken into bitter captivity because of their sins and rebellion. He had no compassion upon them for 70 years while they were in captivity. Although we have by necessity discussed wrath in this message, this is the first time that the anger of God has come up directly in our study with respect to compassion. We know that God's compassion can run out, but now we can also see that God is also angry when His compassion has run out! When God's compassion runs out, He refuses to forgive.
When His compassion runs out, He pours out His justice. Justice is the negative side of God's holiness. Holiness is God's absolute moral purity. It manifests itself positively in righteousness, which is God's love of holiness. It manifests itself negatively in justice, which is God requiring payment for the offending of His holiness. And wrath is how God feels or the results of how He feels about justice.
Holiness is an immanent, absolute, intransitive attribute of God. Righteousness and justice are relative, transitive, manifestations of God's holiness in time! God's wrath can be the eternal display of His feelings about injustice which is the lake of fire, or the temporal demonstration of how He feels about temporal justice.
The wrath or anger of God is the reverse side, the jealous side, of His fervent love, i.e. love is fervently positive, just as jealousy is fervently negative or angry. In the New Testament, God's mercy and grace are seen in juxtaposition to His wrath.
A JEALOUS GOD
We ask, what comfort is there in knowing that God is a jealous God? Somehow jealousy doesn't seem to fit deity. Unlike sinful, human jealousy, with God it is a holy zeal, a zeal that guards the loving relationship between Himself and man. And His zeal burns with holy hatred toward anything that would destroy that fellowship. This is seen in
Zechariah 1:14, "So the angel who was speaking with me said to me, `Proclaim, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, `I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.'"'"
These words concerning God's holy jealousy of Jerusalem are words of grace and comfort.
We get a small glimpse of this in marriage. When two people truly love each other, there should be an intense desire to preserve the relationship. To feel no jealousy if a third person tries to intrude would be wrong. Exclusiveness is at the very heart of marriage. Therefore, to guard it fiercely is proper. Even the Bible recognizes the rightness of such jealousy in marriage (Num. 5:11-31 the test of jealousy).
Zechariah's prophecy was directed to a group of Jews who had returned to the land to rebuild the temple after 70 years of captivity. To encourage them, God said, "I am exceedingly jealous..." These words assured them that the God who had chastened them still loved them and wouldn't let them go.
Knowing that the compassion of God can run out, we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
Then we should be aware of the method of restoring God's compassion, which is repentance from and confession of sins.
Then we should rejoice in the light of the eternal compassion of God!
Hebrews 12:28-29, "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire."
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, now!)
Call to Discipleship
George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura California, 1991, pp. 15-16.
George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura California, 1991, p. 80.
George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura California, 1991, p. 218.
George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura California, 1991, p. 214.
George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Ventura California, 1991, pp. 204-205.