Saturday, November 26, 2005

God's Grace and a Pure Heart

I've been reading through Jeremiah and Lamentations in my Bible reading, and I have to admit there are parts where God's pronounced judgement against Israel is scary. It's not like God is saying to his unruly kid, "I'm going to give you a swat if you don't straighten up", it's more like, "I am going to beat you within an inch of your life if you don't change this behavior right now!" Actually, it might even be more like, "Your kids are going to suffer from your wrong decisions, some of you are going to die and you are going to know that I am not happy with what you have done and furthermore, you are going to know that it is me who is punishing you." God was not happy!

All of this made me think about some of the accusations I have heard railed against God: "Why would I want to serve a God who kills women and children? Why would I want to serve a God who forces people to obey him?", etc.

And then in the midst of all God's warning about the judgement coming upon Israel, I found verses like these:

For the Lord Almighty has not forsaken Israel and Judah. He is still their God, even though the land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel . (Jeremiah 51:5, NLT)

Have you heard what they are saying? The Lord chose Judah and Israel and then abandoned them! They're sneering and saying Israel is not worthy to be counted as a nation. But this is the Lord's reply: I would not more reject my people than I would change my laws of night and day, of earth and sky. (Jeremiah 33:24-25, NLT)

And then I made the following observations:
  1. It was God's people (who knew him, knew his demands and knew his blessings) that he was punishing, not some people who could claim this was unexpected
  2. God had given LOTS of warnings and opportunities to repent
  3. God's grace and mercy was great even in the face of his judgement. In the face of great sin, God promised not to reject his people forever
  4. God's anger was righteous. He punished not out of anger but out of a desire for redemption
I never have understood how mere humans think they can make an accusation against God. Even if the above were not true, could not the Creator of heaven and earth decide what he wants to do in the midst of his own creation? Instead of railing against God maybe we should take the more humble approach as David did:

Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, "Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?" (Psalm 8:4, Message)

And then the same day I read these passages from Jeremiah, I also read Hebrews 9:13-14:

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For my the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (NLT)

Thank you, Lord, for your great grace and mercy in my life. Thank you that the blood of Christ can purify my heart!

- Rob

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