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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grace is Amazing

We like grace. Mercy is good. Love is pleasant. And, of course, God is gracious, merciful, and love, so that's like ... a really big grace, mercy, and love, right? Oh, that we could see more clearly.

About a hundred years after Jonah's miraculous visit to Ninevah where Ninevah heard the warnings and repented, Nahum has a message for Ninevah. It's not good. They've forgotten God. It is a proclamation of doom. But look what Nahum says about God at the outset.
A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. (Nah 1:2-3)
One might be tempted to ask, "Now, which is it? Is He jealous, avenging, and wrathful, or is He slow to anger?" And the answer from Nahum would be "Yes ... yes He is ... both."

We're really pleased with the loving, merciful, gracious God. This jealous, avenging, wrathful one isn't tops on our list. Nahum says, "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire And the rocks are broken up by Him." (Nah 1:6) Not an image we find pleasant.

Now, anyone who is aware of my normal writing would say, "Now, hang on here, Stan. It's Sunday. Don't you usually write something uplifting here? Where are you going with this?" I'm going where Nahum goes. In the very next verse he writes, "The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him." (Nah 1:7)

You see, it would be a mistake to see God as only gracious, merciful, and loving. And it would be an equal mistake to see Him as only wrathful, jealous, and avenging. Both are true. Both are necessary.

Grace, you see, is only truly amazing when we see the wrath that His grace sets aside. Mercy is only great mercy when the penalty that we have justly earned is not applied is truly great. Only a look at the wrath and jealousy of God can give a full appreciation for God's amazing grace.


Craig said...

This seems like such a no brainer. Without meaningful sin (i.e. no " little" sins), and without just punishment for sin, then forgiveness and grace really has no value. If we don't have a proper view of sinfulness, both individually and corporately, then grace becomes just an expectation. Forgiveness becomes something that God owes us, or that we deserve.

I just don't understand how you can value forgiveness and grace when you come to the party believing that humanity is fundamentally good and that we start out free from sin.

Stan said...

Or that wrath and hell are unjust.