Who loves perfectly? Well, that would be God. Whose Spirit has been given to those who have been called with “a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity”? (2 Tim. 1:9, NASB) Again, that would be God. About Whom did Paul write, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from…” Whose Love? That would be God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39, NASB)
Why, then, are so many afraid that the God Who has repeatedly stated His Love for us is constantly seeking to punish, cripple, or impede us with frequent, irrational acts of malice or acts of judgment?
These two paragraphs ended last week’s reflection, along with the observation that those who fear that God possesses and demonstrates a capricious, vindictive nature really don’t know Him at all….and they do not understand the nature of the New Covenant.
An example that I believe has relevance is the far-reaching concern about “the Isaiah 9:10 judgments,” theorized to have begun with the World Trade Center attacks (9/11/2001). To me, they seem to be a perfect example of applying the fabric of the old wineskin to the new wine, and hypothesizing an old wineskin result. It’s God in a box, it’s an Old Wineskin Formula-for-God’s-judgment-
There are three significant covenants that God makes between Genesis and Deuteronomy, or between post-Eden and God crossing His people into the Promised Land. The first is His covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:8-13, in which He states, “…I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you…all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood; never again shall the water become a flood to destroy the earth.” (NASB) The second follows His promise to Abram (not yet Abraham), in which He directs Abram to go “to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation…and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse (*footnote, ‘bind under a curse.’)” (Gen. 12:3, NASB, parens added) Abram is 99 years old (many years after God’s initial promise) when God states, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly… you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham… kings will come forth from you…I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you…this is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised…” (Gen. 17:2-7,10 NASB)
The third covenant is found in Deuteronomy. To give it context, Deuteronomy 7:9-11 reads, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.” (NASB) Deut. 7:12-16 lists out the rewards if the people “listen to these judgments and keep and do them”; in Deut. 11:18-21, God tells the people to “impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul,” and He summarizes in Deut. 11:26, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.” (Deut. 11:26-28, NASB)
That’s a lot of background… but we are about to fast-forward.
Here is how I see these things coming together: I suspect the passages in Deuteronomy form the “core” of the issue for those who believe they “know” God and yet genuinely dread interacting with Him or contemplating His actions towards them. Put differently, a large majority of real-time Christians are able to acknowledge that, collectively, “we” are a “New Covenant people.” But in their minds and hearts, they believe that God – even after having proclaimed, set in motion, having completed a “new covenant” through the finished work of Christ, the Messiah – that God is stuck in the era of Deuteronomy, ready to pounce on those who “do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God.”
Now, the fast-forward…and let’s starts with 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (NASB) I like the contemporary clarity given this verse by The Message, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Tim. 3:15-17)
“Shaped up for the tasks God has for us”….”adequate, equipped for every good work”…
Does it sound like Paul is talking about a God Who is searching high and low for a reason to cause us calamity, pain, and judgment…or is this part of the “new wineskin” which He is carefully grooming to hold more and more of the new wine?
John states in I John, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love…” (I John 4:16, NASB) Earlier, he writes, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8, NASB) Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…” (Eph. 2:4, NASB) And to Titus, Paul wrote, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our savior…” (Eph. 3:4-6, italics added NASB)
Again, Paul’s statement to the Romans: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, or things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39, NASB)
With all this “love stuff” throughout Scripture, then, where do all those multiple Scriptures regarding “the fear of the Lord” fit in to our lives, our walk, our understanding of (and fellowship with) Him?
Hold that thought – and check out next week’s Journal. That is where we will pick up.