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Archive for the ‘judgement’ Category

Judgement and Jealousy

People often recoil from these two J words.  Judgement and jealousy can sound like horrible aspects of the Lord’s character.  But actually when you put the two together, you see a very different picture.

Judgement and jealousy are regularly twinned in the bible:

Ex 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 29:20; 32:16,21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Ps 78:58; 79:5; Is 9:7; 26:11; 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; Ezek 5:13; 8:3ff; 16:38,42; 23:25; 35:11; 36:5; 36:6; 38:19; Joel 2:18; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Zech 1:14; 8:2,3; 1 Cor 10:22; Heb 10:27

In fact Jealousy is at the very heart of the LORD’s character:

Exodus 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Song of Solomon 8:6 …Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy is the very Name and Flame of the LORD!

We baulk at this, having only negative connotations for ‘jealousy’.  But…

a) The word in Hebrew and Greek can as well be translated zeal (in fact in Greek it is zelos!  See the way it’s used in Rom 10:2 or Phil 3:6 for instance).  In Hebrew it is derived from the word for ‘red’.  It’s the idea of hot-blooded commitment.

b) The bible has all sorts of examples of good jealousy on a human level (e.g. 2 Cor 7:7,11; 9:2; 11:2)

c) Jealous love is – first of all – good, appropriate, hot-blooded, protective, possessive zealous ardour.  Only secondarily does it imply opposition to rivals.  And the existence of negative jealousy (e.g. Gal 5:20) is in fact a perversion of true jealous love.  It is a zeal but not according to knowledge.

d) This is a good example of how all love must include a righteous jealousy or it’s not true love.  Dr Braintree is not demonstrating true love to his wife because he’s not expressing real jealousy about Roger’s adultery…

So the God who is love is a Jealous God.  That is His original and all-pervading nature.

Secondarily this implies a certain stance towards rivals – towards those who would threaten, steal, oppose or belittle His love.  But this is absolutely secondary.  Originally and to His very depths, God is love and the flame of His passion is the sunshine of His love.

However if and when rivals appear, that same flame will burn but with markedly different consequences:

Zephaniah 1:18 In the fire of His jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.

Zephaniah 3:8 In the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

The whole world is headed for the flames.  God will be all in all when He consumes the world.  For those hidden by the LORD (Zephaniah means ‘The LORD Hides’) they will experience the sunshine of His love – as Zephaniah 3 goes on to describe.  For those who stand apart from their Refuge it will be a judging, ravaging fire.

Same flames – very different experience.

“How can a God of love judge?” cries the outraged sceptic.

Well there should be outrage in that question.  But it shouldn’t be outrage towards God.  The great tragedy is that there are rivals to the love of God.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?  (Ezekiel 33:11)

Judgement is not necessary as though the flames burn brighter when the wicked are fuel.  That would be like saying that jealous marital love requires adultery.  No.  Judgement is the strange and alien work of the LORD (Isaiah 28:21).  But, when confronted with rivals, it’s the work of the LORD who burns with love.

It should be very obvious from this that love and judgement are not incompatible.

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It’s your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  Your father’s holding a big dinner as a surprise for Mum.  He wants the whole family there.  Everyone.  Including your wretched brother – a heroin addict who’s been nothing but trouble.  Your father has been through hell trying to keep him alive and out of prison.  He’s even had to pay off mobsters with extortionate sums to stop them killing him.

At every stage your brother has shamed the family.  And at every stage your parents have pursued the boy and bailed him out.  They’ve paid any price to bring him back.

You, on the other hand, have never been any trouble.  You’ve kept out of your parents’ way, put your head down and worked hard.  You spent your teenage years hitting the books and keeping yourself to yourself.  The first chance you got, you left home and made your way in the world.  You didn’t need any help and you never asked Dad for a penny.

Now your father wants the whole family to sit around the same table.  And, wouldn’t you know it, your brother is actually keen on the whole idea!  It’s unthinkable.  You can’t go. You won’t go.

First you avoid your brother’s calls. Then your father rings: “Please son I want you all there.”

Unbelievable.  You’re being cast as the bad guy?  You’re the sticking point?  How ridiculous!  Can’t everyone see, it’s your brother.

But Dad continues to press you.  “Son, I haven’t seen you in so long, can we meet face to face?”  No we cannot, you think.  There was something deeply disturbing about your father’s gaze.  He seemed to search your face for something that just wasn’t there.  And you both knew it.  You’d been avoiding that gaze for as long as you could remember.

“Well then,” he asks “would you do it for your mother?” Oh, now he’s playing that card is he?  Fury grips you.  This is precisely the problem.  Some households have a little thing called family manners.  With yours it’s all family and no manners.  It’s all caring and no consequences.  Well no longer.

If it’s a choice between brotherhood and behaviour, you pick behaviour.  And you hope they choke on their mercy meal.

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Hell is not an equal opposite to heaven.

Hell is outer darkness, shut out from the Light.

Hell is the judgement flowing from God’s mercy.

Hell is for good people.

Hell is getting what you want.

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A sermon on the theme

Audio  Video  Text  Powerpoint

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This time I’m ripping off Steve Levy.  But I can’t do it like he does it.

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Audio  Video  Text  Powerpoint

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We’re in the middle of Ask Eastbourne at the moment – please be praying that folks keep coming and trust in Jesus.

Here’s a section of tonight’s talk I’ll have to leave on the cutting room floor.  I’m speaking about “What happens when we die?”

With Jesus we have the only gracious Judge the world has ever conceived.  I want to be very clear here: There is only ONE gracious Judge and His name is Jesus.

That’s a bold statement I know, but I thought I’d put it to the test by considering the top 5 spiritual beliefs in the world.  Let’s compare what they believe about judgement.

Christianity is number one, let’s look at the number 2 belief in the world: Islam.

Who is the Judge?  Allah.  Now Allah continually calls himself the compassionate and merciful.  But even Mohammed was utterly terrified by the prospect of judgement day.  He had no confidence that he would fare well on the last day.  Allah told him he would inherit paradise but, in the Quran Allah is known as the Best of Deceivers (Sura 3:54).  And Mohammed knew that he couldn’t trust Allah to save him.  His promise might be a deception.  So Mohammed did not trust Allah to save him.  And the Quran forbids you to trust him for that day (Sura 7:99)

Interestingly, the next in line after Mohammed was a man called Abu Bakr – the first Caliph in Islam.  When someone tried to encourage Abu Bakr that he would probably do alright on judgement day Abu Bakr said:

By Allah! I would not rest assured and feel safe from the deception of Allah, even if I had one foot in paradise.’”

No Muslim can presume to know how they will fare with Allah on judgement day.  And the very greatest Muslims were terrified of coming before that judge.

Let’s consider the third most popular belief in the world: No religion.  Now if you don’t believe in God, you have not escaped judgement have you?  You are still at the mercy of bigger forces than you, aren’t you?  You will be judged by decay and death.  And you will get absolutely no mercy from death.  No-one has ever avoided that judgement.  Death is, perhaps, the least merciful judge of all.  And it’s certainly the least hopeful.

What about the number 4 belief in the world: Hinduism.  Here your fate in the afterlife is determined by your Karma.  If you do good, you’ll accumulate good karma, maybe you’ll get reincarnated as a priest.  If you do bad, you get bad karma, you’ll get reincarnated as a donkey or something.  But it’s all down to you.  There is no mercy whatsoever.  It’s all about earning.

The number 5 belief in the world is Buddhism.  The Buddha started life as a Hindu, but he didn’t like the idea of continually being reincarnated.  So his hope for the future is “Nirvana” when you finally get off the merry-go-round of re-incarnation.  Then your soul is “blown out” like a candle.  That’s what Nirvana means – it means being blown out.  So Buddhism again teaches that your after-life is down to your karma – down to your performance.  And the ultimate hope is non-existence.

So have a look at the beliefs in the world and know that, apart from Jesus, there is NO MERCY from the Judge and NO CERTAIN HOPE for the outcome.

But with Jesus…

Here’s what the Judge of the world has done, according to the Bible.  Jesus is the judge who has stepped down off the judgement bench.  He’s put Himself into our shoes. He’s taken our side completely – we who are in the dock.  He has stood with us.  And then on the cross He stands for us.  On the cross He takes HELL on Himself.  He takes our Hell, to give us heaven.  And He does it so He can offer anyone and everyone eternal life.

This is the Judge in Christianity.  A Judge who is judged.  A Judge who pays the price for our sins and offers us free forgiveness.  What a Judge!  You will not find any other Judge like this Judge.  In religion, in atheism, in all the world – you won’t find a Judge like Jesus.  Run to Jesus.  He gives you immeasurable mercy and a certain hope for the future.

When you hear that Jesus judges the world – don’t hear that as bad news.  It’s GREAT news.  Jesus judges the world!  We should rejoice to know that Jesus is Judge.  He’s the Judge we want.

 

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Every year Steve Levy’s congregation ask him to preach his hell sermon.  They invite their friends and people become Christians.  It’s phenomenal preaching and if you ask me it’s exactly the way to speak of judgement.

Hell is already on us.  We experience it (John 3:18,36; Romans 1:18).  We see the “trailers” for the main feature and everything screams at us “You do not want to go there!”  Jesus does not come into the world to save some and damn others.  He comes into a condemned world only to save.  We are not at a cross-roads with heaven or hell in the power of our choosing.  Hell is on us.  Our only response is to turn to the Saviour.

Download here.

Also check out the rest of the Mount Pleasant sermons.  Wonderful stuff – including some recent Blackham sermons too.

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Sermon Audio

Powerpoint

We love to judge.

George Carlin once noted a universal rule of the road: Everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot.  And everyone who drives faster is a maniac.

To the speeding driver, everyone’s an idiot.  To the slow driver, everyone’s a maniac. But one rule applies to all:  My speed is just right.

Two weeks ago the BBC, CNN, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and many other news sites and blogs have reported a hoax as fact. The hoax was this: Internet Explorer users are less intelligent than those using other web browsers.

It is a lie that has spread like wildfire despite the thinnest of fabricated “evidence” produced by a website cobbled together in the last month. Why did this lie find such instant and universal acceptance (amongst the web-savvy anyway)? Because we love to judge.

David Cameron shortly after the riots said that pockets of our society are not just broken but sick.  Pockets?

Rioters; Politicians; Police; Media

We feel superior, but you know what they say?  When you point the finger at others, you have three fingers pointing back.

Jesus says:

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus says there’s two realities you can buy into.  Either Judgement and condemnation; or Giving and forgiving.

Jesus tells us the currency that God deals in.  Verse 36:

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:36)

He is in the forgiveness game.  What game are we in?

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Exodus 7-10 – The Plagues

Recap:

We saw last time that the LORD is a God of Promise.  Read Exodus 6:6-8 to remind yourself of His seven-fold “I will” to the people.

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Zephaniah 3 sermon

Zephaniah 1 sermon here.

Zephaniah 2 sermon here.

Zephaniah prophesied during Josiah’s reign – years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC.  The Babylonian army was about to sack the city of God, to destroy the temple of God and to carry into exile the people of God.  And Zephaniah rightly thinks to himself – if the city of God, the house of God and the people of God aren’t safe from destruction, then nothing is safe.  If the very house of God is going to be judged, then the whole world will one day be judged.  And so this national crisis that Zephaniah faced made him think of the global crisis we will all face when the LORD judges the earth.

The whole world is heading for the flames (Zeph 1:18; 3:8).  And these flames are the LORD’s jealous love (cf Song 8:6)- see more on the jealous judgement of God here.

For the proud, who stand alone in the face of the coming judgement, this will be a judging, consuming fire.  For those who are sheltered by the LORD who hides (Zephaniah means the LORD hides), these flames will only refine and bring us into the sunshine of His love.

In Zephaniah 3:9-20 we see Refining (v9-13); Rejoicing (v14-17) and Restoration (v18-20).

These verses are some of the most extraordinary depictions of our future hope ever written.  From the deepest depths to the highest heights, Zephaniah takes us through law to gospel.  He shows us our utter hopelessness in ourselves and then, in this passage, proclaims our glorious future in Christ.

We usually live in the dreary middle, thinking our badness is not that bad and our God and His future is not that good.  Zephaniah tells us the truth.  And once we have faced the realities of our helplessness he will blow us away even more by the LORD’s overwhelming love.

Our biggest battle in the Christian life is to trust the LORD’s love for us – sinners though we undoubtedly are.  Zephaniah will urge us to renounce ourselves – our badness and our goodness.  And to simply allow God’s blazing love to shine on us in all His glory!

Zephaniah 3 sermon audio here.

Text below…

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Not justice.

Jealousy.

Judgement and jealousy come together so often in the bible:

Ex 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 29:20; 32:16,21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Ps 78:58; 79:5; Is 9:7; 26:11; 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; Ezek 5:13; 8:3ff; 16:38,42; 23:25; 35:11; 36:5; 36:6; 38:19; Joel 2:18; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Zech 1:14; 8:2,3; 1 Cor 10:22; Heb 10:27

In fact Jealousy is at the very heart of the LORD’s character:

Exodus 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Song of Solomon 8:6 …Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy is the very Name and Flame of the LORD!

We baulk at this, having only negative connotations for ‘jealousy’.  But…

a) The word in Hebrew and Greek can as well be translated zeal (in fact in Greek it is zelos!  See the way it’s used in Rom 10:2 or Phil 3:6 for instance).  In Hebrew it is derived from the word for ‘red’.  It’s the idea of hot-blooded commitment.

b) The bible has all sorts of examples of good jealousy on a human level (e.g. 2 Cor 7:7,11; 9:2; 11:2)

c) Jealous love is – first of all – good, appropriate, hot-blooded, protective, possessive zealous ardour.  Only secondarily does it imply opposition to rivals.  And the existence of negative jealousy (e.g. Gal 5:20) is in fact a perversion of true jealous love.  It is a zeal but not according to knowledge.

d) This is a good example of how all love must include a righteous jealousy or it’s not true love.

So the God who is love is a Jealous God.  That is His original and all-pervading nature.

Secondarily this implies a certain stance towards rivals – towards those who would threaten, steal, oppose or belittle His love.  But this is absolutely secondary.  Originally and to His very depths, God is love and the flame of His passion is the sunshine of His love.

However if and when rivals appear, that same flame will burn but with markedly different consequences:

Zephaniah 1:18 In the fire of His jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.

Zephaniah 3:8 In the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

The whole world is headed for the flames.  God will be all in all when He consumes the world.  For those hidden by the LORD (Zephaniah means ‘The LORD Hides’) they will experience the sunshine of His love – as Zephaniah 3 goes on to describe.  For those who stand apart from their Refuge it will be a judging, ravaging fire.

Same flames – very different experience.

“How can a God of love judge?” cries the outraged sceptic.

Well there should be outrage in that question.  But it shouldn’t be outrage towards God.  The great tragedy is that there are rivals to the love of God.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?  (Ezekiel 33:11)

Judgement is not necessary as though the flames burn brighter when the wicked are fuel.  That would be like saying that jealous marital love requires adultery.  No.  Judgement is the strange and alien work of the LORD (Isaiah 28:21).  But, when confronted with rivals, it’s the work of the LORD who burns with love.

It shoud be very obvious from this that love and judgement are not incompatible.

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Audio here

Ever since Genesis 3 we’ve had the sense that the world out there and our hearts in here are headed somewhere bad.  And it’s not going to end well.

We’ve all got our doomsday stories.

And in the popular imagination there’s nothing like a post-apocalyptic vision of a deserted city for grabbing our attention.  How many times has New York been destroyed on film?

Well Zephaniah is facing the destruction of Jerusalem and its imminent demise is making him think of the end of the world.  Because if the people of God and the city of God and the house of God are about to be judged – then nothing and no-one is safe.  The judgement of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC is a picture of the judgement of the whole world.

And so as Zephaniah thinks of global judgement, he paints his own picture of a deserted city.  In verse 13 he turns his attention to perhaps the world’s greatest city of the day – Nineveh.  And he says this:

Look at v13

13 He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. 14 Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. 15 This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.

It sounds just like one of those films.  But the bible insists that there IS a right fear of the end of the world.  Judgement is coming.  And all our human securities WILL be overturned.

Things can’t go on like this forever.  Life as we know it is moving towards judgement day.  And even just on an individual level, our own bodies are decaying and falling apart, the physical world is groaning beneath us.  And one day it will come crashing down.

Which means if you don’t like Zephaniah 2 and all the bible’s teaching on judgement – well I completely understand that.  It’s not meant to be pleasant reading.  It’s a bit like the fire alarm going off.  No-one likes the fire alarm going off.  Our smoke detector is very sensitive and it’ll go off the second I’ve burnt the toast.  That’s annoying and I usually then take the battery out of the alarm until I’m done cooking.  But I’d be stupid to take the battery out for good.  I’d be stupid to throw away the fire alarm.  And I’d be stupid to complain that the alarm was too loud and shrill for my liking.  It’s meant to be loud and shrill, it’s meant to be inconvenient, it’s meant to disturb people so that it saves lives.

And it’s the same with Scripture’s warnings.  But so often we’re like the person who takes out the battery and chucks it away.  We skip over the judgement stuff because it’s a bit loud and shrill.  Well it’s meant to be. But as disturbing and inconvenient as the fire alarm is – it’s nothing compared to the fire itself.  And compared to these warnings in the bible, they are nothing compared to the judgement they warn us of.  These warnings need to shock us out of our complacency and make us face reality.

There is a judgement, there is a reckoning, there is a last day, I will face Christ my Maker.  And you can’t escape judgement by throwing the bible away and more than you can escape a fire by chucking away the fire alarm.

But even if you do throw the bible away, the world will sell you its own doomsday stories.  Even without the bible you’ll still be told of catastrophic global warming and killer pandemics and the sun dying, the earth choking, the seas rising, the universe freezing.  And just on an individual level, you’ll still get a call from the doctor to say  “The results of the tests have come back, I think you’d better come into my surgery…”  Your body will still go into the ground and rot along with everyone you love.  You can’t escape judgement by throwing the bible away.  And no-one should call the bible primitive for talking about Armageddon. We’ve all got our judgement day stories.

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I’m trying to think of examples from films where the bad guy gets his comeuppance and we punch the air.

So Mark Wahlberg taking down Matt Damon in the Departed.

Or the camp commandant executed at the end of Schindler’s List.

Or the dragon eating Lord Farquaad at the end of Shrek.

Any more?

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Zephaniah 1:1-2:3

Audio here

What is our hope for the world?  Many things threaten our planet and our lives, many dangers, many problems.  What is our hope for the world?

Let me give you Zephaniah’s answer.  What is our hope for the world?  Judgement.  Universal, inescapable, final judgement.  That is our HOPE for the world.  Interesting answer isn’t it?  But I think it’s really profound.  And if we understand it – really helpful.

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Mike Reeves talks about Adam and Christ in these great audios on sin and evil.  Once we frame creation and salvation as the story of two men we see things much clearer.

For one thing we’re able to honour Christ not only as Substitute but also as Representative.  And we need both.

You see Christ drinks the cup so that – in one sense – we don’t have to (Mark 10:38).  But in another sense we do drink the cup He drinks and are baptised with the baptism with which He is baptised (Mark 10:39).  He does die for us so that we do not face that same judging fire – this is His substitution.  But we also die in Him experiencing it as a purifying fire – this is His representation.

We tend to be good at ‘substitution’ talk but not so good at ‘representation’ talk.  Consider this fairly common way of conceiving salvation and judgement…

salvation-judgement1

Here the key players are the saved and the damned.  Christ is not in the picture.  But of course once we’ve set things up like this, Christ becomes extremely necessary.  But He’s necessary in that the cross becomes the accounting tool required to balance the justice books.  Without the cross the story doesn’t work.  So in that sense Christ is central.  But in effect, He’s a peripheral figure only required because other factors are calling the shots.

When things are viewed like this, Christ is very much thought of as ‘substitute’ but not really ‘representative’.  And, when the details are pressed, even His substitution will start to look very unlike the biblical portrait.

We need a better formulation.  We’ll think of 1 Peter 4 and then tie this back to Adam and Christ.

In 1 Peter 4:17 it says that judgement begins with the house of God.  It doesn’t say ‘Judgement avoids the house of God.’  It begins there.  It begins with Christ, the true Temple of God.  It continues with the church, the temple of God in another sense.  But then it flows out to the world – God’s house in yet another sense.

salvation-judgement2

Here humanity is judged.  And this is where Adam and Christ will be so helpful for us.

The LORD pronounces His curse on Adam.  And all humanity is in him.  “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Rom 5:12)  It is a universal judgement.  No exceptions.  The only path to salvation is the path through judgement.

But Adam is a type of the One to come (Rom 5:14).  He was only ever setting the scene for Christ to take centre stage.  And He does so, assuming the very humanity of Adam as substitute and representative.

salvation-judgement31

Here centre stage is not occupied by the two bodies of people (the damned and the saved).  What’s driving everything is the two humanities (Adam and Christ).  And the former is expressly a type of the Latter.  And the Latter expressly assumes the fate of the former.  So that in all things Christ will have the preeminence! (Col 1:18)

These diagrams were originally used in a blog post on judgement and salvation in Isaiah and for a sermon on Isaiah 2:6-22 (listen here).

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Yesterday I heard yet another talk on 2 Corinthians 5 in which it was simply assumed that ‘the judgement seat of Christ’ (v10) is a believer-only judgement.  Now certainly the “we” includes believers – but why is it so rarely taught from this verse that the whole world is brought before Christ’s throne?  Surely that’s the context in which we evangelize the world (v11ff).

Instead I’ve heard many a time that Christ’s judgement seat is the living room of His discipline rather than the court room of God’s wrath.  It seems to be assumed that Christ’s judgement seat is a rap over the knuckles for Christians.  (And this is our motivation for evangelism, rather than the world-wide fiery judgement of the living and the dead).  By implication do we think “God’s judgement seat” would be the really scary one?  If Paul said “God’s” instead of “Christ’s” would we so readily take this as some form of ‘judgement-lite’?  In short: is it cos we’re Arians?

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Here are seven thoughts that occurred to me as I was studying Revelation 6 and the wrath of the Lamb.  This is the sermon I preached.  And here are my seven thoughts:

  1. This is not so much the anger of the great king against rebels. This is much much worse. This is the anger of the Lamb who was slain to save rebels. This is the anger of the meek and humble Saviour who stretched out His arms to a disobedient and obstinate people. This is the anger of the One who longed to gather His children under His wings but they were not willing. This is the anger of the bloody sacrifice who poured out His life just to redeem and forgive such people. Those who will be sent to hell have not only rebelled against a mighty King, they have trodden on the slain Lamb. They have spurned their only Saviour, who wept and sweated and bled for them. They have hated and trampled on Christ crucified.   And they will not stand on the great day of His wrath.
  2. The great day of His wrath comes after a long wait (Rev 6:17).  He is indeed ‘slow to anger’. (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; cf Rom 3:25; 2 Pet 3:9)  And both the anger and the slowness are good things. It would be terrible if the Father or the Son flew off into a rage without warning. But it would also be terrible if they never got angry – the evil of this world, and particularly the evil of rejecting Christ is damnable. So His wrath is a very good thing.
  3. We are meant to draw nearer to the wrathful Lamb, not flee further from Him.  It is the unbelievers who run from the Lamb in His anger (v15-17), it’s the believers who run to Him.  (Cf Psalm 2:12).  As we read of His wrath we are tempted to draw back, but instead we should press closer, ask, seek and knock even more.  His anger should in fact make us draw nearer – if we do, we will find Him to be our Refuge.
  4. Anger is not the last word.  Revelation 6 clears the way for Revelation 7.  “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”  (Hosea 6:1-2)
  5. It’s vital to see that the Father is not the only One angry at sin!  Sometimes we can imagine that the cross is an angry Father being placated by His Son who really isn’t that bothered about sin.   “Jesus loves you, don’t mind the Father, He’s cranky!”  It’s at this point that people suppose that true trinitarian theology is opposed to penal substitutionary atonement.  But no the Father and Son are not divided in their attitudes to sin.  The Son is Christ precisely because He loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Ps 45:7).  Rev 6:17 speaks of ‘their’ wrath – Jesus is just as angry at sin as the Father. And He suffers in Himself the fullness of His own divine anger at sin.
  6. Chapters like Revelation 6 show us just how intense Christ’s sufferings were. Here is the magnitude of the wrath which Jesus faced on the cross. The Lamb faced His own divine anger at sin – an anger that shakes the creation to its very foundations. When we read of Jesus sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane and overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He is feeling in Himself the dread of all those who say to the mountains ‘Fall on us and hide us.’ After studying Revelation 6 we should have a bigger picture not only of judgement day but also the cross.
  7. We are tempted to measure hell by our sins. Passages like this tell us to measure our sins by hell.  (Spurgeon used to say this often).  What do I mean? We tend to think of our sins as trifling matters and then we read about the terrible judgement of God and think it’s over the top. That’s backwards. We should read about the terrible judgement of God and then think – that’s what my sin deserves. Don’t measure hell by your sins, measure your sins by hell. And then rejoice that the Lamb intercepted His own wrath and hid you under His altar, the cross. (Rev 6:9)

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Luke Ijaz is a minister at Holy Trinity, Wallington. He recently preached this cracker of a sermon –  “Do not worry” – at Farm Fellowship.

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Read Exodus 12:1-30

The plagues had threatened the unravelling of creation (10:21), and in their wake a mighty empire had been brought to its knees.  There could not have been a person alive in Egypt who did not now know the power and the name of the true and living God (9:16).  And yet their Pharaoh would still not bow down and worship him as Lord.

One thing remained untouched by the enacting of these “wonders” through Moses: the human heart.   It is doubtful that the heart of any – Egyptian or Israelite – had been warmly affected and drawn to Christ.  More likely they were further embittered and made fearful – because all alike were still under judgement.

The LORD must now act in a very different way, if this nation and its inhabitants were not to be consumed completely.  He must perform the very greatest of his “wonders”: the one that will display most clearly his glory to the watching world…

You see, it would not do for Pharaoh to let the Israelites “go”.  Then the generations to come would be in praise of the king of Egypt as ‘the great liberator’; the reformed champion of human rights.    It is for the LORD to become their Liberator and save them when they are still utterly helpless.  Neither would it do for the LORD simply to take the Israelites by the hand and lead them out of Egypt.  Far be it from the LORD to show such unfair discrimination and favouritism!  For him to take for himself a people on the basis of arbitrary choice would have shown him to be a petty tribal deity – certainly not the Lord of the whole earth.  On what basis could the LORD make a distinction between Egyptian sinners and Israelite sinners (11:7)?

Indeed, a great distinction would be made!  The liberation that the LORD would bring about would mean far more than freedom from the darkness of Egyptian slavery.  The Israelites would be brought out into a dawn of a new day – a day so new that their calendar would need to be reset (12:3).  The hearts of everyone in the land would be cut at the deepest level – for good or ill – and in the process judgement would finally be pronounced on the gods of Egypt (12:12), and their stranglehold over the nation broken.  The people would be shaken to the core and truly new possibilities would open up for everyone.

Everything turns on the firstborn.  More specifically: everything turns on the death of the firstborn.  This death will be the fruit of wrath – the righteous anger levelled at a stubbornly rebellious humanity.  But the fruit of this death itself will be new life for a humanity that is perishing.  How glorious!  The Living God has made it possible for those whose lives are forfeit to be re-established.  Blood for blood, life for life.  Now the LORD can make that distinction between those who will turn to worship him and those who will not; between the Israelites and the Egyptians.

But even the Egyptians are not left without a witness to this gospel.  Christ – in his office of Judge (John 5:23) – passed through the land of Egypt that night and, among the Egyptians, “there was not a house without someone dead” (12:30).  Did any of them overhear the instructions that Moses conveyed to the Israelites, regarding the lambs and the blood on the doorposts?  They certainly failed to heed it.  So all the firstborn perished.

The next day the nation was mourning their loss.  And what a loss!  On the firstborn – the inheritors – hung the peoples hopes for the future.  Now, for a time at least, those hopes were cut short.  But why were any of them left alive?  “It should have been me that was taken!”  Yet these parents were acutely aware that the only reason they – and their families – were still alive was because the firstborn had been taken in their place.  For as long as living memory would endure, there was now in Egypt a witness to what is necessary to avert the LORD’s judgement.

In Israel the witness would need to last that bit longer.  Every year on the fourteenth day of the first month – Passover – they were to slaughter again a lamb at twilight, for all the generations to come.  They were never to forget that their security and life was assured only by the shedding of blood.  These evenings must have been emotionally charged as the family gathered around their table – the firstborn right there in their midst – ready to consume this meal.

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over” (12:13).

This was more than mere commemoration.  The Israelites could never afford to get smug or become complacent.  They needed the ongoing shelter of the blood.  But one thing that this annual sacrifice taught them by the very necessity of its repetition was its insufficiency.  After all, this was only a lamb that they were sacrificing – leaving them with a longing for something more final.

When Jesus came to share a final meal with his apostles it was at Passover.  But this time there would be a break with tradition and the meal would be celebrated in a new way.  No attention would be drawn to the lamb.  Why?  The words that Jesus speaks over the bread and the wine – “This is my body… this is my blood” – make it clear that he himself sits in the place of the lamb.  And this becomes all the more striking when we realise just who this Jesus is: the Firstborn of the Father, the eternal Judge.   The firstborn is about to die; the Judge is about to be judged.  “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“Then the people bowed down and worshipped” (12:27b).  This is the first time in the book of Exodus that the LORD has received any worship from the Israelites.  Worship is now the only fitting response of those whose hearts have been warmed by all they have seen and experienced.  For the LORD has displayed to the watching world the greatest of his “wonders” – the glorious way in which he can liberate anyone, even the Israelites.

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Paul Huxley blogs here and his previous Exodus offering is here.

What a difference forty years makes.

When Moses struck the Egyptian down (Ex 2:12), supposing that his brothers would ‘understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand’ (Acts 7:25), the people ‘did not understand’ and Moses fled. Now, a generation had passed, and the LORD had promised to bring salvation by Moses’ hand. This pattern was repeated by Joshua, who the people could have followed into the promised land (Numbers 14:6-9), but instead rejected God. Forty years of wilderness followed, and the next generation, led by the faithful Joshua entered the promised land.

And here, in Exodus 11, the people are now ready to listen to Moses, God’s prophet, preacher and intercessor. So much so that they have the gall to ask their neighbours for silver and gold jewellery, at the LORD’s command through Moses (v2-3).

The Egyptians cough up the booty; they looked favourably on the Hebrews (v3). In earthly terms, I can’t imagine why they would have done so. Who are the slaves to make demands of the Egyptians, particularly in a time of gnats, locusts, hail, frogs and so on?

Yahweh’s name was becoming great.

We’ve lately had ‘natural’ disasters in Haiti and Chile and in recent years devastating tsunamis and hurricanes across the world. They seem to be more frequent than ever. People are noticing.

Nine plagues in Egypt, one after another, and the Egyptians could see that there was something different about Yahweh, the Hebrew’s God. But there was one further, definitive ‘wonder’ to be done, so that the Pharaoh would know the special calling of the Israelites (v7). The LORD has planned for Pharaoh to ignore Moses’ warning, so that this final sign could be done (v9). Pharaoh intends evil, but God intends good.

Sign number 10 is the sign of signs, the grand finale that no one will soon forget. The firstborn son and cow of all the Egyptians will be killed at ‘about midnight’ by the LORD himself. We’ll see more of the meaning of this in the chapters to come, but for now, we get to see what the outcome will be of this awesome act of God.

Moses and Pharaoh are sick of the sight of each other (ch10 v28-29). Moses, emboldened by Yahweh’s signs now predicts that Pharaoh’s servants will bow to Moses and plead the Israelites to leave the land (v8).

Pharaoh has diplomatic problems here. The Egyptian economy depends on Israelite slave labour. But he has seen the LORD’s wonders, he’s heard him speak through Moses (Moses’ words themselves are described as wonders in verse 10). Intellectually, by now, he must already know, along with all Egypt, that he must let the Israelites go to worship Yahweh in the wilderness.

But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s not as if Pharaoh secretly wanted to let them go and mean old God stopped him. Pharaoh knew the consequences, and hated the LORD and his prophet so much he ignored them.

The Bible’s clear that we, who live in these times have had much greater revelation than the Old Testament saints. The Israelites were saved out of Egypt by the eternal Son of God. But they never saw the Word become flesh, die once for sins, rise again, ascend to heaven and send his Spirit to all his believers.

We have seen more wonders than Pharaoh. He heard God’s word through his prophet; we through his Son. The Son, Jesus, offers us everlasting life, peace with God, pleasures forevermore, all paid for in full by him. Shall we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)

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For 400 years Egypt had ‘humbled’ Israel (Gen 15:13) – ie they had afflicted and impoverished them.  Moses, at the head of this afflicted people became the most humble man on earth (Num 12:3).  He is therefore the polar opposite of Pharaoh – one raised up before all the earth (Ex 9:16) and who “refuses to humble himself before the LORD.” (Ex 10:3)

This is what the plagues are for – humbling.

In Amos 4 we see plagues falling on Israel (in fulfilment of the warnings against covenant breaking in Deut 28:59) and the constant refrain is – “yet you have not returned to me.”

“I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt… yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. (Amos 4:10)

Again when the plagues fall on the whole earth in Revelation 15&16 (which I take to be the time between ascension and second coming, i.e. now) the Holy Spirit laments “but they refused to repent and glorify God.” (Rev 16:9)

You are either humbled or hardened by these plagues (see here for how Pharaoh’s hardening develops).  First in the land of Egypt, next with the nation of Israel – summed up in the true Son who was humbled at Calvary, then (judgement beginning from the house of God, 1 Pet 4:17)  it flows out to the whole world.  The very same plagues fall and for some they humble, for others they harden.

And we definitely want to be on the humble side. (Ps 25:9; 37:11; 76:9; Isaiah 11:4; 61:1):

“He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5)

“The LORD lifts up the humble, He casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:6)

“For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4)

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

In Exodus, the humbling plagues increase until the climax where it requires a literal sheltering under the blood of the lamb.

For Israel, the plagues that fell on Egypt will judge the people of God (Amos 4-5) and there can be no escape.  (That should really shock us – Israel becomes Egypt!).  There will be a top-down judgement that begins with the true Son, the true Priest, the true King and Most Humble of Men (Dan 4:17).  Christ will be eaten up by ravenous enemies (Ps 22:13) and ‘perish’ in the darkness (Luke 23:44f).  This is most shocking of all – Jesus, the Son of God becomes like the son of Pharaoh – slaughtered, devoured, perishing in the darkness.

For us, plagues are falling on Babylon which affect the whole world (Rev 15-16).  And the only place of shelter is under the altar (Rev 6).  In this way we become the humble, taking refuge in the Son (Ps 2:10-12).

In Exodus 10, the locusts are described simply as “this death” by Pharaoh.  They devour (v5,12) – like hostile armies (Deut 28:52f; Joel 2:25; Nahum 3:15f), like the sword (Deut 32:42) like Satan (1 Pet 5:8), and like the grave itself (e.g. Num 16:32).

Egypt perishes (v7) at the hand of the LORD.

Without warning the darkness follows hard on the heels of the locusts.  This is the first time this kind of darkness has been mentioned since Genesis 1.  There we encountered the primeval darkness associated with “the deep” and “the waters”.  Only by the power of the Word is light separated from darkness.  Again in Exodus 14:20 we will see the Word – the Mighty Angel – separating light from darkness.

But without this great Light of the world, there is only darkness. “Felt darkness” (10:21) which might simply mean darkness that makes you grope.  And calamitous darkness (10:22) which is so much associated with the day of the LORD.

The hardness and madness of Pharaoh is seen in his driving Moses away (v28) – btw does anyone have any thoughts on the parallel between 10:28 and 33:20?

Pharaoh rejects the Priest who has been praying for him, forgiving him and standing between him and the judgements of God.  He wants to be left alone in the darkness.  This is such a powerful picture of humanity opposing Christ.  Even in calamitous darkness we drive Christ away to be left alone in our sin (John 3:19f).  And God always gives people what they most want.  Even in judgement, He only hands people over to what their hearts actually desire.  And so with his priest and intercessor rejected, Pharaoh and his people await their fearful and certain judgement.

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