Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God
Often times I hear pastors or people say “God is good”. And where I would in the main agree with that statement, the question is “Is he anything else?” Sometimes it would appear that there is this one-dimensional view of God that undergirds the church when our society and history suggest there is a multi-dimensional aspect to his character. In the last article Prophetic Particularity, I talked about God’s affinity for detail with illustration of how he selected Shem out of Noah’s three sons in which to redeem a people for himself. Out of Shem he selected Abraham to be the one he would bless by making him into a great nation and once this nation came to fruition he made a covenant with them. A covenant is defined as a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.
The covenant God made with Israel is found in the book of Deuteronomy. It once again reveals how particular and specific God was with those issues that concerned him especially as it relates to the crafting of images for the worship of false gods. If the people kept the covenant he made with them, God would bless them tremendously, but if they disregarded the covenant he would curse them with all sorts of afflictions. Deuteronomy 28: 15 lists these curses which one should take the time to read. The curses portend awful things for the Israelites, but they nonetheless as time would go on find themselves invoking those parts of the agreement.
I want to take a look at the book of Jeremiah the prophet. As I have done before I will focus on particular passages but provide the general background. When the Lord calls the prophet Jeremiah, Israel specifically Judah is in a state of spiritual delusion and decline so that they are on the cusp of being destroyed by a foreign power. The delusion is that they did not believe disaster would come upon them and is exhibited by the words, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 7:11. But why is disaster coming upon them? It is a familiar story and same song expressed by the Lord when he says, “What injustice have your fathers found in Me that they have gone far from Me, and have followed idols, and have become idolaters? (Jeremiah 2: 5). In verse 13, it states, “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Men are amazing to contemplate sometimes. How do you forsake the fountain of living waters, for basically dead stagnate waters? God set before Israel a beautiful deal that if they could only follow he would have awesomely blessed them. But alas, they did not and Jeremiah cites many offenses committed by Judah and one in particular was done by Manasseh the son of Hezekiah the king of Judah. Manasseh during his reign rebuilt high places to Baal, made wooden images, worshipped the hosts of heaven, built altars in the house of the Lord, caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; practiced soothsaying, witchcraft and sorcery and consulted mediums and spiritists. (2 Chronicles 33: 3-6). All of these things provoked the Lord to anger and activated the judgment of God for the breaking of the covenant.
So who is the foreign power God is going to use to punish Judah? It is no other than Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. What I want to draw attention to is Jeremiah 27:6 where the Lord states, “And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him. Notice that God calls the king of Babylon his servant. He is making clear that in his sovereignty and power he controls what the nations are allowed to do especially in regard to Israel.
He makes it evident that Israel is the fulcrum upon which history turns and it was within his purview to raise up a nation to execute judgment upon Israel. Jeremiah in his many words to the people of Judah reveal an aspect of God that is far from soft and buttery. He is unsparing in what he declares will happen to the people of Judah such as the statement in Jeremiah 15:3 “And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction, says the Lord. “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.”
Because of Jesus sacrifice for the sin of mankind and God’s grace and mercy, the church of a more gentile character has lost the judgment aspect of God’s character along with in some quarters the holy aspect of his character. It has caused the scales to be weighed too heavily to one side that does not deal with the hard words and more severe facets of God’s nature. When one is considering topics of prophetic significance, the hard things must be considered and the prophetic judgment of the people of Israel fall within this category.
As the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. Here Paul is letting a gentile church know that they are not above being cut off if they do not continue in God letting them become a part of the good olive tree of Israel. He has balanced the scales with both the goodness and the severity of God and let us know that these attributes of God have not been dissolved with the passage of time.