The Kindness and Severity of God

An Exegetical Essay written for my Theology Class at LeTourneau University, Fall 2018.

The Kindness and Severity of God

Jesse Prewitt

Can The Lord God of Heaven—God Almighty, God Jehovah, the One that the entire world conceives of as Love (1 John 4:81), also act in severe Judgement? Can this God be both Love and Judge all in the same Divine Being? Does the world have an imperfect understanding of Who God really is? In Romans 11 we find the statement, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God…”2. This statement, as well as this entire portion of the Text, demonstrates that the world does indeed have an imperfect understanding of God and further this same God is both Love and Judge, as Paul expounds on the way that God deals with Israel and the Gentiles.

About Romans 11:22, Dr. J. Vernon McGee3 writes, “These are stern words. Paul calls upon the Gentiles to behold two examples. Rejected Israel reveals the severity of God, but to the Gentiles who have turned to God, the benevolent goodness of God is revealed.” If you ask most anyone today what their concept of God is they will undoubtedly relate that they see God as love. Very few people that I have spoken with (outside of the church family) can imagine that God is anything like what Paul has just described in this chapter of Romans. Let’s look at two points in this Text.

God’s severity in dealing with Israel. Paul begins the chapter with a question that itself requires a negative answer (Keck, 2634), explaining that the particle me is used with his open-ended statement which requires a negative response. The Apostle—an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (verse 1) no one more Jewish than he, asks has God rejected His people. The answer of course is a resounding No. But then Paul goes on to relate the event of Elijah’s pleading with God concerning Israel,

LORD, THEY HAVE KILLED THY PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN THINE ALTARS AND I ALONE HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.

To which God responds with the answer that He has reserved a remnant of seven thousand that had not bowed to Baal. God had then, and has now, such a remnant.

But the Jews, as a nation, the chosen people of God, entrusted with the oracles of God, (Romans 3:2) the nation through which The Messiah was to be brought into the world, had rejected that same Messiah. Israel’s rejection of Christ The Messiah resulted in God turning salvation to the Gentile nations (verse 11) to provoke them to jealousy. But Paul did not have the complete picture of the severity of God toward Israel, Dr. McGee writes (McGee, ibid., 585). The complete destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD reveals the severity of God’s judgement on Israel. Josephus writes (Maier, 3586) Famine now raged in the city and the rebels took all the food they could find in a house-to-house search, while the poor starved to death by the thousands. People gave all their wealth for a little measure of wheat and hid it hastily and in secret so it would not be taken from them. Wives would snatch the food from their husbands, children from their fathers and mothers from the very mouths of infants…the sufferings of the people were so fearful that they can hardly be told, and no other city ever endured such miseries. Paul tells the reader of Romans, in chapter 11:20, “… they (Israel) were broken off for their unbelief…do not be conceited, but fear.” God, The Righteous Judge, dealt severely with His Own people because of their unbelief, how much more will he judge the Gentile nations who turn away from Him.

God’s kindness in dealing with the Gentiles. Paul related in verses 23 and 24 that God is able to graft Israel in again, if they do not continue in their unbelief. But, God’s Grace is now extended to the Gentile nations through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s look back at 1 John4:8. The Pulpit Commentary7 states that we must beware of watering down God is Love into God is loving or worse than that God of all beings is the most loving. God alone is able to love in the fullest and highest sense of the word with a perfect impartiality. The world’s concept of love is not the same as The Holy Attribute of God—Love. The world’s impression is that God is someone who just loves on their own level of understanding instead of God’s level of understanding and knowledge of everything.

Now in verse 25, Paul states, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles had come in. This tell us that there will be an end to the time of the Gentiles and then God will again turn His attention to Israel. We as Gentiles are experiencing the Grace of God because of the disobedience of the nation of Israel, but God is not finished with Israel yet.

Verse 29 is an interesting verse, to me. Paul makes a statement here that is intended directly for the reader at Rome, but is applicable to us today. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Paul is speaking about Israel being called of God and that God would never turn His back on them. In fact, in verse 26 he states that the Deliverer will come from Zion (Jerusalem) and He will remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel). This is God’s Covenant with them when He takes away their sins, he says. Paul is referring, of course, to Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah that will take away their sins. There is a remnant that will eventually turn their hearts to Christ and God will again have fellowship with His people, Israel.

This event will be facilitated by the end of the time of the Gentiles, which is you and me. The second letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 2, tell us, beginning in verse 6, that he who now retrains will do so until he be taken out of the way. This is referring to The Holy Spirit that indwells His believers during the time of the Gentiles—this present day. Jesus speaks of this time of the Gentiles in Luke 21:24, “…until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” This restraining refers to restraining the evil of this world and the enemy of our souls—the devil. This is explained further in verse 8 calling him the evil one or the lawless one (speaking of the one who is called the antichrist). During the few years immediately following this time of the Gentiles, the world will experience events never know to man. In the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:21, Jesus states that this time of tribulation will be such as not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.

This time of great tribulation will be when the New Testament Church is removed from the earth and God again turns His attention to Israel. The Remnant will see Christ as Savior and Lord and will carry the Gospel to the world. Many will do so at the cost of their lives.

My thesis began as a statement that God is both Love and Judge, and the world doesn’t understand that principle. How can He be both? Because He is God. He created this world and everything and everyone in it. When man turned his back on God, God’s solution was to send His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in man’s place. Jesus became our Substitute. He suffered in our place so that God, The Righteous Judge, could justly have Mercy on we who sinned. God didn’t have to compromise His Justice nor overlook sin, He judged it in Christ, who knew no sin of His own. Yes, God is Love, but He is also Just, and He will Judge the ungodly on the Day of Judgement. King David said it well in Psalm 51:4, Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil I Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

It will not do for us to trifle with the Grace of God! He loves those that come to Him through Christ, but those who refuse His Mercy he will eventually judge.

Sources

11 John 4:8, “…God is Love.”

2 Romans 11:22

3 Through the Bible Radio, Romans (1991),J. Vernon McGee

4 Keck, L.E. (2005). Romans. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. ISBN 978-0-687-05705-4

5 McGee, ibid., 58

6 Josephus: The Essential Works, translated and edited by Paul L Maier (1998, 1994) Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI.

7 The Pulpit Commentary, (c. 1890)Funk and Wagnalls, London and New York.

Excerpt From My Up-Coming Book

The following is an excerpt from my newest manuscript. We are not sharing the name of the book just yet. However, here is a sneak-preview.

(Note- This is subject to some final editing)

Lone-Wolf Christians become wolf-lunch, Alpo-Christians!

An admonition to those that think they can go it alone.

As Paul wrote, in Ephesians 5:19, “…speaking to yourselves…”, this also means to one another. It is expected that we are part of the family of God. We are a family—a community. Paul was writing to a church, a community of believers. Jesus spoke of the shepherd leaving the ninety and nine and going after the one sheep. We were never intended to be lone-wolf-Christians! We need Him, and we need each other! Any person who names the Name of Christ, as Savior and Lord, yet sees no need to avail themselves of the gathering of family and community of believers in Christ, cannot be what God intended them to be. They cannot be an effective witness for Christ. They are estranged from the family. They may carry the name, but not the fellowship and closeness that family gives when they are in touch with each other and get together when possible. Granted, the early church met in homes instead of big elaborate buildings, like we have today, but make no mistake—they met together, and they met often!

Especially in our personal worship, we need to be filled with His Spirit and His Word, to perform the task He has placed in front of us. The phrase, be filled, in Ephesians 5:18 is in the present tense and gives us the sense that we are to be constantly filled. When we are filled, in our personal worship, our corporate worship takes on a whole new face. Imagine if every Christian came to Sunday Worship, having spent quality time with God all week long! It would be amazing! We would see the singing and praise become something like we have never experienced. Pastors would expound the Word with an anointing that would even amaze themselves. We would leave with a desire to share our faith in Christ. People would come to know Jesus as their Savior. Lives would be changed—families would be changed—communities would be changed, and ultimately our entire nation!

Our witness is effective, when it emerges from a life devoted to time spent with the Lord, in His Presence and in His Word.

We must never labor under the erroneous notion that we can be an effective witness, provided, we fess-up right before we share the Gospel. Of course, we should always pray and confess our sins, but what I mean is that some seem to have the idea that we can live like we want to and just pray-up, before we try to witness to someone (or attend church) and all will be right, and we can be effective. This is not what God intended. He intends us to be ready at any given moment filled with His Spirit. This can only be fully accomplished as we spend daily time alone with The Lord, regular fellowship together with the family of God, being filled with His Spirit and being obedient to His Will for our lives. His Will is that we be an active part of the local Family of Christ.

God’s anointing and guidance is intended that we have a daily, intimate walk with Him. This is the way that we are empowered to be an effective witness. His Word and Wisdom need to infuse us, daily. A consistent Christian walk is necessary to be an effective witness. The power does not originate with us, but His Presence resides in us (provided we have placed our faith and trust in Christ). Therefore, His Light radiates through us, “…now are ye light in the Lord. (Eph. 5:8) We will be as “…a light that shineth in a dark place”. (2 Peter 1:19) The Greek word, here translated light, suggests a torch. Peter admonishes to take heed, as one would to a torch burning in the night—a dark place. Such a light would be unable to escape notice. We are commanded to be that light—that torch—in this spiritually dark world! The words translated: dark place, suggests a place that is, literally: dry, parched, and figuratively: squalid and rough, dingy, murky, obscure—dark—funereal, producing strong heat, providing dust that is filled with extraneous filth (with suspended elements) which impede vision, and is miserable. This is a fairly, accurate description of the world in which we now live. That which fuels the torch we carry is the Holy Spirit. He is the Oil in our lamp (torch, lychno) and the brighter He shines through us, the brighter the Light of the Gospel shines, bringing men, women, boys and girls to Himself.

Following Christ

John Maxwell writes, The Law of Empowerment tell us that only secure leaders give their power to others. (Maxwell, 2014, p. 1325)

The first thing that came to mind, when I read this, was Colossians 1:27: “…Christ is you, the hope of glory.” This was the intent all along that Jesus would come to earth, born of a virgin, live a sinless life, give Himself as the offering for our sins upon the cross, be buried, rise again and go to the Father. He promised then to send the Holy Spirit to live in us, thus fulfilling the intent of The Father from before the beginning of time, “…of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)

Jesus, the Ultimate Leader, gives His Power to us! What a Savior! Who couldn’t help but be motivated by that? by Him? 

I can allow Him to live His life through me and that is the only way that I can demonstrate the kind of visionary leadership that Christ lived out before us. 

The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd Edition, Maxwell, J. C. & Elmore, T., 2014, Thomas Nelson Publishers 

A Picture of America in Proverbs

A Picture of Modern America in Proverbs

March 28, 2019

Proverbs 28: 1-5

Many are they that wish to destroy history these days. If we don’t know what our mistakes and successes are, then how can we learn to repeat, or not to repeat, the same?

As I read what the author of Proverbs wrote, so many years ago, I immediately saw the present.

1The wicked flee when no man pursueth:

but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

2For the transgression of a land

Many are the princes thereof:

But by a man of understanding and knowledge

The state thereof shall be prolonged.

3A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain

Which leaveth no food.

4They that forsake the law praise the wicked:

But such as keep the law contend with them.

5Evil men understand not judgement:

But they that seek the Lord understand all things.

Proverbs 28: 1-5

This is as if the writer of the Proverbs was reading today’s newspaper or watching the news on television!

Nobody runs as hard as someone with a guilty conscience! In legal circles, this is sometimes referred to as possessing a guilty state of mind, or Mens Rea. The idea is that they are aware of their misconduct.

This interpretation of verse 1, leads us to better understand the context of the verses that follow. According to Dr. H. A. Ironside, in his book, Notes on the Book of Proverbs (Ironside, 1959, P. 394) the term used in verse 2: transgression, he writes, seems to bear the sense of rebellion against lawful authority. For the transgression of the land (referring to a nation) many are the its princes. This gives us clear understanding that the nation or people, in question, refuse to recognize that all authority is ordained of God (The Lord). Further, that this nation referred to most likely has a disrupted state of society. Sound familiar? In this sort of state, the rulers (or princes) are frequently changing. The nation is exposed to various leaders with evil intent and machinations. Each one jealous of the other, there is a constant warring between them to gain control. There is a constant state of what we might refer to as drama. There is always a scandal, an accusation, a power struggle. This is a perfect picture of America, today!

There is an ancient saying among the Arabs:

May God multiply your sheiks.

What a dreadful thought! No nation can be settled and continue to prosper when subjected to this sort of alteration and constant change in executive authority. Granted, there have always been (at least in my own lifetime) at least two major political parties in our nation, but in recent years the two fundamental opposites have taken aim at each other to the extent that as soon as one gets power, they take revenge on the other. This has been going on for so long that the people have become confused and our national identity, unsettled. Only the older generation, for the most part, remember how things used to be. But, how long can this go on?

In contrast to this unsettled state or nation, there is the opposite idea of one that is constant, and this one is ruled by an understanding ruler and he long occupies that seat of authority. The primary focus, of course, is on The Lord God, who is in authority. His Rule remains in force by whomever the human ruler may be. This Rule of Law, as so often referred to in recent days, means that government is based on well-established laws. The Lord’s intent, for America, is that we remain based on the well-established laws upon which we were founded.

Verse 3 speaks of (when referring to a poor man) an obscure man—one who is virtually unknown. This is a better meaning of the term. This is someone that comes out of nowhere. Again, sound familiar? This poor man or obscure man carries the meaning of one who is raised-up, suddenly, to a position of significant authority. It is the one that didn’t deserve the promotion, yet was elevated to it, anyway, usually for the benefit of those placing him there. Such a leader is likely to oppress the poor for personal benefit and would thus be like the driving rain that leaves no crop for food. The land and the people upon it are swept clean of all that they have. The land left bare, the citizens stripped of their possession, rights and dignity. This, my friends, is a sad picture of what The United States of America is rapidly becoming!

In the political realm, it is every man for himself. There is little to no-such-thing, anymore, as loyalty! The very idea of patriotism is ridiculed by many and people are rapidly losing hope in our nation’s future, at least as we have known her. When her own obscure princes demonstrate a lack of respect for America, as founded, we know we are in deep trouble. There is a growing number of those that wish to fundamentally change this great nation and re-create her into just another nation among the many of the world. What a dismal image!

As we reach verse 4, we see that those who forsake the law (meaning to forsake the right way, the way of righteousness) praise those who do the same and seek to elevate them to a place of prominence. Those who do right contend with those who do wrong. This is happening right before our very eyes!

Finally, verse 5 sums it up. Evil men do not understand justice, it tells us. The KJV term, here, is judgement, but the meaning is justice. Those that practice evil cannot comprehend what justice really is. Their own deeds are evil, and they applaud those that do the same. And not only that, but they seek to elevate such men to places of authority, so that their own wicked lives and deeds may not be hindered.

These same ones tout themselves as the heroes of the underdog—the poor man. When in fact, they seek to patronize, victimize and take advantage of the poor for their own benefit and personal gain. They speak of concern for the poor of the nation, while lining their own collective pockets with the poor man’s meager possessions.

America must return to The Lord God which founded her. The people of God must pray and step up to the plate, when voting time comes. We have a responsibility to our grandchildren and great-grands, and so on, should our Lord tarry His return for His Church.

I speak not of political party, but of right and wrong. Don’t’ let anyone deceive you, what God has declared as right and wrong, is the same, still. He does not change, Malachi tells us, and His Word does not change. America must mend her ways and it must start with God’s people.

References

Notes on The Book of Proverbs, H. A. Ironside, 1959 (First Printing 1908) Loizeaux Brothers, New York, NY

Emptying Our Hands

March 25, 2019

In Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 14, we read that when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, The Lord withdrew to a place of solitude, as He often did, to pray and most likely to weep in private over the earthly loss of His first cousin. As was the norm, the multitudes followed Him. Verse 13 informs us that The Lord departed by boat, but the crowd followed on foot—they took the long way around. When He came out to them, the Scripture tells us, as always, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.

When the evening arrived, His disciples came to Him and urged Him to send the crowd into the villages to buy food for themselves. But Jesus, about to use this as a teachable moment, told them to feed the multitude, themselves. Their response was that they only could find a lad’s lunch, consisting of five loaves and two fish, obviously insufficient for the mass of people that were there all day, perhaps 10 – 15 thousand people.

Jesus said to them, Bring them here to Me. And ordering the crowd to recline on the grass, Christ took that which is man’s insufficiency and blessed it and broke it and began the process of giving the broken pieces to the disciples to distribute to the multitude. The Scripture tells us that not only all were fed but were satisfied—there was plenty. In fact, there remained 12 baskets of unused broken pieces of miraculous provision, from the Hand of The Savior.

Observations

Of course, if this were modern-day, the headlines the following morning, would have read: Right-Wing Radicals Steal a Little Boys’ Lunch.

The truth of it all is that, Christ can use even a little boy’s lunch! The power is not in the provision—not in that which is being used, but in The One using it! It was not in the lunch, but in The Lord. We may think that we don’t have much to offer, to contribute, but God can take that which we have and use it, to His Glory, if we but bring it to Him.

That which He uses, He breaks, first.

The Lord blessed and broke the food, before giving it to His disciples, to distribute. We notice that He could have done this another way, but The Lord chose to use His disciples to get the provision to the masses. He had told them, you give them something to eat.

He supplies, we serve!

He then places the blessed and broken provision in the hands of His disciples.He chose to use the disciples in distributing the food. As they handed out that which was placed in their hands to distribute, upon returning, they found that there was more waiting in the Hands of the Master. Each time they returned, He gave them more to give out.

We must empty our hands!

The principle here is clear. They had no serving trays, but only the use of their hands, or perhaps the folds of their robes. Each time the disciples returned for more, more was waiting to be given. But they had to empty their hands before they could obtain more from His Hands. What do I have, in my possession, that God has provided for me to distribute, that I have not given out? Personally, I find that I must share that which God speaks to my heart about. I am not to let it remain unshared. I must empty my hands, before I can receive more to share with others. What has God placed into your hands that you could share with others to His Glory? We cannot go back for more until we give it away—we must empty our hands.

There was a surplus of miracle provision remaining.

They collected 12 baskets full of remaining food. This was not food-scraps. This was un-eaten food, that had been broken by the Hands of The Lord. This was to show that we cannot out-give God. He has plenty, as long as we empty our hands and return to Him for re=provision.