Sensational Grace

Screenshot (1513)

Then Abraham approached him [the LORD] and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”  (Genesis 18:23, NIV 1984).

Then he [Abraham] said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He [the LORD} answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  (Ge 18:32, NIV 1984).

The two men [angels] said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”  (Genesis 19:12–13, NIV 1984).

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.  (Genesis 19:15–16, NIV 1984).

“Look, here is a town [Zoar] near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me [Lot] flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I [the angel] will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.”  (Genesis 19:19–22, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is mostly remembered for the fierce judgment of God because “their sin [was] so grievous.”  I don’t intend to debate the nature of their wickedness, but rather the underlying message of God’s mercy and grace that is often overlooked.  Perhaps because that message is not quite as “sensational” and makes for a less interesting tale.  In reality, it is both quite sensational (causing great public excitement) and interesting (arousing curiosity or catching the attention).

It starts with Abraham “negotiating” with the LORD.  “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”  (Genesis 18:23, NIV 1984).  Beginning with “fifty righteous,” Abraham “wears” the LORD down to agree not to destroy the cities “for the sake of ten.”  The story is not about Abraham’s astute bargaining skills, but rather lavishness of God’s grace and mercy.  God always has His remnant, and the lengths He will go “for the sake of the [elect]” is staggering.

In the end, there were only four.  God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, a righteous judgment. Yet He did not “sweep away the [four] righteous with the wicked.”  An undeserving expression of His abundant grace.  For did they really measure up to His standard of righteousness?

His grace did not end there. When they hesitated, in the face of imminent destruction no less, “the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.” Even sparing another city (Zoar) marked for destruction (“I will not overthrow the town you speak of“).

God’s grace and mercy was extended despite the captivation of Lot to the wickedness that surrounded him.  For example:

• He got close to the wickedness (“pitched his tents near Sodom” — Genesis 13:12).

• He moved into the midst of wickedness (“Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city” — Genesis 19:1).

• He hesitated leaving the circle of wickedness (“When [Lot] hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city” — Genesis 19:16).

• He desired to stay near the wickedness (“here is a town [Zoar] near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it” — Genesis 19:19).

My Advice – Let’s not cheapen God’s grace and mercy by getting close to, moving in to, hanging on to or staying near to worldliness.  God is long-suffering, but His “Spirit will not contend with man forever.” (Genesis 6:3, NIV 1984).

 

Like Father, Like Son

Screenshot (1737)

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:8, 10–14, 17, NIV 1984).

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:36, NIV 1984).

My Musings – These verses are loaded!

Compassionate – A sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  (1 John 4:14, NIV 1984).  It was more than a desire to alleviate our sinful state that compelled the Father to allow His Son to bear our sin and shame on the cross.

Gracious – Unmerited divine favor given to mankind for their salvation.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).  Unmerited, not earned.  Not something you can work for.  It is a gift, freely given, freely received, if we are willing to accept it.

Slow to Anger – Lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness to display His displeasure and judgement.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9, NIV 1984).  When He returns, those who have not repented, who have not accepted Christ will be judged and bear the full weight of His wrath.  But because He is reluctant for this to be the case for anyone, He delays to allow the unsaved more time to consider.

Abounding in Love – Abundantly supplied goodness and kindness.  A steadfast (not subject to change) love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  (John 3:16–17, NIV 1984).  It cannot be more abundant than for Him to send His only Son.  It cannot be more steadfast, that when we betray Him in sin, He still loves us enough to redeem us.

As High As the Heavens Are From the Earth – How high do you suppose that could possibly be?  Scientists estimate at least 93 billion light years (and still expanding).

As Far As the East Is From the West – No matter how far east (or west) you travel, you will never reach the west (or east).

From Everlasting to Everlasting – Enduring through all time.  No matter how far back in time you go, there was never a time He did not love us.  No matter how far into the future you go, there will never be a time when He stops loving us.

My Advice – How could you possibly turn away from such love? Why would you want to?

____________________

Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

Chance or Choice?

Screenshot (1456)

My Musings – Many envision God as He appears to be depicted in the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment. In contrast, others tend to have an impression of God from the New Testament as one of compassion and grace. But God does not have a personality disorder nor has His nature changed over time (“I the Lord do not change.”Malachi 3:6, NIV 1978). God has always loved and continues to love mercy. At the same time, His Holy nature demands that He act with justice. These qualities are not contradictory. They are, in fact, quite compatible. Reconciling His love of mercy and His Holiness that demands justice is the grace bought and paid for by the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, God is able to pardon and forgive the repentant sinner. But when the heart is not penitent, God cannot pardon and will condemn.

My Advice – “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6, NIV 1978).  An Old Testament verse on God’s compassion and grace.  “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8, NIV 1978). A New Testament verse on God’s wrath and judgment.  God’s “scales of justice” do not balance a person’s good works against their sins.  Rather justice depends upon which side of the scales one “falls” on, grace or wrath.  Where one “falls” is not matter of chance, but rather a matter of choice.  Grace is available for all to choose.  For those who do not choose grace, only wrath and judgment remain.  One must choose wisely.