Friday, January 04, 2008

They did not expose your sin

There have been those in recent years who have tried to say God doesn't get angry. There are others who would claim God is angry in the Old Testament but not in the New Testament. Jesus being the lovey-dovey one who never spoke about hell... right?! Actually, God's angle on the question is plain to see in Romans 3, in the Old Testament days God isn't angry enough. There is a scandal brewing because God keeps forgiving people without apparently good reason - how can he leave sin unpunished? Why is he so 'slow to anger' when the people are so sinful. In Jesus we see God's wrath turned aside from all those forgiven people before the cross, and after. At the cross we see how it's possible.

In Lamentations 2 we see what happens when there is no other remedy (2 Chronicles 36v16). When prophetic ministry is exhausted and divine patience can endure no longer. When the one who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love finally executes judgement. And it cames relentlessly. The first eight verses of this second lament leave no room for confusion. Wrath came from the LORD against his people. He was aggressive. He was without pity. He was fierce. He was burning. He devoured. He destroyed. He who would have been their husband became their enemy. They are rejected. They are defeated.
Here is the LORD active in judgement on the people. Destructively opposed to his people. The terrible plight in which they lament has come from the LORD himself. It could be no other way. The LORD had said to them that if they rebelled he would curse them. Unlike them, he has stayed true but the effects for them are terrifying and heart-breaking (v17). God's covenant promises guarenteed blessing for obedience, and curse for rebellion (Deut 28) - they should have seen this coming.

The same LORD had given them opportunity and safety by giving them leaders to care for them and teach them. So this situation should not have arisen. But - v6: The priests are spurned. v9: The princes are gone and the prophets have lost their voices

Why and how? Because (v14):
The visions of your prophets were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.
The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.

They were sent true prophets but prefered false ones. Prophets who did not do what prophets should have done - prophets who should have called sin sin and exposed it. Who should have kept them out of exile and away from wrath but instead misled and deluded the people about their relationship with him. They gave the people exactly what they wanted to hear by telling them that all was well. Discernment and error were needed but all that was found was well wishers and ego-massagers and people-pleasers. They wanted facebook-life, where everyone puts their best photo on their profile. The word of God works like HDTV, and shows up every wrinkle. It's not pretty when the light of the gospel of God shines into the dark hearts of sinners, but it's very necessary. Wrath came from the hand of the LORD but the fault lay with her leaders, with those given to teach and lead.

Leaders must expose sin, but that is always done by the light of the gospel, showing the gospel to people. Without such vision of the gospel and our hearts God's people will perish. God's people cannot afford for their leaders to shirk this responsibility. We need leaders who will honestly admit that sin is among us. That though saved we still sin and such sin must be replied to by the word of God. There is precious too little of this today. Sin is out there somewhere but how infrequently we confess that we too sin. That we need the restoration that comes only from the heart-exposing, soul-reviving word. This poem is instructive for leaders and for those who are led.

Back in the days of wrath we rejoin the people in their pain. What can they do under such devastation? Shockingly, v18-19, they turn to the Lord. The same one who is so vigorously opposed to them is the one they seek. Such is the model of Christian religion. Salvation comes through wrath. Salvation is found in the same holy God who is wrathful toward sinners. Not that they turn to him with any boasts or extenuating circumstances - no they can only turn to him in his anger and ask for him to rescue them though they deserve nothing of the sort. No record or future resolutions can enter into the equation. I come acknowledging that he alone can count me righteous or I stay under wrath.

My sin is appalling. The magnitude of divine wrath against the people shows the horror of their sin. So too the wrath poured out on Christ shows how bad we are that this was the right response. That Christ went to the cross doesn't primarily show how valuable we are, it most supremely shows how evil we are to make such a remedy necessary. Sin is not a light matter. That's why leaders need to expose it. That's why the LORD get's angry about it. That's why we need the cross of Christ.

Have a read of - Ed: the legalist within, musing on passover