I wonder if when we sing “Amazing Grace” with some sincerity we often mean nothing more than that we are amazed at what His grace has done for us, rather than it is directed to us. “God’s grace is wonderful, but the wonder is not that it’s directed towards me.” Grace is amazing in its power, and amazing in that it is directed towards a sinner such as I.
What amazes you more the fire and sulfur of chapter 19 or the grace and condescension of chapter 18. Sodom and Gomorrah should not shock us. Oh, for sure we should be in awe of the terrible might and wrath of God Almighty, but it should not come as a surprise that such wrath would be directed against wicked men from so holy a God. If chapter 19 shocks us more it is because we are more impressed with ourselves than God. Dale Ralph Davis does well in cautioning us to ask, “Is the Lord deficient in understanding kindness or am I deficient in understanding holiness?”
America needs a soft “God”. We could never tolerate the gods of the ancient Norseman. They are far too rude. No, give us a Cosmic Care Bear in the sky. He need not awake our awe so much as he need be enthralled with us. Such is our attitude. Thus as R.C. Sproul laments, “What amazes us is justice, not grace.” We have redefined God to please our ego, and in so doing we have lost God all together. In so doing we have emptied His love of any meaning at all. D.A. Cason writes:
I do not think that what the Bible says about the love of God can long survive at the forefront of our thinking if it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, the providence of God, or the personhood of God – to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of Christianity.
The result of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized. This process has been going on for some time ….
It has not always been so. In generations when almost everyone believed in the justice of God, people sometimes found it difficult to believe in the love of God. The preaching of the love of God came as wonderful good news. Nowadays if you tell people that God loves them, they are unlikely to be surprised. Of course God loves me; he’s like that, isn’t he? Besides why shouldn’t he love me? I’m kind of cute, at least as nice as the next person. I’m okay, your okay, and God loves you and me.
You cannot esteem high opinions of yourself and God at the same time. God is holy. Sin is serious. Sodom and Gomorrah and serious. Yea, Sodom and Gomorrah fall short of the eternal hell that your God belittling pride deserves.
Today my dentist jokingly said he wanted to get the Swine Flu for a couple of reasons:
- Everybody is getting it; he wouldn’t want to be left out. It seems like the cool thing to do.
- It would help him appreciate his health. Requesting it is requesting a lesson in gratitude.
If you wish to be overwhelmed with divine love, drowned in it, enraptured by it, first you must be floored terrified of his holiness. The whispers of God’s love in chapter 18 sound sweeter against the back drop of the thunder of His wrath in chapter 19. Either chapter without the other is incomplete.