Summary: A discussion of the nature of the goodness of God, and how his mercy can be seen in his wrath.
At the start of each session of parliament a motion is passed to receive the Queen’s speech. It has been said that the motion is proposed by a genial old buffer on the way our and seconded by an oily young man on the make. Genial old buffers appear frequently in English folklore, quiet pleasant gentlemen who never do very much, just smile and nod sweetly and pleasantly at all in sundry.
For many people this is their view of God, God the genial old buffer, a benign granddad who just exists to give us sweets, but never really does anything much, who is just pleasant. People the take texts that state that God is love and construct a picture of a genial old buffer.
Or perhaps we see a God of fuzzy niceness, never offending anybody, accepting everything and shutting up. A God who never offends anybody, or, who is what would have been called a few years back ’politically correct’.
We have just heard from the Bible God’s great proclamation and description of his own nature and supreme goodness, but it is not a genial old buffer goodness or a fuzzy anything goes niceness.
He is unique
To start off, he states his name, the LORD, the LORD God ? the translation of the tetragrammaton YHWH, the personal name of God. He proclaims that it is him, not any other god.
When he gave the ten commandments he stated that he is protective towards his own honour and his own name, that he tolerates no rivals, that he will not tolerate worship of any other god, spirit, person or object. We cannot combine him with New Age teaching, with pagan philosophies, other religions or that vague, vacuous ’spirituality’ that is so popular and prevelant today.
A God of judgement
Right in the middle of this statement of his character and goodness, he states that our behaviour matters to him. That our actions are important to this unique and supremely good God.
Sin is offensive to him, it disturbs him. The wrath of God against sin is as much part of his nature as his love is. He will not connive with unrepented sin.
We need to have a clear picture of the horribleness of our sin, of its offensiveness to the holy God. But also of his wrath towards it.
God therefore judges our sin, judges with perfect knowledge and fairness, knowing our thought and our inmost motives.
So a perfectly good God cannot just tolerate sin. But a perfectly good and just God must also punish it. It is not fitting for his holiness that has been offended by our vileness to just say ?Oh dear!? to our sin in the way that a genial old buffer might. He must deal with this violation and insult to him. A fuzzy niceness might just accept any sin into its presence, but not the holiness and the supreme goodness of God.
Scripture talks to us of hell. Something that we don’t like to think about these days. But that doesn’t make it any less real. Jesus spoke of hell as being a place of eternal punishment, where there are eternal flames and torment, the only fitting way to deal with violations of God’s perfection.
What’s more, we are also told that we are all sinners, everyone of us.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
We are all rebels against God, some in big ways, some in small ways, but all rebels. We have all lied, we have all been selfish and greedy. We have all been jealous and proud. We all deserve his punishment.
This sounds hopeless, and in human terms it is.
But, before he tells of his judgement, he tells of his mercy. When God gave his own great description of his character he spent more time telling of his mercy that he did his judgement. Listen again to the contrast with his judgement:-
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin
He is gracious. He is good and merciful to us, not because of what we deserve, or because of some aspect of our character, but because of HIS character and love. This is grace, his undeserved favour to us. Offering mercy freely to the guilty who deserve only punishment.
He is long-suffering, putting up with our offensive sin and rebellion, not wiping us out as we deserve
There seems to be a contradiction here. How can this perfectly good God, who cannot overlook sin, be merciful? He revealed to the prophet Isaiah how:-
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrow: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.