2 Kings 25:8-30; Acts 23:1-10; Psalms 3:1-5; Proverbs 1:24-28
OT: “On the seventh day of the fifth month — which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon — Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, a servant of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. He burned the Lord’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses. The whole Chaldean army with the captain of the guards tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, deported the rest of the people who remained in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population. But the captain of the guards left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers.” (2 Kings 25:8-12 CSB)
When God established his covenant with the nation of Israel, He said this about Himself: “The Lord — the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 CSB) Apparently, the people of the promised nation of Israel remembered the compassionate and gracious part of God’s character, but forgot the not leaving the guilty unpunished part. Nearly 800 years had passed since God established His covenant with Israel, yet despite His countless warnings, they continued to give themselves over to the worship of idols and false gods, and reject God’s word, will, and ways. The cup of Israel’s iniquity had filled to the rim and God’s longsuffering had run out. Righteousness demanded action, so God gave his chosen people over to the consequences of their 800 years of rebellion. God’s chosen city was ransacked and the temple where He chose to rest His name was destroyed. The cup of God’s wrath was poured out, if only just a drop, and God’s covenant people were forced to live with the consequences of their unfaithfulness for 70 years. Even in a sentence of exile for 70 years, God was being very merciful. They deserved much more. While it is true that God is merciful and slow to anger, He does get righteously angry. Many people believe the U.S.A. to be God’s “chosen nation:” the land of freedom and blessing… a nation founded on Christian principles… a benevolent nation that spreads the good news of God’s kingdom across the world. Yet we (the church of America) have grown increasingly distracted and unfaithful. How full do you think our nation’s cup of iniquity has gotten? How full is God’s cup of wrath becoming as He continues holding back judgement while His people forsake His word, will, and ways while they gorge on all that the “American Dream” provides? Being an American… even a “Christian” American does not exempt us from God’s justice… any more that being a chosen Israelite did. This is definitely something that I am asking as I pray for our nation and as we collectively head into a new year.
Psalms: “Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me. Many say about me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” (Psalms 3:1-5 CSB)
The introduction for this psalm states that it was written by King David when he had to flee from his son Absalom. Absalom’s rebellion was a consequence of David’s sin with Bathsheeba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12:10-12). It was also a result of David’s neglect and refusal to deal with sin in his own house. No matter how much David deserved judgement, God was merciful to him because he was a rapid repenter. David humbled himself and acknowledged his sin. He repented of His sin and turned to God, and experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. That is why David, even though he was guilty and deserving of judgement, was able to trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness. His relationship with God was restored through repentance and His relationship with God was maintained through trust and faithful obedience. Even though his own son was out to kill him, David knew that the Lord would protect him and sustain him… and he could live in peace. Instead of experiencing God’s cup of wrath, even in the midst of self-made challenges, David experienced the cup of God’s mercy because he repented and remained faithful to the Lord.
As wonderful as the mercy that David experienced was, the mercy and grace described by Jesus’ gospel is far greater. Instead of us receiving the fullness of God’s wrath and judgement, Jesus the Sinless One allowed God’s cup of wrath and judgement to be poured out on Him. The action that God had to righteously take was served on His Son, Jesus Christ. We now have a choice. We can accept the punishment that Christ received, or we can reject that act of mercy and choose instead to have God’s wrath poured out on us. To accept what Jesus did for us, we simply have to repent (turn away from) our sin, place our faith on Christ and what He did, surrender our lives completely to Him, and follow Him faithfully as His disciple. If we do that, our sin is forgiven, we are given a new life, and are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live holy and righteously by the grace we receive through faith. Then we can lay our heads down every night in peace… and wake up the next morning in peace – because our relationship with God is restored and maintained through repentance and faith.