Monday, September 10, 2012

What's More Terrifying Than an Earthquake?

After the earthquake in Haiti, after Hurricane Katrina, after the twin towers fell in New York--these are the times when some journalist pulls a major religious personality on screen and asks the same question--where was God when all this happened?

Several times, I've seen that religious personality be God's mouthpiece, claiming the disaster was a direct outpouring of God's wrath, was His judgment--on Haiti for its practice of witchcraft, on New Orleans for its culture of voodoo, on America for its pride, greed, and moral decline.

Yes, when Christians think of God's wrath, great devastation worthy of a front page story comes to mind.

We SEE God's wrath as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado that makes a town look like Tinker Toys after a two-year-old gets her hands on them.  We SEE His wrath as a tsunamis with its wall of water towering over the tallest building.

But I would argue there is a more terrifying outpouring of Godly wrath and judgment that goes almost unnoticed--the wrath of abandonment.

For instance, in Ezekiel when a group of elders comes to consult the prophet, God doesn't give the answer they expect, telling them to "Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations" (Ez. 14:6).  In other words, God wants His people to turn their faces away from sin and toward to Him.

If His listeners refuse to repent, though, God spells out the nature of His wrath and judgment: "anyone of the house of Israel...who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart...I will set My face against that man...I will cut him off from among My people" (Ez. 14:7-8).

The punishment for not repenting?  Abandonment.  God will cut the person off, will leave him to his fleshly heart's basest desires with no Spirit to keep him in check, will allow him to believe his own delusions with no Spirit to whisper truth, will not put forth His holy hand to stem the tide of evil.

We've seen an example of God stemming the tide of evil by keeping a man's desires in check before.  When Abraham deceived King Abimelech, saying that his wife Sarah was actually his sister, God warned the King not to touch her.  Abimelech responds that he is innocent to which God replies, "I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her" (Gen. 20:6).

Scripture even says that when God abandons man in His wrath, He may send a delusion in the form of a false prophet, a false spirit, to reinforce the lies the person insists are truth (See also 1 Kin. 22:20-23).

The New Testament confirms this, saying, "" They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2 Thes. 2:10-12).

Such a judgment should frighten us to their knees.  If it doesn't, we should then read the words of Paul who speaks of this "wrath of abandonment" as a result of mankind's wickedness.

Paul gives a list of what mankind can expect when God withdraws His hand in His wrath, "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator...since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Rom. 1:24-25, 28-31).

Sound familiar?  This is what we can expect of those left to their own devices when God abandons them in His wrath.

With no Spirit to guide them, to keep their fleshly desires in check, mankind can do much worse to itself than any natural disaster we see on the news tomorrow.

We must repent, turn away from our iniquity and beg God's continued hand of mercy on our lives.

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