I'm an Old Testament kind of woman. I love the Old Testament. I was shocked as I've grown in the faith to see that many Christians never read the OT. I've mentioned once that a pastor's wife I knew used to carry a New Testament bible only to church. I've also mentioned that once, a Sunday School teacher laughed dismissively, saying, "I just take most of the Old Testament with a grain of salt".
I've never understood that attitude that half of God's word doesn't count. I've also never understood the attitude that the 'God of the Old Testament' is wrath but the 'God of the New Testament is love.' Have they never read of Jesus' wrath in revelation? Have they never read of His love in Hosea?
It is uncomfortable to read of His wrath, in OT or NT. God's wrath makes me tremble and just to think I've displeased Him for one nanosecond makes my stomach clench. In this present Age of Grace we have rarely witnessed His Old Testament power, other than a monumental natural disaster or two. Usually, though, people deny it is Him behind that power, and they go on with their lives without giving Him praise and glory. But the Tribulation will be all-wrath, all the time. His power will be unleashed but not in the way it has been this past age, through grace and love, the cross of Jesus and salvation of sinners. His power will be unleashed in woes, anger, and death. They WILL know it is Him doing the miracles of disaster and woes. For example, Ezekiel 38:21-23,
"I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. 23So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord."
Gill's Exposition says,
"Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself,.... Show the greatness of his power, and the strictness of his justice and holiness, and glorify these, and all other of his perfections, in the destruction of the enemies of his people: and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord; Heathen nations shall now come to the knowledge of the true God, and his Son Jesus Christ, and of the Christian religion, and shall embrace and profess it"
God is God, and His wrath shows His perfections as much as does His love. Often, in my reading of the OT when I come across such a passage, I mourn. I lament my sin, the lost-ness of others, the destruction those who refuse to repent. I cry over the waste of opportunities to promote His glory. I cry real tears and I'm often grief-stricken over these things. I'm not bragging, but letting you know that sin is a palpable, real burden and weight that slays me in grief more often than not.
I was looking at the church bulletin cover from last Sunday's worship service. I was thinking, once again, that the covers always, ALWAYS show some sunny-happy verse and smiling people. I wondered, where are the verses about His wrath? His anger? Where are the photos of people standing beside a tornado-destroyed house, a cancer ward, or a prophet in sackcloth and ashes? Never. We never see that. It irks me that we don't.
Proverbs 19:20 is good. But why not also sometime print Proverbs 19:23, a couple of verses later?
"The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm."
When was the last time you read a church bulletin cover or heard a sermon on the fear of the Lord? Do we not need to see the whole counsel of God? Read verses extolling all His attributes? Yes. Why not some verses like Isaiah 6:5? Isaiah 10:1-2? Isaiah 30:1?
Or these, like Lamentations 3:55? Jonah 2:2? Psalm 130:1? Like, is no one ever miserable?
Then I came across Carl Trueman's piece at Reformation 21 blog. It dovetailed nicely with my current thoughts on the lack of balance in the verses shown on bulletin covers, or the lack of balance of the woe verses as the basis for sermons. His piece is called "Miserable Christians Revisited".
Some time ago, I wrote a short article entitled 'What Can Miserable Christians Sing?' Over subsequent years, I have had a lot of friendly correspondence as a result of that piece and it has been reprinted in numerous church newsletters and posted on various websites. Then, earlier this year Jonathan Leeman, of 9Marks Ministry, kindly asked if I would write a further piece, reflecting on the original article. This has now been published in the 9Marks Journal. Here is a taster:
The article was intended to highlight what I saw as a major deficiency in Christian worship, a deficiency that is evident in both traditional and contemporary approaches: the absence of the language of lament. The Psalms, the Bible's own hymnbook, contains many notes of lamentation, reflecting the nature of the believer's life in a fallen world. And yet these cries of pain are on the whole absent from hymns and praise songs. The question that formed the article's title was thus a genuine one: what is it in the hymnody of your church that can be sung honestly by the woman who has just lost her baby, the husband who has just lost his wife, the child who has just lost a parent, when they come to church on Sunday? The answer, I suggested, was the Psalms, for in them one finds divinely inspired words which allow the believer to express their deepest pains and sorrows to God.
You can read the whole piece here
The language of lament. Yes. Carl Trueman has it right. Woe, lament, and judgment.
I was reading Isaiah 66:23-24. Here are the verses,
God's Final Judgments against the Wicked
…23"And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD. 24"Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind."
Isaiah 66:23 is a verse of great blessing, but immediately after, in verse 24 there is a verse of great judgment. Verse 23 shows a monthly worship by representatives who constantly come to acknowledge Jesus as supreme upon the earth. In verse 24 there is a monthly and constant review of the judgment of God, "a perpetual sacrament of judgment", as S. Lewis Johnson puts it.
If it pleased God to tell us that we will worship Him in love and submission; and likewise will view His eternal judgment of those whose worm will not die; to vividly show us that both these things will be constantly occurring, then what of man that we deny singing laments and printing the verses which also show these things?
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