Tomorrow I will be 24 and the whole country will mourn. And life will go on for those of us for whom God still has plans. Ten years ago on my 14th birthday, two planes hit two towers and reminded us we are frail. And people called on God and called for prayer and denounced evil. But we still don’t believe we need God.
If we think we are a Christian nation, we may not be that far off. God has always loved stubborn people. Loved and punished in passionate jealousy. Even Moses, who saw God and lived, wasn’t permitted a foot in the Promised Land because of his disobedience. We do not teach about a vengeful God anymore. He’s hard to swallow with our feel-good faith. I’m not saying God caused 9/11. He never desires pain for us. I am saying he allowed it to happen. One must say that if one believes God is in control. No one can say why. God’s mind and ways are beyond our understanding. We are told to trust.
Perhaps God allows pain to protect us from even worse things. God tried wooing Israel with love, but they paid no attention. He could have left them to their evil ways and his forgiveness would have seemed like love. But they would have been utterly destroyed by corruption. So God lovingly punished their sin – punished it harshly but justly. He was preparing them to be his representatives to the world. He was preparing the way for Jesus. God’s Old Testament justice was not only a loving treatment of his people at that time, it was a process toward the eventual salvation for all people. We don’t see the love in God’s Old Testament command that adulterers be stoned to death. But he was trying to impress upon us the seriousness and sacredness of the marriage bond. It is a unity that must not be broken – a symbol of the perfect love between Christ and his bride, the church. He gave it the utmost importance. But we still don’t get it.
Blessings don’t draw us to God. Punishments don’t draw us to God. Nothing he did impressed us enough. But he loved us too much to stop pursuing us. So he sent his Son – the only way God and man could be one. While we would never come to him, he came to us. It is finished.
How does God interact with us now? He has to respond to sin. But the Old Testament justice is no longer upon us because Jesus already took the capital punishment on our behalf. Yet we still ignore God and reject his guidance. He is actively trying to get our attention. Sometimes blessings don’t do the trick. God still loves us too much to leave us alone. The Bible says we should fear and love God. Feel-good Christianity has edited out the fear. It’s true that we shouldn’t focus too much on the Law, lest we think we can earn God’s favor. But we mustn’t forget the Law. We cannot receive God’s love and reject God’s ways. Grace is free but it is not cheap. It cost our Lord’s blood. He’s still pursuing you.