The Terror and Beauty of God ~ 20090621 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
The goal of what Christ did was to bring us to God. But is that a good thing? Do we want to be brought to God? How many of you are sinners? The rest of you are lying, or you're calling God a liar.
Let's say you broke the window of the grumpy old man next door. You were hiding under the porch. Your mom grabs you by the ear and drags you over to his front door. Is that an enjoyable experience? If we recognize our massive guilt and offense toward God, being brought to God could feel just like that. Is this the ride in the police car to bring us before the judge for sentencing? What is this judge like; what is God like?
If you're a sinner like me and understand the absolute holiness and righteousness of God, being brought to him is a terrifying thought.
The question is asked 'who can stand?'; 'who can endure?'. This is a terrifying picture. Or consider what God says in Isaiah 33:
Being brought into the presence of God is a paralyzing thought. In fact in the book of Revelation it says:
Everyone in the whole world, no exceptions, would rather be crushed and buried in an avalanche than to have to face up to their Creator. We desperately want to run and hide, whatever the cost. If we truly appreciate the gravity of our sin and the depth of our offense by our total disregard of our glorious Creator, we desperately want to avoid encountering him at all costs. Even the children of Israel, after God led them out of Egypt, were terrified.
But as I studied, I observed a strange pattern in the Psalms. Those who fear the Lord do not run away from the Lord; rather they run to the him!
Those who fear him also trust in him for help. Psalm 119:120 says:
But just a few verses earlier he said:
I tremble for fear of you, so I run to you and hope in you. Revelation says it the same way:
Those who fear you come to you and worship. Those who are afraid of you run to you for refuge and salvation. The passages we looked at earlier point to this also. The passage in Isaiah 33 asks:
And the answer is given:
Now we know that none are righteous and no man can tame the tongue. So this has to be the righteousness apart from the law that comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22) In verse 24 he says
The other passage we looked at in Nahum said:
But he goes on to say:
Who can stand? Who can endure? Those who take refuge in him. He is good, he is a stronghold to them. So if you fear God and run to him, if you trust in him and make him your hiding place, then you can endure the heat of his anger, you can stand before his indignation. If by faith you are clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can dwell with everlasting burnings, you can dwell with the consuming fire!
But who would want to dwell with the consuming fire? Start a campfire and find out. You can't keep kids away from the fire. They want to put sticks into it and carry it around and jump over it and get as close as they can to it. Even full grown kids like to play with fire. We all are drawn to danger and thrill and excitement and adventure. We like to admire the power and capacity to consume and destroy. He goes on in Isaiah 33:17-18 to say:
So, although being brought to God is a terrifying thought because of our sins, we are irresistibly drawn to gaze on his beauty and to muse on his terror. The Psalmist says 'one thing'. One thing I pursue. One thing I seek after. One thing I have asked the Lord for:
One thing – to dwell with God, to gaze on the beauty of God.
The desperate drive for God is compared to the drive to satisfy thirst in the desert. Our souls long to be satisfied in God.
Only God can satisfy our deepest longings, longings for truth, longings for justice, longings for relationship, longings for intimacy, longings for authenticity, longings for acceptance, longings for beauty, longings for life, longings for meaning and purpose. We crave intimacy with our creator.
In Exodus 33, Moses was pleading with God that his presence would go with his people. He asked that they not move at all unless the presence of God would be with them. When God granted the request, Moses asked for one thing. One thing Moses wanted:
Earlier in the chapter, we saw that the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, but this created in Moses a hunger for more. Moses had a craving for more of God. God responded that no man can see his face and live. But he granted him as much as he could handle. Paul draws a contrast between Moses and our present privilege.
This is the good news!
This is the same good news that the angel proclaims in Revelation.
The content of the good news is 'fear God and give him glory and worship him.' 'Behold your God!' 'dwell with the consuming fire' This is our hope. But we must ask the question 'how can we sinners be brought to an absolutely pure and holy God in such a way that we are hidden safely in him and not consumed by him?' And this question brings us back to our verse in Peter:
Christ, in order to bring us safely to God, suffered once, the righteous for the unrighteous. This is the great exchange. Christ took my place as a substitute. He being totally righteous and sinless, suffered in the stead of unrighteous sinners. I dishonored God and robbed him by not giving him the praise and glory that was his by right. Jesus took the punishment and wrath that was coming to me, and he replaced my sin with his perfect righteousness. Jesus paid my debt in full, then credited my account with his life of righteousness that was well pleasing to his Father. By his death and resurrection, Jesus brought me to God, not as a condemned criminal awaiting sentencing, but as one who has been hidden in Christ and made righteous in him, so that I can be accepted, and enjoy the ravishing beauty of embracing the one who is a consuming fire without being consumed.