The Terror and Beauty of God ~ 20090621 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

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.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1John 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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?

Nahum 1:2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

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:

Isaiah 33:13 Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Being brought into the presence of God is a paralyzing thought. In fact in the book of Revelation it says:

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

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.

Exodus 19:16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

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!

Psalm 115:11 You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.

Those who fear him also trust in him for help. Psalm 119:120 says:

Psalm 119:120 My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

But just a few verses earlier he said:

Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

I tremble for fear of you, so I run to you and hope in you. Revelation says it the same way:

Revelation 15:4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

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:

Isaiah 33:14... “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

And the answer is given:

Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly...

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

Isaiah 33:24 ... the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.

The other passage we looked at in Nahum said:

Nahum 1:3 ...the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. ... 6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger?

But he goes on to say:

... 7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

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:

Isaiah 33:17 Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; ...18 Your heart will muse on the terror: “Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed the tribute? Where is he who counted the towers?”

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:

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

One thing – to dwell with God, to gaze on the beauty of God.

Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before 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.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

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.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

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:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

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.

2Corithians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This is the good news!

Isaiah 40:9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

This is the same good news that the angel proclaims in Revelation.

Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

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:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,

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.