Sunday 21 July 2013

Yes I Am 7 - What Is God's Wrath?

Yes I Am by Norman Grubb
Chapter 7

The effects of the disobedience were the opposite to what the natural guilty world would expect God’s reaction to be. We would think God would, in anger and wrath, turn His back on the two. But it was precisely the other way around. It was Adam who hid from God, not God from Adam. Here was God "walking in the garden in the cool of the day" and looking for Adam. But where was Adam? Hidden in the bushes. Nor was God displaying some wrathful retaliation, but only questioning Adam…. to bring the reality of the disobedience home to him. For when He came face to face with the three, the serpent and Adam and Eve, there was not a word of condemnation or wrath against the two, but only His full curse on Satan. To Adam and Eve everything God said was to clarify to them the "beneficial" consequence which they, thankfully, could not escape - a way of life which always has sorrow at its roots. God said in effect, "Eve, you will have sorrow one way; Adam, you will have sorrow another way." That was all. And of course, the point of the sorrow would be that the whole human race through all its centuries of history would always he inwardly miserable, always knowing they were missing the mark and meaning of life, always seeking a phony happiness which would always escape them... and thus, always at the heart of every man, however covered up, is a sense of lostness and a longing for fulfillment. That alone was God’s judgment on His disobedient children, a judgment totally for their benefit.

Where then is what we would think of - and what the Bible often refers to - as God’s wrath? The answer is that the wrath is not in His eternal person, for He is only love. But it is in the human race, who all have their being in Him; for always, no matter how apparently apart from Him in their way of life they be, they actually live and move in His being (which was Paul’s unique revelation to the men of Athens, in Acts 17).

The consequence must always be that we, in our separation from God in His perfect personhood as love, have all the effects in our persons of our wrong way of living; and those constitute the wrath of God, experienced not in Him but in us. This was well put by Paul in speaking of the effects of certain sins in Romans 1 - that we receive in ourselves that recompense of our error which is meet. Quite naturally, to fallen man - seeing only with the external eye - it appears as though God is the God of wrath imposing punishment on us; and it is good in our blindness that we do see it as that, for then the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But to continue in that misconception of God as the God of punishment and wrath after we have become His children by grace, and so should know better, leaves so many people who are justified squirming under the misapprehension that God is punishing them or has deserted them. Even when we read the words of Moses or Paul about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart and that God raised him up to show His power through the hardening we should understand that the hardening was actually in Pharaoh’s persistent refusal to respond to Moses’ word of the Lord to him; so the hardening was of his own heart and in himself, as one who had his being in God and was misusing his being. That is the truth of God’s wrath in His rebellious sons, for as Paul said, the truth concerning Him is that "God has shut them all up in unbelief that He might have mercy on all" (Rom. 11:32, margin), not judgment on them.

But to continue in that misconception of God as the God of punishment and wrath after we have become His children by grace, and so should know better, leaves so many people who are justified squirming under the misapprehension that God is punishing them or has deserted them. 

Actually, what did God give Adam and Eve in that crisis interview? The answer is in what was addressed to the serpent: "You have sown your seed of enmity in My human family, so that they are your children. But I have a seed [one seed, Galatians 3:16] of this woman, My eternal Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and in all who receive Him, that Seed will destroy your seed and crush your head, though wounded by you in the process." That promise was experienced in its truth by Adam and Eve’s second son Abel, to whom God first witnessed that he was justified with the offering of a slain lamb, the first symbol of an atoning death as the gateway to life. And Adam and Eve, as they covered themselves in the skins from slain animals, with which God provided them, must have seen this as the first symbol of atonement. So all God gave them, after this first disobedience that separated them and us from Him, was His all-conquering grace. That grace was in the One who, from that first moment, they could and did receive by faith, and who freed them from eternal death.

But the necessity still remained - again we say it - that for us to become reliable sons in the love-purposes of the Father throughout eternity, we must drink to its dregs the reality of the opposite - the misuse of the self in self-centeredness. We must so know it to the depth of its wrongness and misery that, once we are wakened from our blindness in seeking to make the false way be the true, our disgust and hate and disillusion are so total that, when and if there is a way of escape, we’re "not going to go back to that again." In that we have one secure basis for our new "reversed way" of life. Even if we visit the old haunts under the lure of temptation (as it were, when God is not looking), we’re not staying there. Guilt, shame, repentance, confession bring us shamefacedly back. Thank God, "once bit, twice shy." A competent professional has learned and discarded the wrong way of practicing his trade. And so have we! Once again it is Paul’s "O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God" - for God foresaw and provided for the necessity of the human race going the death-way and experiencing its vanity before we could confidently tread the life-way. We are safe as well as saved sons; not one stage in our history is out of place, the negative any more than the positive.

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