Points to Ponder: DOES God Ever "Draw a Line in the Sand?"
Points to Ponder
DOES God Ever "Draw a Line in the Sand?"
Is there a point beyond which no amount of penitence will quench His wrath against sin? Does the God of love and mercy, whose "hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor ear too heavy that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59:1), ever reach an end to His patience and grace? Are you pushing it?
In the account of Judah's King Josiah (II Chronicles 34-35), we learn that the nation was doomed to destruction before they even knew it. Josiah was one of the good kings, who "did what was right in the sight of the Lord" (34:2), seeking the Lord at an early age.
He was only eight years old when he became king. His father and grandfather, Amon and Manasseh, had done much evil and lead the nation into idolatry. Their combined tenure of leadership was about 77 years. But young Josiah, at age 16, began to seek the Lord. Four years later, he initiated a nationwide purge of all idols, from the temple as well as from the cities throughout both Judah and Israel. This took about six years (34:8). Then while the temple was being renovated, the priest found "the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses" (34:14). He gave it to the scribe, who in turn gave it to the king, saying "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book" (34:18).
Those verses are powerful in their subtlety. The boy king has it in his heart to seek the Lord and destroy the foreign idols. In the midst of clearing the trash out of the temple, the priest finds the Book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses. The scribe gives a report on the building program and then mentions that, by the way, the priest has given him a book.
Idolatry had consumed the hearts of the people; even the religious leaders were oblivious to it. And the priest finds the word of God. Apparently, they didn't know it had been missing.
What would happen in the United States if the clergy would find the word of God in the church? Unfortunately, for some leaders, it is just "a book." Its sacredness had been forgotten, its centrality to the lives of God's people in God's own house had been and still is neglected. None of the religious leaders "got it." Many still don't.
But when Shaphan the scribe read the book to Josiah, the king realized that the six years of purging the idols and doing temple renovations were like putting a band aid on a gaping cancerous sore. God had drawn a line in the sand so to speak when He made His covenant with Israel (see the blessings and curses listed in Deuteronomy 28-29). Josiah sent his top officials to Huldah the prophetess.
"Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for those who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book. (II Chronicles 34:21).
She told them that the king's humility and his desire to seek the Lord had caused God to withhold what was coming until after Josiah's death. The people had not read the book nor been acquainted with God's word for some decades, but their neglect would not undo the power of His word the prophetess said:
"Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched'" (34:24-25).
Note those words, "will not be quenched." Even though Josiah restored worship according to the scriptural standard and had removed all the idols from the land, and even though "all his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers" (v. 33b), God was done with that nation. Truth ignored has consequences.
Yet, even with that absolute course set, God still had mercy. As the Babylonians closed in on the nation and the kings who succeeded Josiah did evil in the sight of the Lord,
"The Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place" (35:15).
It is amazing and humbling to study the history of God's people. For decades He put up with blasphemy and spiritual adultery, as His people gave themselves to gods of their own making. People say that the Old Testament is brutal and bloody. NO, it is simply reporting the result of sin. Sooner or later God lifts His hand of mercy and allows us to have what we refuse to let go of.
" . . . they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (II Chronicles 36:16).
The temple was destroyed, the city burned, and the survivors taken into exile. They never thought it could happen to them. But there is a line in the sand. Read the scriptures and discover how God tried over and over again to retrieve His wayward people and bring them back, withholding His wrath in hope.
So many today mock God's word and demean His holiness by how they live their lives. Perhaps someone reading these words has just been pricked with reminders of the warnings given through scripture and from concerned Christians - a pastor, an elder, a faithful friend. Even Jesus said there is a line; He calls it the difficult way which few will choose. Some people think they're smarter than God.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com