Before I dive into my post proper, I wanted to drop a major recommendation for discussing the knowledge of God. I am an introvert. Always have been, always will be. I get energy from being alone. Yet, no matter how introverted I am, if I am with a group of people and we’re talking about Jesus, I walk away from the conversation so full of energy that I’m almost hyper. Anyone who knows me very well understands that’s a pretty big deal for me – my typical mode of existence is pretty mellow. The point being, getting together with folks to talk about the knowledge of God is amazing. Do it. Do it often.
I have had the pleasure of being able to discuss the knowledge of God with people two days in a row – quite the double-whammy – late Saturday night with my team, and early Sunday afternoon (my morning) with my FITN study group. Both meetings we were struck with how phenomenal God’s leadership is. Let me elaborate…
Our team briefing last night returned to the topic of our “A-Game.” Mostly, we discussed Bible study plans: Did we all have one? What were we studying? How were we going about it? Why even bother having a plan in the first place?
Clay began to go off about how important it was to encounter Jesus in our study plan. It’s a topic we’ve discussed countless times before, but I never get tired of it. Studying the Word just for the sake of saying you did it is not a good way to actually get anything out of what you read. As intently as we study the end-times around here, it’s nothing but wasted energy if we don’t meet a Man (who also happens to be God) in the middle of it. If the only motivation for studying eschatology is to get a neat timeline with all the pieces of the puzzle put together, there are better ways to spend our time.
However, the testimony of Jesus is all over Scripture. The end-times are dripping with revelations of the heart of God, if we take the time to look at them. We’re not looking at a sadistic deity who wanted to figure out how to end the world as messily as he possibly could. We’re looking at a God who is crazily in love with human beings, and will do whatever it takes to get their attention and draw as many to Himself as possible, snatching them from the flames.
Have you ever wondered why there are twenty-one judgments in Revelation (seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls)? Because God didn’t want to wipe everyone out with the first one. It is the very mercy of God that there are so many of them. He wants to awaken the hearts of humanity.
God dealt this way with Israel in the days He was establishing them. In Deuteronomy 28, God is telling them, through Moses, to obey His commands. He gives them the first fourteen verses of unthinkable blessing, covering every aspect of life. I can almost picture the people in that day listening to this, eyes wide with anticipation, nudging each other, going, “This is going to be great!” Fourteen whole verses! And then… the rest of the chapter.
Curses for disobedience. Lots of them. Fifty-four verses of them. They start out bad – and then they get worse. I can just picture the enthusiasm draining out of the crowd as they listen, as the descriptions get increasingly heavy and increasingly graphic. “Geez… I guess God is pretty touchy about those kosher laws…”
But that’s not the heart of God at all. He isn’t out to inflict as much pain as possible on people who don’t like Him. He is actually being incredibly longsuffering with us as He gives us one “wake up call” after another.
It’s like trying to wake someone up in the natural. You don’t start by throwing a brick at them. You start by whispering their name. If they don’t hear you, you say it a little louder. If they still don’t hear you, you shake them gently by the shoulder. As you keep trying, you get a little more drastic with your efforts. Yelling their name. Making a lot of noise. Giving them a good whack with a pillow. Tossing cold water on them. (By the way, if they’re not awake yet, check their pulse.)
But that’s really the way God approaches us. He’s been calling our name throughout the ages. Jesus’ return is drawing ever nearer, and we cannot afford to be on the wrong side of the fence when He shows up. We look at the seals, trumpets and bowls, and get offended at their severity. Christ sees it all from an eternal perspective, and He knows that at the end of the road of our compromise lies a lake of fire, more severe than any earthly judgment we could ever face. He has great energy about keeping people out of that thing.
Yet, in His gentleness, as He wakes us up to reality, He starts softly with us. The beginning of sorrows (Matt 24:4-8). Do we have the hint yet? First seal. Second seal. Third seal. Any response? Fourth seal. Fifth seal. All the while, He is sounding the call: “Return to Me… Seek Me while I may be found.” Moving through the trumpets. Messing with the trees and grass. Messing with the water. Messing with the sun and stars. Is anyone waking up?
The mercy of God and the judgment of God are not at odds with each other at all. He is not divided in His heart in the least sense. He judges becuase He loves. What we are so prone to call His unreasonable anger is actually His unfathomable patience. He’s waited for two thousand years so far to come back, “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe 3:9). He is merciful. He is just. Evil is never allowed to just slide, yet sinners are forgiven freely if they turn. His justice never fails, even as His mercies are new every morning. His mercy and justice have been streaming together throughout the entire course of human history, and through His profound wisdom, He will raise up a whole company of people who love Him when all is said and done.
His leadership is a beautiful, beautiful thing.