Materialism, pursuing pleasure, and a holy God

[Update, September 6th, 2008: I’ve seen an interesting trend of late – this post is getting translated into Arabic!  For any future visitors reading this post in Arabic: السلام عليكم – and welcome!]

I started reading through Isaiah a few days ago. I read chapter 5 this morning, and these verses jumped out at me:

Is 5:8 Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
9 In my ears the LORD of hosts has sworn, “Surely, many houses shall become desolate, even great and fine ones, without occupants.
10 “For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine, and a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain.”
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!
12 Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, nor do they consider the work of His hands.
13 Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.
15 So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud also will be abased.
16 But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. (NAS)

People don’t like to hear about God’s judgment. Who am I kidding – I don’t like to think about God’s judgment. But we serve a jealous God – He does not tolerate not being the focus of our lives. This can be puzzling, at best, to some people – but it is much less confusing when you simply look at who God is compared to what we tend to put in His place: chasing after material things (houses without end – vs. 8 – the implication there seems to be about taking up so much land, selfishly, that the poor have no place to live), the party life (vss. 11-12), self-importance (vs. 15), etc.

The first 7 verses of the chapter tell the story of God carefully and tenderly planting and caring for the vineyard which is His people, Israel – only to receive a worthless harvest. Therefore, He is going to discipline His people. Then we get to verses 8-16, which end with God being exalted – praised, lifted up, glorified – in judgment. In judgment. Why? Because holy God shows Himself to be holy in righteousness. The Amplified translation says: “[He] shows Himself holy in righteousness and through righteous judgments.”

A.W. Pink says this about God’s wrath (from The Attributes of God, ch.16):

It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God’s wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the Divine character, or some blot upon the Divine government. But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the fact of His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is, “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me” (Deut. 32:39-41). A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner: Psalm 7:11.

Now the wrath of God is as much a Divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if “wrath” were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper. How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom. 9:12) toward it? How could He who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, loathe and hate not that which is impure and vile? The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

And this about God’s holiness (The Attributes of God, ch.8):

Because God is holy He hates all sin. He loves everything which is in conformity to His laws, and loathes everything which is contrary to it. His Word plainly declares, “The froward is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 3:32). And again, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 15:26). It follows, therefore, that He must necessarily punish sin. Sin can no more exist without demanding His punishment than without requiring His hatred of it. God has often forgiven sinners, but He never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment; for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).

I’m grateful that we worship a consistent God!

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