Our Just and Loving God
- Imagine how God feels about sin.
- Reconcile the image of a just God who must punish sin with a merciful God who saves us from sin.
- Wonder at—and give thanks for—God's mercy.
This session brings us to the crux of human sinfulness---God's view of our sin. Our own guilty feelings or attempts to duck responsibility fade into insignificance when compared with the weight of God's judgment. The question is, "What does God think of your sin?"
Again, the Bible answers this deep question with a story, the story of the flood. Beginning with the murder of Abel and escalating from there, "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5, TNIV).
But notice God's response. This passage does not paint God as a cold, indifferent, heavenly Judge. Rather, it says that God "regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled." Like a painter whose precious work of art has been defaced, the Lord refuses to shrug off human sin. God's beautiful creation has been spoiled and made ugly by the very ones created to be its crown.
The Q&A for today says, "God hates sin and, as the just Judge, must punish it." As horrific as the flood is, it reflects God's responsibility and very personal pain and grief rather than a mere angry impulse. As Judge, God must make things right.
This passionate judgment of God fits the Old Testament image of the judge. When Israel's poor were mistreated by the rich, the oppressors would take their lands and make their children slaves; and there was no way to resist. Their one hope was that a judge might intervene. Only this one person could stop the rich and powerful and restore the poor to their lands and children. The judge was the only hope to bring justice, to punish the wicked, and to rescue the helpless.
That's the image of God as Judge we must keep in mind. As Judge of all the earth, only God can maintain justice and righteousness, punishing evil and rewarding good. Behind God's justice stands God's merciful desire to make things right, to establish good, so that his creation may thrive.
In the story of the flood the wicked people of the earth are destroyed, but righteous Noah "found favor in the eyes of the Lord ." Along with Noah, representatives of all the living creatures on the earth are saved from death.
Noah becomes the model of the faithful remnant that God saves. That is why early Christians made the ark a symbol of Christ's church, a sanctuary from God's judgment on sin. As in all of these stories, the wonders of God's grace surround the horrors of sin and judgment. God will not let his creation go, but in judgment shows mercy. And so the story culminates in the sign of the rainbow. The rainbow becomes a reminder to God---only secondarily a reminder to us---of his everlasting promise that "never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."
The excavation work has now begun for the long road of redemption that will finally lead to the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
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