The world is against us and if God is too
Let us lay down in the dust bowl
And join the dust the wind blows
‘Cross the ruins of a sweet lie
We once thought true
. . .
If your will is not to save us
But to banish and forsake us
Then our prayer for mercy’s wasted
In resisting You
What arresting lyrics!
If the Almighty God is against us, then there is nothing left but to lie down in the dust from whence we came. There is nothing left but to “flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD” (Isa. 2:19). There is nothing left but to hide in the grave and hope his anger will pass (Job 14:13). “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Therefore, it is a question of crucial importance whether God be for us or against us.
“God is love” (1 John 4:8) and that is a sure comfort. The LORD, the LORD, is “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6), and that is a comfort. The love of Christ “surpasses knowledge,” so that only by prayerful appeals to the power of the Almighty may we ever hope to grasp its tremendous width, length, height, and depth (Eph. 3:14ff). All of this is a sure comfort.
And yet, we cannot ignore verses like these either:
- Leviticus 20:23, “You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.”
- Psalm 5:5-6, “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.”
- Proverbs 16:5, “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”
- Hosea 9:15, “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there.”
Notice these are not examples of God hating the sin and loving the sinner. On the contrary, these verses say quite explicitly that God hates the sinner because of his sin. (Even apart from explicit references to divine hatred, the very idea of God’s wrath poured out on sinners entails a sort of hatred toward them.)
Taken by themselves, these verses are troubling. Taken with John 3:16, they are puzzling.
How can the God who so hates sinners also so love the world? How is it that the same God who abhors thousands to the point of utterly destroying them also maintains love to thousands to the point of eternally saving them? How does God’s wrath upon the unrepentant reconcile with Mark’s statement that Jesus looked upon the unrepentant rich man and loved him (Mark 10:21)? How are we to understand this divine love/hate paradox?
In light of this dilemma, I am starting a new blog series entitled “Who Does God Love?”, in which I will go through the entire Bible book-by-book and gradually develop a theology of the objects of God’s love. This series will explore questions such as the following:
- Whom does God love?
- Whom does God hate?
- What does this mean for evangelism and everyday interactions with other people?
I expect my theological conclusions will be terribly unbalanced at times, because I will be examining the Scriptures only one book at a time. So please be patient with me! 🙂 But by the time we get through the entire Bible and finish the series, I hope we will have a full and truthful perspective on the matter.
As we study the Scriptures, may the Holy Spirit guide us in all truth. May we grow in the knowledge of God so that we are more endeared to him and walk more faithfully before him.
Over the next week or so, keep an eye out for the first post in this series, which will examine what the Book of Genesis teaches about the objects of God’s love. Click here to read the post on Genesis.