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The Goodness and Severity of God
The goodness and severity of God are things to be observed by us and recorded upon the pages of memory, causing us to bow to him in worship with utter awe and trembling thanksgiving and devotion.
Cause for Wonder
Here is a cause for great wonder (v. 17). God has cast off some of the Jews, the great bulk of AbrahamŐs natural descendants, and has grafted in Ňa remnant according to the election of graceÓ of both Jews and Gentiles. God casts off some who appeared to be his people and has saved sinners, like you and me, whom no one ever dreamed might be his people. Behold, what multitudes have been cast off! But God chose you! Christ redeemed you! God sent the gospel to you! The Holy Spirit called you! God has grafted you into Christ! God has preserved you (1 Corinthians 11:19; 1 John 2:19-20). Truly, the fact that God has spared us and preserved us in Christ is a cause of great wonder in our souls (Ezekiel 9:8).
Here is a reason for great humiliation (vv. 18-19). If you stand it is not because you are strong, but because Christ is your Strength. If you see it is not because you are brilliant, but because Christ is your Light. If you persevere it is not because you are better than the fallen, but because Christ preserves you by the power of his grace (1 Corinthians 4:7).
ŇThou barest not the root, but the root thee!Ó — You do not carry Christ. Christ carries you. Christ does not depend on you. You depend on Christ. You do not sustain Christ. Christ sustains you. The church of God does not depend on you. You depend on GodŐs church. GodŐs church does not need you. You need GodŐs church.
Understand this too. — ŇThe branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.Ó GodŐs judgment upon others, God casting away the reprobate and the heresies spawned by them, is ordained of God for your soulŐs good. God uses the wrath of reprobate men against him for the salvation of his elect and our soulsŐ everlasting good (Psalm 76:10).
The crucifixion of Christ by the hands of wicked men was the redemption of our souls by the hand of God (Acts 2:23). The casting off of Israel because of their unbelief was the sending of the gospel to and the salvation of GodŐs elect among the Gentiles. The heresies by which the reprobate seek to divide GodŐs church, and by which they are themselves deceived only unite GodŐs church and reveal who are his (1 Corinthians 11:19). The messengers of Satan who seek to turn you from the simplicity that is in Christ only cause GodŐs elect to cling more earnestly to Christ as their All (2 Corinthians 11:4; Colossians 3:11).
When judgment falls upon others, and they fall away under it, let us be humbled before God.
Here is a motive for great devotion, something to inspire great consecration (vv. 20-21). — ŇThou standest by faith,Ó God given faith, Divinely sustained faith, faith in Christ. — ŇTake heed lest he also spare not theeÓ (John 6:66-71; Galatians 6:14). Every time we see anyone taken by SatanŐs craftiness, snared by the wicked one, we ought to more resolutely cling to Christ and his gospel. DonŐt even investigate the nonsense by which Satan would bait you. You are only asking for trouble if you do (Deuteronomy 12:29-13:3).
Goodness and Severity
The goodness of God is illustrated in Holy Scripture in the lives of many. You cannot fail to see the goodness of God in the lives of Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Esther, Ruth, and David.
In the Book of Beginnings, before he drove Adam and Eve out of the garden in his severity, the Lord God showed them his goodness. They sinned horribly against God. They listened to the voice of Satan. They rebelled against God. They were judged by him for their sins. But even though they lost their former glory through sin, our first parents were not destroyed. Instead, God in his great goodness clothed them in coats of skin (Genesis 3:21). The word ŇskinsÓ is singular not plural. Both of their coats were made out of one skin. The Lord Jesus Christ gave one sacrifice, one redemption, one coat of righteousness. That is what is pictured in the one skin with which God clothed the fallen pair. And when God did that, he gave us six lessonsÉ
But our text also calls for us to behold the severity of God. As I said, the Greek word ŇseverityÓ means Ňrigor, sharpness, harshness.Ó God is not only good, he is also sharp, harsh, and severe. Sodom and Gomorrah, Mt Sinai, Nadab and Abihu, Uzza who put his hand to the ark, the rich man in hell, and Ananias and Saphira all testify to the severity of God.
But, O my soul, if you would see the severity of God, the rigorous, the sharp, the harsh severity of the Almighty, go to dark Gethsemane and on to Mt Calvary! When the Lord Jesus Christ, GodŐs darling Son, who knew no sin, did no sin, and could not sin, was made sin for us, the holy Lord God drew forth the sword of his unbending, strict justice, in all the fury of his wrath, and slaughtered his Son under the penalty of the law, that he might make me the righteousness of God in him (Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14). — Only at Calvary do we fully behold the goodness and severity of the Almighty.
Oh, may God give you his goodness in Christ! O Spirit of God, give us grace, constant, relentless, unceasing grace, that we may abide in the goodness of God, that we may cling to Christ!