March 15, 2009
Psalm 11:4-7 (NIV)
4The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. 5The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. 6On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. 7For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.
How great is our God! It is our prayer for the past five months or so that our hearts will sing, “How great is our God!” We behold the greatness of God as shown in his amazing attributes. His unchangeableness is great. His being the one and only true God is great. His holiness is great. His wisdom his great. His power is great. His knowledge is great. His truthfulness is great. His faithfulness is great. His presence is great. His sovereignty is great. His grace is great. His love is great. His righteousness is great. But have we realized by now that his wrath or anger as God is also great? In fact, he would never be a great God if he will not be angry. And if he is not great, he would not be a God at all. And he will not be worthy to be worshiped, adored, admired and obeyed.
Last week’s sermon focuses only on verse 7 of Psalm 11. The psalmist provides an explanation for God’s actions against the wicked. The reason is because he is a righteous God. Now we will focus on the fact that because God is righteous and just, he must necessarily be angry at all kinds of sin, unrighteousness and injustice because it does not reflect his righteous character. He must be angry at anything that is contrary to his holiness.
We look at angry people as something that is not admirable. But God’s wrath makes him a great and awesome God. His wrath is an expression of his rule as king of all the earth. “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne” (11:4a). Nothing can ever remove God from his throne. He will always be king. If there is rebellion against his throne he will deal with it accordingly. He cannot let the treason go unpunished. “He will by no means clear the guilty” (Exod. 34:7).
God’s sovereign rule of the universe makes the psalmist confident in God because he knows that there is a God who sees everything – not just external human actions but even what is going on inside their hearts. God sees the wickedness of the human heart like a surgeon operating on his patient. He sees that there is a problem, a very grave problem. “He observes the sons of men; his eyes examines them” (11:4b). No one can ever hide the dark motives of his heart from God.
The Wrath of God
Because God sees us and everything in us, he can deal with us according to what we deserve. And if we deserve his anger, God will make sure that we will get it. “The LORD examines the righteous; but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates” (11:5).
Divine displeasure. What does it mean by God’s wrath? “His soul hates.” God is intensely displeased against sin. God hates sin. There is nothing lovely about sin. God is not just a loving and gracious God. “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies” (Nah 1:2). He is a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin. We hate garbage because it stinks. We throw it away. God hates sin because it stinks. He will throw it away.
We do not understand how can God be holy and angry at the same time because human anger is almost always unrighteous. We become angry even when nothing wrong is done to us. Not so with God. Do not compare human anger with God’s. His anger is always pure. It is always a righteous anger. It is always a reaction against sin and rebellion against him.
In Exodus 32, the people made a golden calf and worshiped in a way contrary to God’s law. Moses recalled this event and told the people. “You provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you” (Deut 9:8).
In Numbers 25, what happened when Korah spoke ill of Moses, God’s anointed leader? Korah and his household and all his men were swallowed by the ground. The 250 men offering incense were consumed by fire from the Lord. When the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron accusing them of killing the Lord’s people, “wrath has come out from the Lord” (v. 46). Because of that, 14, 700 died from the plague. These are just some of the many instances where God’s wrath was seen as a reaction against sin. God will deal severely with the surrounding nations and as well as with Israel when they sin against God.
Personal. Why can’t just ignore sin? Why does he hate sin so intensely? It is because sin is a personal attack against him. The psalmist said that “his soul hates” the wicked. It means that his whole being is displeased against sin. God will not hesitate to pour out his indignation against the wicked because every sin is an attack against the being of God.
Some may object, “It is true that God is the God of wrath in the Old Testament. But when Jesus came, God is now portrayed as the God of love in the New Testament.” God is a God of love both in the OT and the NT. God is also a God of wrath both in the OT and the NT. 14 times the word “hell” appeared in our English Bibles. 12 of these was spoken by Jesus! God never changes! When someone in the OT sinned against the Lord, God is angry. When someone in the NT sinned against the Lord, God is also angry!
When we sin we are attacking God himself! A human judge, when bribed, can declare acquit the guilty of his crime and escape punishment. He doesn’t care. He is not the one offended anyway. In God’s courtroom, he is not just the judge; he is also the offended party. He must be angry! If he neglects sin, he will be unrighteous. He will cease to be God!
Against the wicked. Who are the object of God’s wrath? It is “the wicked and those who love violence.” God’s wrath is directed against the wicked, the offender.
What about the saying, “God hates the sin but not the sinner.” Is it true? Partly, yes. God hates sin. That is true. But when we say that God does not hate the sinner, we must be careful. Who is the sinner? If it is someone who like me and you who trusted Christ for our salvation, then it is true. But if it is those who are still unbelieving, then it is not true. God hates the sin, as well as the sinner. For what is in the sinner that God will be pleased? Nothing! Those who are in the flesh are always hostile to God (Rom 8:7-8). They are God’s enemies. “…whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
The wicked are those who love violence. They love what God hates. They hate what God loves. The wicked are not just the murderers, robbers, rapists, adulterers, atheists, idol worshipers, corrupt politicians, drunkards, and hedonists. The wicked are those who are still outside of Jesus Christ! These kind of persons may be here right now. God’s eyes are looking intensely at you. Do you see his burning anger, ready to open up the gates of hell to consume you?
The Revelation of the Wrath of God
God’s wrath is not just an intense feeling inside of God. He will make sure that the wicked will experience his wrath. The wrath of God issues in appropriate actions against the wicked. “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.”
Time. When will God’s wrath be revealed? God’s wrath is being revealed now but will be more clearly and intensely revealed in the future. Hell is God’s ultimate expression of the wrath of God against the unrepentant.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). We see God’s wrath everyday! God is making sure that the wicked are being punished now! But that is not yet the worst. We still ask why does it seem that the wicked continue to prosper and even getting away with their crimes. God is not over with them yet. Their debts are piling up; one day they will repay for the evil deeds they have done, if they remain unrepentant. “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5).
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God).
A time of great judgment will come upon those who are still unrepentant of their sins.
Intensity. How intense will the revelation of God’s wrath be? God’s wrath will be so intensely unbearable for a human being that he would wished that he will just cease to exist so that he will not experience it. “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.”
“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand” (Rev 6:15-17)?
Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. (Nah 1:6)
Duration. How long will the revelation of God’s wrath be? God’s wrath for the wicked will be eternal. God’s punishment is the lot or destiny of the wicked. It “will be their lot.” Literally, “will be the portion of their cup. The part they deserved will be given to them. But it will not be temporary. It will not be even 100 years or a trillion years. It will be forever.
Don’t believe when someone told you or you read on the Internet that hell is just temporary, that God’s punishment of the wicked will be to make them cease to exist. That is not true. All the unbelievers at the judgment day will suffer an eternal and conscious torment in hell. They sinned against an infinite God, they will pay for their sins as long as God continues to exist. Jesus and Paul both talks of eternal punishment (Matt 25:46; 2 Thes 1:9; cf. Jude 7). When God talks of eternal punishment, it is not a punishment with probationary period. Their bodies will burn forever. It will be eaten by worms forever. They will join the demons forever. The wicked will be thrown in the lake of fire, together with Satan and his demons, “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20:10, 15).
Our Response to the Wrath of God
What do we need to do?
Flee. Sinners must flee from the wrath to come. Are you afraid of the economic crisis? Are you afraid of bad people? But are you not afraid of the wrath of God? The worst is yet to come. Flee. But where will you go?
Seek refuge. The only safe refuge from the wrath of God is God himself. We cannot pacify his anger by bribing him with our good works or religiosity. We cannot appease him by our offerings or our works in the ministry. Our money or fame or power cannot extinguish the fires of hell hanging on our shoulders. Only the sacrifice of Jesus can appease God’s anger. Seek refuge in his love. The psalmist said, “In the LORD I take refuge.” Trust in Jesus now. He “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes 1:10).
Our refuge is not our water baptism or church membership. Are you now safe in the loving arms of God? Do you now trust Jesus? Do not leave this room without running to Jesus. He is the only safe place in this world. You might begin your eternity tomorrow shouting in anguish in hell. And you might probably remember this sermon and regret that you have not listened to God’s warning. It will be too late then. But it is not late now. “Now is the day of salvation!”
Warn others. We must live like hell is real. We must warn others to flee from the wrath to come. “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 22-23). When was the last time we mention the reality of hell and the wrath of God to a friend or a family member? You love them not just by giving them candies or helping them with their financial problems; you love them by warning them of the fires of hell. A tragedy is coming and you know it is coming. Will you keep your mouth silent and pretend that everything will be okay? We are all guilty of the blood of men who are now perishing in hell because we keep our mouth shut! You have escaped the fire, and you see others burning in the fire and you will not help them get out. Open your eyes, brothers and sisters! See other people, the unbelievers, as they really are. Think of their destination. Cry for them. If you need to shout or use a megaphone for them to hear your warning, do it. Save them at all costs!
Let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. . . . Awake and fly from the wrath to come (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God).