- Meet your God!
3,500 years ago Moses took the people of Israel out of the camp to stand at the foot of the mountain to meet the One true and living God. The entire mountain was covered in smoke and quaked violently, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. From the mountain, God revealed Himself to His people, not merely by His descension upon the mountain, but through the giving of His Law He disclosed Himself. He made Himself known to His people through His word.
The word before us today says, “Behold, meet your God!” Come face to face with the Father and His Son. See Him for who He is, and not for what you think He is. Observe His character and nature and understand His will. This portion calls out for us to know Him and to love Him and to live for Him. It is within this garden of Gethsemane we see the One true and living God. We come face to face with a God of love and of wrath.
- The Hour of the Cup of the Wrath
People have no problem acknowledging that God is loving. We understand that the Scripture say that “love is from God…for God is love.” We see, and love, what He says of Himself to Moses saying that He is:
“Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”
The Living God has revealed Himself, and He wants us to understand He is love.
Those who are familiar with the account in Exodus understand that God does not just reveal Himself to Moses as One who is only love, but One who is just as well. Yes, He is compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, abounding in lovingkindness and forgiveness, yet He goes on to say of Himself that “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” As Abraham acknowledges, the judge of all the earth will always deal justly, for He is good and in Him there is no darkness. He will punish all sin. Nahum 1:2 says this of the Living and unchanging God:
“A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; The Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies.”
He administers justice for sin through the distribution of His holy wrath.
What many struggle with, is how a loving God can also be a wrathful One. Many create a dichotomy the bible does not create. They believe God can be either love or wrathful, but never the same. In our fallen minds it is impossible for someone who is the epitome of love to hate. If, however, we really apply our minds to this we will realize that it is impossible for one who loves to not hate. If you love the sanctity of life you will hate all forms of murder. If you love true justice, you will hate all injustice. Since God is love He must hate. He will hate anything and everything that contradicts that which He loves. The Psalmist says in Psalm 5:5, “You hate all who do iniquity.” What is iniquity? Iniquity is sin. What is sin? Sin is whatever proceeds from our mouths, or permeates in our minds, or is performed with our bodies that is contrary to the character, nature, and will of the good and Living God and incurs His holy hatred. Whatever contradicts His love will become the object of His wrath, and He will not allow sin to go unpunished. This is our God!
This is also what establishes the divine dilemma. It creates questions which only the gospel of Jesus Christ can sufficiently answer. How can God forgive sin without corrupting His justice, and completely punish sin without crushing the guilty under His wrath? How can a perfect and righteous God, who only permits perfect and righteous to people to live before Him, allow imperfect and unrighteous man to live eternally in His presence?
If someone were to say to me, “Show me that God is a God of wrath.” I would not point to the many instances in both the Old Testament and New Testament where God declares Himself to be so. Nor would I point to the times God proved Himself to be so, such as when He consumed Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu for not treating Him as holy by offering strange fire; or Uzzah, who He killed for touching that which he was commanded not to touch, the ark of the covenant. He desecrated that which was holy, and experienced the just fury of God; or Ananias and Sapphira who lied to God and died by God, for “the person who sins will die.”
If someone were to says to me, “Show me that God is a God of wrath.” I would point that person to Calvary’s Hill. I would direct their attention to the Christ, the sinless Son of God, hanging upon a tree at the hour for which He came to drink of the cup He came to drink. It was said of Him at His conception in the womb of a virgin, “You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
The New Testament does not depict a wrathless God, quite the opposite. The New Testament boldly and loudly declares that God is wrathful, but because of His great love with which He has loved us, He has placated His wrath towards us on His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 4:9-10 says:
“9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
When two of His disciples wanted to be considered greatest He said to them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” What was the cup? It was the cup of the wrath of God towards sin. Of this cup Jesus says in John 12:27-28:
“My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
- The Agony and Obedience of Christ
We see in Mark 14:32-34 that Jesus and His disciples:
“Came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”
These are the final moments of Christ’s earthly ministry before the cross and we see that He becomes very distressed and troubled. He is literally struck with terror and anguish. His agony is so great that He says He is grieved to the point of death. The terror is so extreme that as He prays to His Father blood begins to form in His sweat. This is an intense agony Christ is experiencing, and its cause is the hour before Him and the cup He is to drink. Mark 14:35-36 says:
35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
As we can understand by now, His being troubled and distressed was not because He was about to be betrayed by a friend, rejected by His people, and delivered to the Romans. His agony and grief were not due to the fact that He was about to undergo serious mocking and ridicule, and scourging to an intensely gruesome degree. It was not the fact that thorns were about to become His crown, or that nails wood be driven through His hands and His feet securing Him to a tree that He might suffocate. It was that He was about to become a curse for us and suffer under the penalty we deserve.
For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. What did God give His only Son for? To be the propitiation of our sins. How does the Son become our propitiation for sin? The Father makes Him, who knew no sin, to become our sin. He causes the iniquity of us all to fall on Him, and pours out His wrath towards us on Him. He pierces Him through for our transgression and crushes Him for our sins. Psalm 22 will find its fulfillment as Christ cries out from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Why did the Father forsake Him? His Son took upon His own account all that what we are, which is so disgusting and odious to a holy God, whose character, nature, and will compels Him to crush the guilty and forsake them. He loves all that is righteousness, perfect, and pure; therefore, He hates all that is unrighteous, imperfect, and impure. He treated His only Son as if we were hanging on the cross before Him.
Understanding this, Jesus prays to His Father that this cup may pass from Him knowing that His intimacy with His Father is about to be interrupted. It is not going to be disrupted because of anything He did, but for everything we are. We see His intimacy with His Father by His calling Him, “Abba! Father!” Abba is a term of endearment, and it conveys the closeness of the relationship the Father and the Son have had for all of eternity.
Jesus acknowledges that “all things are possible for” Him. There is nothing beyond God’s power, privilege, and prerogative; however, He will not do anything that is contrary to His character, nature and will. Jesus’ request is not one seeking to have God contradict Himself, but inquiring whether the Father could accomplish redemption through some other means and still be consistent with His person and work. Jesus says, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me.” I appreciate John MacArthur’s thoughts on this when he says in his commentary:
“Jesus’ request was not a sign of weakness, but the utterly expected response of One whose pure, sinless character necessarily and severely recoiled at the thought of bearing man’s sin and guilt, and suffering God’s wrathful judgment. If He had not reacted that way, it would raise questions about His absolute holiness.”
Jesus knows that there is no other way for God to redeem man apart from Him and still maintain His being love and just. What we see is obedience to the will of His Father, “yet not what I will, but what You will.” Christ entire ministry was characterized by submission to His Father. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve by giving His life as a ransom for many. He therefore says, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.” He says in Matthew 26:42, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” There was no other way!
How can God forgive sin without corrupting His justice, and completely punish sin without crushing the guilty under His wrath? God the Son becomes a Man and lives a perfect life, He goes to the cross as the spotless Lamb of God and bears our sin on His body and suffers under the wrath of God towards us. God satisfies His justice, appeases His wrath, and extends His mercy to the guilty party He has saved from Himself. For God so love the world He gave His only Son that whoever believes upon Him will never perish but have eternal life. How can a perfect and righteous God, who only permits perfect and righteous to people to live before Him, allow imperfect and unrighteous man to live eternally in His presence? He became a Man and lived the life we are incapable of living, a righteous life of perfect obedience to the Law of His Father, and He credits His righteousness to our account. He became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 8:9 beautifully sums it all up as the truth that, “He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich.”
- God the Son, Willing and Alive
2,000 years before the cross, God foreshadowed His redemptive plan by saying to a man named Abraham:
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
He obeyed. Abraham gathered the materials necessary for a burnt offering and set out with his son, whom he loved. As Abraham was bring the knife down upon his son, who willingly laid upon the alter, God stopped him and said:
“Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
God then provided a ram to die in the place of Isaac, and Abraham named the place Jehovah Jireh, which means The LORD Will Provide. A saying went out, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” What will be provided? A suitable and sufficient offering for sin, The Eternal Son of God. Just as Abraham willingly gave his son, whom he loved, God willingly gave His only Son, whom He loved, to be the propitiation for our sins as the Lamb of God. He did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
Some blasphemously say that is sadistic. Others consider it cosmic child abuse, and brutally barbaric. Such thinking misses three vital truths about Jesus Christ:
- He was willing. Christ gave of Himself a ransom for all. He gave Himself for us to redeem us. He says in John 10:15,18:
“I lay down My life for the sheep…18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
- He is God. Philippians 2:5-8, conveys not only the willingness of Christ to obey the Father, but the divinity of Christ by saying that:
“although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
- He is alive. Yes, God sent His Son to slay Him as our Passover Lamb, but He did not allow Him to remain and decay in the grave. By the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, the Son of God was nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, but God raised Him back to life the third day never to die again. Just as Isaac came down from the mountain alive after willing laying down his life, Christ came up from the grave after laying down His. Since He lives, all who put their trust in Him will live also. Since He lives, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him.
This is not sadistic, barbaric, brutal child abuse; it is historical and biblical truth, and it is beautiful. God demonstrates in Christ that He is righteous and wrathful, and through His display in Christ we see He is love. It is His wrath being poured out on His Son which magnifies His love for us. He spared not His own Son to redeem us to Himself.
- Christ, Worthy to be Believed in and Lived For
To the non-believer that may be listening, I want to ask you to consider, if God spared not His own Son to save His people, what do you think He will do with you? The Scripture says that when He returns for His people, He will be:
“8 Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
My plea for you is that you would obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Deny yourself. Die to your sin. Die to your self-righteousness. Turn from it all and trust in Christ, and follow Him. Do not look for a wrathless gospel, for it is a worthless one and no gospel at all. It says “’peace, peace!’ when there is no peace.” In Adam we all die. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one. We are all by nature children of wrath, meaning mankind is condemned already and the wrath of God abides on them. My aim is never to diminish sin or its just penalty, but to boldly and loudly proclaim God’s gracious provision in His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He loves.
Understand that he who keeps his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life for Christ’s sake and the gospels shall find it. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul in the process? Nothing! What will you need to give in exchange for your soul? Everything! Do not neglect so great a salvation!
Romans 5:7-8 says this:
“7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Do we understand what Romans 5 is saying? It is saying that we in our fallen state are neither righteous nor good. We are helpless, ungodly sinners who are the enemies of God. We are the objects of God’s holy hatred and deserving of His just wrath, yet the good news is that He loved us and He proved it by dying the death we deserve. I will say again, do not neglect so great a salvation! Deny yourself and embrace Christ!
To us who have received so great a salvation, are we continuing to die to ourselves, to pick up our crosses and to follow after Him? Are we laying hold of eternal life in the here and now, and living to the praise of His glory? Are we walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called in Christ? Are we being the ambassadors of Christ we are commanded to be by carrying the message of reconciliation to this lost and dying world? The glorious message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting their trespasses against them, because He made Him who knew no sin to become our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We have been bought with a price, we are to therefore “glorify God with our bodies.” The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15:
“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Who do we live for? Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us to:
“Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
 Exodus 19:17
 Exodus 19:18
 1 John 4:7-8
 Exodus 34:6
 Exodus 34:7
 Genesis 18:25
 Mark 10:18; 1 John 1:5
 Leviticus 10:1-5
 1 Chronicles 13:7-11
 Acts 5:1-11
 Ezekiel 18:20
 Matthew 1:21
 Mark 10:38
 Luke 22:44
 Galatians 3:13
 1 John 4:10
 2 Corinthians 5:21a
 Isaiah 53:6
 Isaiah 53:5
 Matthew 27:46
 John 17:5,22-23
 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, John Macarthur; Page 302
 Mark 10:45
 2 Corinthians 5:21b
 2 Corinthians 8:9
 Genesis 22:2
 Genesis 22:12
 Genesis 22:14
 John 3:17
 1 Timothy 2:6
 Titus 2:14
 Acts 2:22-24
 John 14:19
 Hebrews 7:25
 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9
 Jeremiah 6:14
 1 Corinthians 15:22
 Romans 3:23
 Romans 3:10-12
 Ephesians 2:3; John 3:18,36
 1 Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 1:12
 Ephesians 4:1
 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
 1 Corinthians 6:19-20