"OUR GRACIOUS, MERCIFUL GOD."
Intro. Many people have a mistaken notion that the Bible reveals two Gods. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. They see the God of the Old Testament as a fierce vengeful God just waiting to bring His fiery judgment down on the guilty offender, whereas the God of the New Testament is loving and forgiving.
I. GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
A. Number one, the Bible purports to be, then proves that it is God's revelation of Himself.
B. There are many concepts of God of which most are man-made.
1. Most of man's concepts of God come from himself; he has invented a god in his imagination.
2. His god is created on the premise, "If I were God this is what I would do and how I would be."
3. Thus, these man-made gods are an extension of the man to immensity.
4. If you will take a man's concept of god and narrow the lines down until they meet, you will find the man. It is a projection of himself.
5. Any attempt to understand or reach God beginning with an earth base is doomed for failure.
6. Finite man can never reach or know an infinite God apart from God's revelation of Himself.
a. In Job the question is asked: JOB 11:7
, "Can you by searching find out God? Can you gain a perfect understanding of the Almighty?"
b. David said: PSA 14:2
, "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that understood, and sought God. There was none righteous, no not one."
C. What is the nature of God revealed to us in the Old Testament?
1. How did God reveal Himself to Moses?
And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah God merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
a. That doesn't sound like a vengeful God anxious to destroy His creation.
b. Make no mistake, He is a just God and does punish evil. The flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom show us that.
c. One hundred years before the flood, God warned, "My Spirit will not always strive with man."
d. Several times God's word tells us that He is slow to anger.
e. We have many people today who do not believe that the wicked should be punished. Why do you think that they believe that? Is it because they are so righteous, or so wicked?
f. God said to Job, JOB 40:8
, "Will you also disannul my judgment? Will you condemn me, that you may be righteous?"
2. Note here in the prayer of Nehemiah, verse 17, "But You are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and did not forsake them."
3. Note the context in which he declared this truth of God.
You made known unto them Your holy sabbath. (That was the sign, God's covenant with Israel.) You made known to them Your precepts and statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses Your servant: and You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger, and brought forth water for them out of the rock when they were thirsty, and You promised them that they should go in to possess the land which You had sworn to give to them. But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and would not listen to Your commandments. They refused to obey You, nor pay any attention to the miracles that You did among them. Instead they hardened their necks and in their rebellion they sought to appoint a captain to lead them back to Egypt.
a. Nehemiah declared, "That You, Lord, pardoned them. You were gracious unto them, You were merciful, and You did not forsake them."
b. Did they appreciate this? Read on.
They had greatly provoked God by making a golden calf and worshipping it and declaring that it was the God that delivered them out of Egypt.
Yet You in Your manifold mercies did not forsake them there in the wilderness: but the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go.
c. God's presence was manifested to them in the cloud at day and the pillar of fire at night.
d. God used these to guide them by day and by night but they were also a constant reminder of God's presence with them.
4. God's graciousness was further manifested to them by:
You also gave them Your good Spirit to instruct them, and You did not take Your manna from their mouth, You also gave them water for their thirst. For forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. Beside this, You gave them kingdoms and nations. You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land, which You had promised to their fathers, that they should possess. So they went in and possessed the land, and You subdued the inhabitants of the land. They conquered strong cities, and came into a rich land, and possessed the houses that were full of provisions. They had wells that they did not dig, and vineyards and olive orchards that they did not plant. They also had an abundance of fruit trees and ate to their full, and became fat. They delighted themselves in Your great goodness.
a. How did the people respond to God's goodness?
In spite of all of Your goodness they were disobedient, and rebelled against You and rejected Your law. They then killed the prophets which exhorted them to turn to You, and they did things to greatly provoke You.
b. God's just response:
Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them:
c. God's grace and mercy were once again manifested. And in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto You, You heard from heaven; and according to Your manifold mercies You gave them saviors, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.
d. Again the sin of the people.
But after You delivered them, they did evil again before You: therefore You left them in the hand of their enemies, who had dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto You, You heard from heaven; and many times You delivered them according to Your mercies;
5. Still the people rebelled against God.
You testified to them, that You might bring them again unto Your law, but they were proud, and they would not listen to Your commandments and they sinned against Your judgments. They shrugged their shoulders and hardened their necks, and would not listen.
6. The response of God to their rebellion.
Yet for many years You put up with them, and testified against them by Your spirit in the prophets: still they would not listen, for this reason You gave them over to their enemies.
Nevertheless for Your great mercies' sake You did not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for You are a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps His covenant and shows mercy.
II. LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION AND IN YOUR HEART TRY TO GIVE AN HONEST ANSWER.
A. If you were God, what would you have done with these people?
B. I will tell you honestly, I would not have put up with them. After the second or third time of their rebellion, I would have wiped them out and looked for someone else to love me and serve me.
C. Note that Nehemiah put the judgment of God in the right context. It was just. They deserved it. All other avenues had been exhausted. They left no righteous alternatives for God.
D. For justice to prevail, the wicked must be punished, but I would like to suggest to you that, that is God's last resort. When people refuse to respond to His love and mercy, to His constant entreaties and offers of forgiveness, if they will but change, when they close their ears and refuse to hear, and stiffen their necks and refuse to turn, they leave God with no choice, He must punish them.
E. God was ready and desiring to pardon, for He is gracious and merciful, verse 17.
1. He sent His prophets to call on them to repent and to return to God, but they killed the prophets.
2. He sustained them, but they accepted it as though God owed it to them.
3. Over and over again, He delivered them from their enemies but they looked at the victories as something they had attained because they were superior to their enemies.
III. COMING NOW TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, IN ROMANS 1
, PAUL WARNS OF THE WRATH OF GOD THAT IS COMING ON THE WORLD.
A. He gives the reasons for this wrath.
1. They would not glorify Him as God.
2. They served and worshipped the creature rather than the Creator.
3. Paul describes their activities: Rom. 1:26
: "Because of this, God gave them over to the shameful lusts." Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Since they did not think it worthile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things they knew should not be done. They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless, even though they know the righteous decree of God. That those who do such things deserve
death, they not only do them but take pleasure in watching others do them.
But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And do you think that you shall escape the judgment of God? Do you dispise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; do you not know that the goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But your hardness and impenitent heart is treasuring up unto you wrath in that day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.