Peace if possible. Truth at all costs. ~ Martin Luther

The Tormenting of God

I can’t watch Hallmark movies. Especially those ones where a wife or a child is being abused by an alcoholic husband, or they’re imprisoned or abducted. Why would anyone inflict that upon themselves?  Of course, all these movies seem to have a happy ending, but it’s getting there is the problem!  I just can’t sit down and watch a story that revolves around domestic violence, or some other equally tragic situation, and think that I’m in any way being “entertained”.

Mind you, I have the same reaction to some stories on the evening news.  I have to turn it off and walk away.  The hateful sins that people are capable of inflicting upon one another.

But here’s a shocking realization – have you ever thought that God HAS to witness on a daily basis all of the attrocities of this sin-sick world?

I have the luxury of turning off my TV set and walking away. I can shut it out, and pretend it doesn’t exist. But God has to witness every rape, every murder, every assault. All of the abuse, the lies, the sickening hypocrisy. He is spared none of it.

What makes this even more staggering is that He is the One who the Bible reveals is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness”.  (Habakkuk 1:13)   That is, He cannot look on it condoningly or with approval. He cannot countenance sin. But how can He escape seeing it? His omnipresence means that He is in every room or corner that the most heinous crimes are committed. He has been present for every genocide in all of history. His omniscience means He knows every ounce of pain inflicted, every tear shed in terror.

Sin clearly sickens and offends God infinitely more than it does us … yet we can get relief, He does not.

This gives us a fresh insight into the epic struggle that we see in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22:40-44) Did Jesus sweat drops of blood because He knew He was about to suffer pain? Hardly! I think it was one of the Puritan writers who pointed out that there have been thousands of Christian martyrs who went to agonizing deaths singing hymns and praying. And shouldn’t the Captain of their salvation be at least as courageous as they?

The real agony of Gethsemane is not the fear of impending suffering, but rather the horror of  the “cup” that was placed before Him to drink.  The cup of our sins … which he drank to the dregs.

Ray Comfort illustrates it by telling us to imagine a cup filled with all the worst filth and disease imagineable. In the cup is liquid anthrax and the ebola virus. Aids. Leprosy.  All mixed together in a foul and lethal potion. Imagine being told to drink it.  This describes very well the experience of Jesus Christ in taking our sin for us … becoming cursed in our place.

All the sin of mankind’s pitiful history, past, present and future. Every vile thing that God has had to stand and watch, though it was repulsive to Him.  It was all put into the cup. Jesus drank that cup to the dregs, bearing our sin as though it were His own so that He could die and pay the penalty for it.

In the Old Testament, when someone came to the altar to sacrifice an animal for some sin they had committed, the Priest would prepare to kill that animal, and as he did so he would have the sinner put their hand on the head of the victim. As the animal died a bloody death their hand would remain on it’s head symbolizing that they were identified with the sacrifice. Their sin was imputed to the dying one. (eg. Leviticus 1:2-4)

When Jesus died on the Cross, it’s as though our hands were stretched back through time and placed on His head. All who would come to put their faith in Him. In that moment of horrific death, an exchange took place. All of our guilt was imputed to the innocent One, and He paid for it with His own death. And at the same time, His perfect righteousness was imputed to us.

What is our only appropriate response to all this?

1. We must yield and obey.  The Bible nowhere asks you to “try Jesus”.  “Give the gospel a chance.” Instead it calls us to give up all, and cling to the Cross as our only hope. Abandon everything else and OBEY the gospel. God rightly owns us by a double claim: He created us, and He redeemed by His own blood. No other response is acceptable but full surrender.

2. We should fall down on our faces in worship and thanks.  Every day we should live with a conscious gratitude for all He’s done for us.

3. We can never again treat sin as a small thing, but hate it and flee from it.

How can I be so evil as for another moment to willingly torment the Lover of my soul with my sin?

Phil