Friday, August 31, 2012

Flippancy and Fear

My husband and I both enjoy sarcastic humor.  I've always had a sarcastic streak in me, though over the years I have worked on keeping it in check so as to not hurt people by being unfeeling.  But both of us can appreciate sarcastic humor, satire, and irony.  In itself, I don't think there's much wrong with that.


Over the past few months, I have found it harder to listen to some of the comedians that we enjoy occasionally.  You see, the problem is coming when sarcastic humor turns into flippancy; namely, flippancy toward God.  This kind of flippancy comes in many different forms.  I'm sure you know what I mean.  Joking about natural disasters as God's judgment for sin.  Mocking those who talk about sin and the need to live according to God's standard, whether it is politically correct or not. Insulting those who preach about Jesus' return. The constant using of God's name as a swear word.

Now, in saying that the mocking is wrong, I'm not saying that those well-known tv personalities who proclaim that a particular natural disaster is definitively God's judgment for a particular sin are necessarily right.  As one of my old pastors used to say: "When you claim to speak for God, you better be sure that you are saying only what He said."  It's a scary thing to speak in the name of God... and be wrong.  If you have any doubts about this, see the story of the prophets Jeremiah and Hananiah in Jeremiah 28. (Long story short: Hananiah proclaimed, "this is what the Lord says," despite not having heard from God directly, and God told him he would die for it.)

That said, I think it is a very dangerous thing to mock the Living God.  After all, He IS God. "For this is what the LORD says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other."" (Isaiah 45:18)

God declared the sacred nature of His name in the 10 Commandments - remember, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7).  He declared over and over again that our proper place is one of worship, reverence, and fear of Him.  The fear of the Lord is not a cowering, terrified that He's going to strike you with lightning bolts kind of fear.  It's more of a recognition of your true place in light of His power, perfection, glory, sovereignty, judgment, and grace.  Have you ever noticed that all of the people in the Bible who had an encounter with the Living God, either through the Angel of the LORD or through visions, tend to wind up flat on their face at His feet? 

God told Israel: And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

The Psalmist declared, You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! (Psalm 22:23).  And Psalm 33:8 says: Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him.

The writers of Proverbs had a lot to say about the fear of the Lord. 
  • Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
  • Proverbs 9:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Proverbs 14:27 - The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.
  • Proverbs 16:6 - Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.
  • Proverbs 22:4 - Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.
  • Proverbs 23:17 - Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
We are called to be zealous for the fear of the LORD.  It should be something we are passionate about.  We should be offended when our God is mocked.  The Psalmist Asaph knew what that was like.  Some scholars believe that Asaph wrote Psalm 74 in response to the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian army.  He was confused as to why this had happened and begged the LORD to not allow their enemies to continue mocking God:

Psalm 74:10-18:
How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! 
But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.
It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. 
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.
It was you who opened up springs and streams; you dried up the ever flowing rivers.  
The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.
Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O LORD, how foolish people have reviled your name. 
Asaph was worried that God wasn't paying attention to those who were mocking His name and insulting Him and His faithful children.  Don't worry; He wasn't blind to their suffering, nor was He deaf to the insults.  All you have to do is read the writings of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, and other prophets to see that God was not at all ignorant of the damage being done to His name by the mockers. 

To me, some of the most terrifying places in Scripture are the places where God declares how He will respond to those who oppose Him.  Last night I read a few chapters out loud and was reminded that Our God has ALL authority in Heaven and on Earth.  In Ezekiel 39, God makes it clear that He will not allow humanity to mock Him and profane His name forever:

* I will make known my holy name among my people Israel.  I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel(38:7)

* I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay upon them. From that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God. And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.  Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.  (38:22-25) 

We need to understand this: you cannot mock the Living God, the Sovereign LORD without consequences.  Whether you believe in Him or not, whether you put your trust in Jesus Christ as the only person who can save your eternal soul, whether you believe that judgement is coming in the future or not, the truth is that the LORD, the Living God, exists and has all authority. 

God declared: "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like meI make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I pleaseFrom the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." (Isaiah 46:9-11) 

This is what God says about those who mock Him.
Proverbs 14:6-12 says: The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.  Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

There are many prominent people out there today mocking God.  Mocking His inerrant Scripture.  Mocking His children.  They think we are fools.  But God says that the "way that seems right to a man" leads only to death.  What should be our proper reaction?  I think there are 3 things we as Christians are called to do:

1. Love them.  Jesus said, "They will know you are my disciples by your love."  Love them. No matter how insulting they are.  No matter how much they denigrate you and your God.  No matter how angry they get.  Love them anyway.

2. Live a life that points to Christ.  Odds are, they don't need you to argue with them about the merits of your position.  They do need to see Christ in you.  How does your life point to Christ and His truth?  What do you need to confess to God and from what do you need to repent?  Do it, and let your light shine.

3. As Paul said to Timothy: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2)  This world doesn't need a better economy or more fuel-efficient cars or new governments.  It needs Jesus.  So tell them.  Tell them that no matter what they've done or how far away from God they are, God loves them.  He loves them so much, He lived as a man and willingly died as punishment for all of their sins.  Tell them that the only thing they have to do to be forgiven is to trust in Jesus and to ask Him to become their God.  Tell them that God wants to spend eternity with them, and that He is what they've been searching for. 

Love them through Christ.  Live for Christ.  Let them know about Christ. 

And live in the fear of the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, the one and only God.

No comments: