Is it necessary for us to tell others Judgment Day or about God's vengeance? Wouldn't it be easier and less confrontational if we just focused on God's grace and his love? We'll hear the answer today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from the book of 1 Samuel.
He's in chapter 15. Let me say to you, loved ones, there is no way to soften the impact of this, apart from cutting your Bible up with scissors. It is absolutely terrible. And any attempt to minimize it or to sanitize it crumbles before the truth of Scripture. The one who stands behind this mission terrible is God. And so it is a judgment on sin.
And therefore, we are alarmed by it, and we struggle with it, and we struggle with it particularly, first of all, because we say to ourselves, I don't think it's fair, and then when we think about it, we realize, no, I struggle with it because I believe it is fair. You see, we are not Amalekites, but what we have in common is that we're sinners. The fate of the Amalekites here is not an exception from a bygone era. The fate of the Amalekites is, if you like, a thumbnail sketch pointing to a coming day of judgment. The God who commanded the destruction of the Amalekites is the God who has determined that eventually on that day the wicked will be destroyed. Sinners will not stand in the judgment nor in the congregation of the righteous, says the God who is perfect in his wisdom and in his justice, who's too kind to be cruel, and who is too wise to make a mistake.
Another reason that we find great difficulty with it is because of the philosophical climate in which we live—a sort of philosophical neutrality base. It goes like this. All right, children, we're going to have sports day today, and before we begin, I want you to know that you are all winners.
All right? Well, how wonderfully comforting. And what a load of nonsense.
Soon as you import that into your psyche, into your frame of reference, and then come to the Bible, unless you're going to allow the Bible to adjudicate on that faulty thinking, then you're going to discover that that kind of faulty thinking will flavor the way in which you read the Bible. There's a classic illustration of it, I'd say, this week in the Times of London, where a lady from Poland who is a cabin crew trainer for Lot, the Polish airline, took a flight from London to Warsaw on British Airways. And given that she trains flight attendants, she had some comments to make on the British Airways flight attendants.
She noted that their shoes were unpolished, they had holes in their tights, their uniforms seemed to be somewhat too tight for them, and it didn't look as though many of them had actually combed their hair. Well, what was the reaction? The headline in the paper was, Polish flight attendant to be fired. And the reaction of one of the British Airways flight attendants? How dare she! She should be sacked. She is a disgrace.
Now, how do you respond to that? Why is she a disgrace? The shoes were filthy. The hair was messy. The teeth were crooked. The service was bad.
The whole thing was a disaster. And she should be fired for pointing it out! Everybody gets ribbons. Everybody comes first. There's no exam. There's no judgment.
Frankly, the moon's a balloon. Now, loved ones, that is an influencing philosophical framework in our culture. And so we come as people who have one foot planted in the culture and one foot planted in the Bible asking God to make clear to us how to navigate this kind of world. And it is the role of the prophets, it's the role of Samuel here, to say, Listen to the words of the Lord. God has revealed himself in act, in action, he has revealed himself in word, and he has revealed himself in person, in the person of his Son. And that's why, as we've been doing 1 Samuel, we've been saying that the things that were written in the past were written so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, that we might realize that God's revelation of himself is first of all historical. It is grounded in his act of creation and in the facts of history—that that same revelation is then verbal, that he has reserved it and kept it for himself, giving to us the Bible. That that same revelation of himself is then cumulative, or it is progressive. That as we read through the Bible, we will find that these things are not actually disjointed but that they're actually forming up finally in a picture. And that final picture is, of course, in a person in the Lord Jesus Christ himself. And you see what a difference it makes, then, to be students of the Bible. Wiesel, writing in the introduction to a book called Light of the World, which was by Ratzayer, a Roman Catholic theologian, he comments on the world in which we live.
He says, we live in a world that has lost its story, a world in which the progress that was promised by the humanisms of the past three centuries is now gravely threatened by an understanding of the human person that reduces our humanity to a conjuries of accidents, chemical accidents, a humanity with no intentional origin, no noble destiny, and thus no path to take through history. And the role of the prophet—the role of the prophet—remains. Listen to what God says. Listen to what God says. So when you read on through the Bible, you would expect that this would continue.
The great cop-out, of course, is, well, no, this was of a different time. The Old Testament is a whole different deal. You don't—when you get into the New Testament, you get free from all of this. Well, no, not so fast. When you come to the time of the prophets, they are doing the very same thing.
I can illustrate it for you—not tediously but purposefully. In Isaiah 61, a prophetic passage that, if you know your Bible, you will recall, the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. You say, There we go. Things are picking up already. Then he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. That's lovely too.
And to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to open the doors of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. It's all turning now, isn't it? It's all getting super. Wait a minute. And the day of vengeance of our God.
Well, why would you have to slip that in there? I mean, it was going so nicely till we got there. Loved ones, there is no deliverance by way of salvation outside the reality of the vengeance of God, which is expressed in the judgment of God, which is foreshadowed throughout all of the dealings, historically, of the people of God. Now, if you know that passage, you know that that is the passage that Jesus picked up and spoke from or read from in the synagogue in Nazareth, which is recorded for us in Luke—I think in chapter 4. Yes, it is, Luke 4. And you remember, on that occasion, they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and the scroll was unrolled for him, and he began to read. And when you read that Luke 4 passage, something will strike you, and that is that Jesus stopped at the end of the first line of verse 2.
In other words, he said to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, but then he stopped, and he didn't add, and the day of vengeance of our God. Some of you are going, Oh, there you are, you see? You're making my point for me.
There you have it exactly. No, you're too quick to judgment. He omitted the day of the vengeance of our God, presumably, because judgment was not the purpose of his first coming. Judgment was not the purpose of his first coming. Remember in John he says, I did not come to judge the world, I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world, I came to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. I came to open my arms wide and say, Come to me, take my yoke, learn from me, find rest in me.
That is what I have come to do. That, incidentally, is why John the Baptist had a problem with what Jesus was saying. That's why, when he ended up in jail, he sent somebody to inquire about the actual authenticity of Jesus.
Why? Because John the Baptist was giving it the usual business—the Old Testament prophet, the axe is at the root of the tree, the fire is already burning. And then he gets in jail, and he finds out there's no axe, and there's no burning. And Jesus is being nice to the woman at the well, and he's calling to Zacchaeus up a tree, and he's hanging out with Levi at his house. And so John the Baptist says, What went wrong here?
Go and check and see if he is the one or if there is another one. Well, see, what John the Baptist needed to learn is what we need to learn, and that is that in his first coming, Jesus instituted, if you like, the year of the Lord's favor. In his second coming, he will bring in the day of vengeance. And when he brings in the day of vengeance, then the door of God's grace will close forever. That's why on that day there will be shouts of joy, and there will be cries of anguish.
Remember the story of the five wives and the five foolish virgins? Open up to us. Open up to us. We were just going to. We were just going to.
Sorry, the door is closed. Now, loved ones, here is the great impact of it. This is what I say to you.
I got stuck on this. I said, I cannot go on from here until I address this with the people. Because we live in the interval between the expression of his favor and of the prospect of his coming vengeance and judgment. Therefore, we live in the same environment as Peter lived in when, as he, along with those who were following Jesus, told people about these things. Because, you see, not only were the prophets clear about this, but the apostles themselves were clear about it. And if you remember 2 Peter—if you don't, you can find it—but Peter says, you know, the people are going to come, and they'll say things like, Listen, this Jesus is not coming back again. He's an interesting person in the past, but it's over.
He was a good example and so on. Where is the promise of his coming? Everything has been going on as normal for a very long time, ever since the beginning of creation.
Isn't that what people say? Well, we've had many, many generations come and go. And you strange people with your Bible, you hear about this Jesus, that Jesus is going to be coming again as a great King and Lord, and he's going to settle the affairs. Interestingly, the same people that want to deny any prospect of any kind of coming day of judgment are many of them the same people that want me to get so stirred up about the fact that in, you know, a couple hundred million years, we're all going to die as a result of ingesting plastic straws. And that's not a comment on my view on ecology.
I don't really have a very good one. But it is a comment on the amazing irony of the fact that every day I read the newspaper, they tell me, Look out! Look out!
It's coming! And I say to them, Hang on, let me just tell you, there is a day coming. And they say, Don't be so ridiculous. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin. Sin blinds man to the reality of things and comes again and again to say, You don't need to believe that. It's been like this for hundreds of years—thousands of years.
It'll be millions of years. What's the answer of the apostle? Well, they deliberately overlook this fact. Notice fact. The revelation of God is historical.
This fact that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth formed out of water and through water by the Word of God, John 1.1, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. The Flood, Noah, and the ark, the righteous man, he has set away for you to escape. Forget it, Noah.
It's never gonna happen. You're a crazy man. You're a crazy preacher. You and your ark, you and your cry for safety.
Get out of here! But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. What do you have when Peter goes to the intelligentsia? He starts beautifully. You're a religious people, I can see it all.
Where does he go in the end? God has set a day. God has set a day when he will judge the world. And he has given proof of this by the man he has appointed by raising Jesus from the dead.
Historical, verbal, progressive, Christ-centered. And it doesn't end with the apostles. For they were simply the exponents of what Jesus had said so clearly. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Any attempt on my part to keep the storyline of the Bible free from this terrible truth is a make-believe.
Is a make-believe. And I say it with deep sadness and no spirit of judgment that swathes of contemporary Protestant Christianity stumble over this very issue, understandably, because it is mission-terrible. Which of us has not stood at the graveside of an unbeliever pronouncing the words of committal and not somehow wishing that one could be a universalist, and not somehow wishing that it could possibly be that there is a second chance, that everybody does get a ribbon, that no one's shoes are dirty, that every uniform fits perfectly, even when it doesn't?
What prevents us from that? Listen to what God's Word says. If, like me, you read the Murray M'Cheyne readings in the morning, then during the week you would have encountered God's Word to Ezekiel the prophet. And as I sat at my desk, this was finally settled it for me, because I remembered when I had read earlier in the week Ezekiel chapter 2, and I was struck by the fact that the Word of God to the prophet was so clear. Stand up on your feet, he says Ezekiel. Eat the words that I give you. Ingest them, digest them, so that out of your mouth may come my word.
So it's the same thing. The word of Samuel to Saul, listen to the word of the Lord. It is the word of the prophet.
I'm not a prophet or the son of a prophet. But it is a prophetic ministry to bring the Word of God, settled as it is, to our unsettled generation in a way that says, This is true, and this matters. Well, that is no different from what God had said to Moses. Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they might fear me all the days of their lives, and that they may teach their children to do the same. So in other words, the reason that we come is so that we might hear and submit to the voice of God. And as I sat there, I said, Oh, but couldn't it be a nicer word for Sunday?
Couldn't it be a less terrible word? How did I get caught up in this mission, Father? And then I said, Oh, well, it's that Ezekiel thing. I send you, says God, to a rebellious people, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord. And whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that a prophet has been amongst them. Don't be afraid of them, afraid of their words, nor dismayed by how they look at you. All my words receive them in your heart, and say to them, Thus says the Lord.
Whether they hear or refuse to hear. And so I say to you, this is the word of the Lord. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. Do not store up wrath for yourself on the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed, when the door of grace will close with finality. Would you presume, on the riches of God's kindness and forbearance and patience, don't you know that his kindness is to lead you to repentance? Thus endeth the sermon that I didn't plan to preach. Understanding the reality of God's righteous judgment is a critical part of an understanding of salvation.
It's essential we grasp the reality of both. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Tomorrow in the United States, it's Thanksgiving, and as we anticipate celebrating that holiday, all of us here at Truth for Life are thankful for the privilege we have of opening the Bible with you each day. Our mission at Truth for Life is to teach God's Word in a way that is clear and helpful as you seek to apply the Bible's instruction to your daily life. Our prayer is that as you listen, God's Spirit will work through the teaching you hear and will draw you closer to Jesus.
We also hope that you'll find an opportunity to tell other people about Jesus in the weeks ahead. Giving the Bible as a gift is one great way to do that, especially if you have a friend or family member who has never read directly from God's Word. There's a genuine leather ESV Bible that's available in our online store that can be purchased today for only $35. This is a Bible that regularly sells for just under $200 because of the high quality of the leather. We're able to offer this and other exceptional Bible teaching resources at low prices because listeners like you support Truth for Life so faithfully. So thank you for that, and if you're interested in the Bible, you'll find it at truthforlife.org slash gifts. While you're there, browse the entire collection of books.
Some are terrific titles for children of all ages and would make excellent Christmas presents. When you make a purchase today and you add a donation, we'll invite you to request a copy of the Advent devotional titled The Dawn of Redeeming Grace. This is a book that will help you center your thoughts as you anticipate your celebration of Jesus coming into the world. Each daily reading in this book explores the birth narrative from Matthew's Gospel.
There are 24 daily readings in all. They examine a different aspect of the story of the first Christmas, including a glimpse of Jesus' birth through the eyes of his earthly father, Joseph. You can request your copy today when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, we commend ourselves to you. We thank you for your Word. We pray that that which is helpful, true, might find a resting place in our hearts, that which is unclear, confusing, or wrong, that it might be banished, not your word wrong, but mine, my interpretation. Lord, we want to listen to your Word, and then we want to do what it says. Grant that on that day we will have songs of joy, because you've come in your mercy and told us these hard things to save us from cries of anguish. May grace, mercy, and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon all who believe, today and forevermore. Amen.
I'm Bob Lapine. It seems like King Saul fulfilled most of his mission. He certainly behaved like he was satisfied with what he had accomplished. So why did God judge him so harshly? Was it too harsh? Listen tomorrow to find out. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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