Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32, NIV, emphasis mine)
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you. (Proverbs 20:22)
The first scripture points out what happens by God’s sovereignty when people “do not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,” the second points out that the Lord will avenge His people.
To many believers the first sounds harsh, the second, comforting though it requires a measure of patience.
But God is both loving and just in His sovereignty.
He sees to what must be done, and when.
There evidently comes a time when God ceases to “strive with man” and leaves us to our own devices, doctrines, and damnation, to put it bluntly. This is when things get rough down here, especially when God-rejecters are in power before God eventually settles the score.
And it gets especially rough for believers if they come between rebellious, hard-hearted men and women and their worldly ambitions.
To the rebellious, though, I personally think God’s patience with each of us is far more extensive than any can imagine, because He alone knows our “ends from our beginnings” and how long it will take for His love and His grace to reach each of us.
I think of how long it took Him to reach me, and what a narrow window of opportunity it was at that.
But He also knows who will receive His salvation and who, at length, at some irrevocable moment in time, will refuse.
(Side note: I cannot even imagine His sorrow over being rejected by His own magnificent creations. I only know the pain of personal rejection. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem gives us a glimpse of such divine compassion.)
But my purpose here is not to challenge anybody’s theology or philosophy, because I’m neither theologian nor philosopher, but to explore this question that to me is related to today’s place in spiritual history and to the increase in hard-hearted, God-rejecting people:
Have you noticed that in many of the biblical narratives it seems that just before God rescues His people by His love their enemies, temporal and/or spiritual, seem at their worst?
- Just before God cleansed the earth from the severe evil of Noah’s day, Noah and his family boarded the ark.
- Just before God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, the plagues were the most egregious.
- Just before Abigail was used of God to rescue her household in the middle of the night, her foolish husband had put all of the male servants in danger of certain death by morning.
- And even Job, whom God gave Satan permission to pummel mercilessly, was spared his life by God’s command (and later on his riches were restored).*
What brings this to mind when anti-Christian rhetoric in the United States and elsewhere (not to mention Christian imprisonment and genocide in certain parts of the world) seems so intense just now, is another question:
Along with the other prophetic markers present in this generation that indicate the so-called “Church Age” is coming to a close, are we due for another sovereign deliverance right before the Tribulation period?
Doctrinally, this would be the Rapture of the church. Although this is a controversial topic, it bears consideration.
Of course, whatever is in God’s plan for His people–and all those who will receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before whatever may come–will include us all.
But I bring it up today as I peruse the headlines and read more and more of the anti-Christian sentiment everywhere, it seems, symbolized, in my mind, by the burning of a Bible in a recent street fire lit by the criminal rioters in Portland, Oregon.
Not to mention so many other events worldwide that even non-believers describe as unprecedented, existential, even apocryphal.
But whatever God in His sovereignty has in store for us and the world in this unsettling season, we are yet called, like Noah, to keep building our own ark, so to speak; like the Israelites still in Egypt, to keep our spiritual bags packed and the blood of Jesus “sprinkled on the door posts”; like Abigail, to keep interceding for our families and loved ones; and like Job, to keep praying for our “daysman,” (arbiter, intermediary–Jesus Christ*) to intercede for our salvation from this time of intense darkness in the world.
And be of good cheer, too, brethren, for if what we see playing out just now worldwide is indicative of our place in both temporal and spiritual history, the time of our deliverance, as per the biblical pattern cited above, could be very, very nigh.
*For more discussions on the book of Job which point to the greatest “hope”, i.e., the coming of Jesus Christ Who died in our place in order to pay the price of our salvation, I invite you here and here. The first commentary references Jesus as our “daysman”.