Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Justice and the Justifier

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. Hosea 11:8,9

"John Watson, better known as Ian Maclaren, the author of The Bonnie Brier Bush, once said, 'God is the chief Sufferer in the universe.' He was right. This is the suffering of God, and it is God suffering because of His love; and it is love in agony not because those He loves are wronging Him, but wronging themselves, and blighting themselves, and blasting themselves. How, being what I am, says God, can I give you up?

And yet do not forget that the 'how' suggests the difficulty. How can I give thee up? Justice alone says it is the right thing that the rebellious shall be punished; but how can I do it? And that compassion led to the decision, 'I will not.'

Now quietly for a moment or two. How came it that God could say 'I will not?' Let us listen.

'I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, The Holy One in the midst of thee.'

Here, all mere intellectuality breaks down; here is something very strange. I have been talking about His love. He has spoken of a heart in turmoil, of compassions that are moved to the very depths, and He says I will not give you up; what is the reason? Because of His heart and His compassions? Yes, but go on. 'I am God and not man,' and I am 'the Holy One in the midst of thee.' There is no lowering of the standard of moral requirement. The Holy One can be compassionate and remain holy because He is God, and not man. Things are possible to Him that are not possible to man.

That is as far as we get in Hosea. It is a long way, but it leaves us asking questions; and filled with wonder, we do not understand it. It is as though, on this page, and through all the Old Testament, the glory is breaking through, but never coming into clear manifestation. A wonder and a mystery of righteousness and compassion are seen working together. Wonderful seeing was the seeing of the prophet who could write a thing like that. That must have come by inspiration, or else it is the fairest mirage that ever deceived the heart of humanity. When God, in spite of sin, says, How can I give you up? My heart is stirred, My compassions are stirred, but I am holy; how can I give you up, I will not, I will not, we are in the presence of some possibility wholly of God. It must have been a great word for trembling and troubled hearts even then.

But our Bible does not end in Hosea. The name Hosea meant salvation. I do not know who named him. The father or mother, or both, in all probability; but they called that boy Hosea, a sob and sigh and song merging in a name. There came One in the fullness of time, whose name was Jehovah and Hosea: Jesus. So in the fullness of time the gleams and glints of glory broke out into full manifestation; and we find out at last in Jesus, how God can be just, and the Justifier of the sinning soul.

This way of accomplishment Hosea did not see. In communion with God he had learned facts about the Divine Nature which seemed to be conflicting, and he delivered his message and uttered the words; but at last He came, Who is the Brightness of the Father's glory and the express Image of His Person, and in Him I see how righteousness and peace meet together, and God can be just and the Justifier.

Through Him the claims of justice which are against my soul are all met. Through Him the glory of holiness is maintained; for His redemption of the human soul is not a pity that agrees to ignore sin; but a power that cancels it and sets free from its dominion. Through Him the loved one is regained, restored, renewed, and all the lights that flash and gleam upon the prophetic page, astonishing my soul, come into focused unity in Jesus. God says of you, of me, 'How can I give thee up? I will not ... I will not ... I will not.'

But how? 'I am God and not man, I am the Holy One.' Through Christ He has made the way by which sinning souls can be conformed to His image, His likeness, His will. The gospel is gleaming in Hosea. It is shining in full radiance in Christ.

We can leave the historic and come to the immediate. That is God. But in order to provide ransom, and redemption, and renewal, what? The answer is found fully in the words:

'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'"

G. Campbell Morgan - Hosea: The Heart and Holiness of God

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