Our Journey to Bethlehem - Day 2

Today we are continuing on to Bethlehem in a 15-day series that I started Monday, December 7, 2009. If you'd like to walk with us, it's never too late to catch up. You can read the previous posts or just jump on the trail right where we are today. You are welcome here as we walk through God's Word all the way to the evening that our Messiah, Jesus Christ was born.

Our loving God had a plan for our redemption even before the first man sinned. I don't claim to understand that kind of time line, but I choose to believe it speaks of God's all-knowing wisdom, extreme compassion, and mercy, instead of thinking that it demonstrates some kind of puppetry on His part. I don't quite get the sovereignty of God, but I trust it because I trust Him.

Indeed God is trustworthy and He is compassionate, slow to anger, merciful and gracious. But He is also a God of wrath. Without a clear understanding of His just, righteous, and wrathful nature, His grace appears cheap and frivolous.

In Genesis 6-8 God showed us that He is a God who will not tolerate sin. He will not bless indefinitely those who willfully turn their backs on Him. He reserves His blessing for those who walk with Him, those who desire to have His hand of blessing upon them.

This is the story of Noah. I imagine you are quite familiar with the account of Noah and his ark, so I'll not go into detail here. But I'll hit a few highlights as we continue on our journey to the birthplace of the Messiah, the one promised in Genesis 3:15.

The crisis moment in the story happens toward the beginning. In verses 5-6 we read, "
God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. " (The Message)

But Noah found favor in God's eyes. Why? Because Noah was a righteous man, he was without fault and lived a blameless life. Perhaps most importantly, he walked with God. He was in step with God -- not perfectly I'm sure, but on the right path.

And so, God had Noah build a huge ark -- big enough to carry two of every animal and as many people as would choose to get on board. He told Noah that rain would fall from the heavens and the earth would flood. And not only did Noah have to build the ark, but he had to tell everyone around him about the judgment to come so they would have the opportunity to get on board.

But we know that only Noah's family got on board that massive boat. And, by their own choice, everyone else died in the flood. Those who heeded the warning, realized their need for a rescuer, looked to that boat as their only provision for safety, and got on board as an act of faith, were saved from the righteous judgment carried out in that flood. Those who ignored the warning, laughed at the need for anyone to save them, scorned the boat, and went on their merry way, succumbed to the flood and met their demise.

Some see our God as a vengeful, mean, and careless god, one who takes lightly the lives of people. But that's not the God we see in the account of Noah and the ark. Not if you really look carefully.

Our God loves His people with a passionate and compassionate love, but He is also a holy God who cannot and will not tolerate sin, rebellion. If we don't come to terms with that character trait of our God, we lose the significance of that Holy Night when Jesus was born.

There is, even for us, a day of reckoning coming. Certainly people in Noah's day were behaving no worse than people are acting today or at any other time in history. And God will not tolerate our wickedness forever.

But out of love and tender kindness, God has provided for us an "ark" also, a way of escape. Jesus is our ark. He is the One and only provision for our salvation from the judgment to come. Those who take seriously the warnings of judgment, realize their need for a rescuer, look to Jesus as their only hope for salvation, and accept that salvation by faith, have the security of knowing that they will never face the wrath of God. Never. The flood gates of His wrath are being held back by his mercy and grace right now, but one day that wrath will be released and all those who are not on board the Ark will face the consequences.

On today's leg of our journey to Bethlehem we've seen a pretty bleak picture of God's judgment and wrath. Some wrestle with this side of God. But do you really want a God who has no standards? One who tolerates just anything? One who "loves" us the way a wishy-washy, push-over kind of mom or dad parents their spoiled child? Without restraint or consequence? I don't.

It's when we understand God's holiness, His temporarily restrained wrath, and His righteousness that we truly treasure the baby who was born that Christmas eve in Bethlehem. He is our Ark, our Savior. Yes, God's wrath will flow, but He has provided a Way for anyone who chooses to avoid the devastation of that flood. Ah, the grace of God.

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