- Even with very sinful men, their continual sins still register
in the feelings of God. The way God progressively senses the weight
of accumulated sin is reflected in His description of the Amorites'
iniquity filling up (Gen. 15:16); or Israel marrying Gentiles
" to increase the trespass of Israel" (Ezra 10:10).
“The iniquity of Israel is bound up, his sin is kept in store”
(Hos. 13:12). God sees some wicked men as more wicked than others;
for He is sensitive to every one of their sins (e.g. 2 Kings 17:2).
" For three transgressions and for four" of Israel or
the Gentiles, God would still punish Jew and Gentile alike (Am.
1,2)- i.e. He still feels the fourth sin, He doesn't become insensitive
after the third sin. And this doesn't only apply to His people;
but to all sin, committed by anyone, anywhere. Thus Herod "
added yet this above all" when he imprisoned John after also
sinning with another man's wife (Lk. 3:20). We have an uncanny
ability to become numb to sin the more we see or do it. But not
so Almighty, all righteous God. This is a feature of His nature
that needs meditation. " The Lord hath sworn by the excellency
of Jacob [i.e. Himself, so important is this], Surely I will never
forget any of their works" (Am. 8:7). " They consider
not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness"
(Hos. 7:2). Sin is serious.
- The sins of the Gentile world still register with God. Jerusalem
sinned more than the nations around her- implying that their sins
also registered with God (Ez. 5:6). Tyre is condemned for not honouring her covenant with Edom (Amos 1:9); Moab for being too harsh in judging Edom (Am. 2:1); Gaza likewise for being too cruel (Amos 1:6). Even amongst the Gentiles,
God sees some as sinning more than others (Ez. 7:24). And even
amongst God’s people, some sins are “greater abomination” than
others (Ez. 8:13). This doesn’t mean that the ‘smaller’ ones don’t
count. But it reflects God’s great sensitivity to human sin. The
varying scale of sacrifices for various sins reflects this too.
And of course our Lord Himself spoke of the man with “greater
sin”, and of other men who owed varying amounts to the Father.
- The casual rejection of the message of the prophets was likened
to the hearers actively beating and killing the prophets (Mt.
22:7). The man who deceives his neighbour and passes it off as 'Just kiddin!'' is described as a man is madly throwing around firebrands and arrows (Prov. 26:18,19). This apparently extreme language is surely to highlight the seriousness of sin.
- God will judge sin. This will be the terror
of His latter day judgments. I would paraphrase Am. 3:6,7 like
this: ‘If there’s evil in a city, God will do something, i.e.
He will punish it. But He now does nothing, but He reveals
His future judgments to His servants the prophets’. In the context,
Amos has been forth-telling judgments to come on various cities
- Therefore God's eye did not spare or pity Israel, because
they thought that sin was a light thing to Him (Ez. 8:17,18).
They thus insulted His essential nature.
- Ezekiel goes on to speak of how every act of idolatry was seen
by God as the fickle wife of a faithful husband deceitfully liaising
with another, worthless, man. And there is a similar shocking
terror associated with our infidelities to the Lord who bought
us for His own. The self-hatred of repentant Israel before they
accept the new covenant is described with a purposefully terrible
idiom: a woman plucking off her own breasts (Ez. 23:34).
These words must be seen in the context of Israel offering these
parts of her body to the hands of the Gentiles (Ez. 23:3,8). And
now, with her own hands, Israel would fain pluck off her breasts
in realization of her degradation. This self-loathing must be
part of every true repentance; for we too, in advance of Israel,
ought to have repented a like repentance, and entered the very
same covenant. Just reflect upon the self-loathing in repentance
of Ez. 6:9; 20:43; Job 40:4; 42:6. This is how sin is serious.
- We will either be crushed and broken by the Lord at His return,
or now fall upon Him and be broken (Mt. 21:44). Yet falling
upon Christ is a figure for sinning against Him (Rom. 9:33; 1
Pet. 2:7,8). So for those who will not be destroyed by Him at
the final judgment, we must inevitably stumble, but rise up again
unto salvation. Simeon foresaw all this when he spoke of how the
Lord Jesus would be for the fall and rising again of those whom
He would save (Lk. 2:34).
- The world is therefore seen by God as actively sinful. For
the man who does not accept salvation in Christ, " the wrath
of God abideth on him" (Jn. 3:36)- it isn't lifted.
We are therefore subject to the wrath of God until baptism (Eph.
2:3). It doesn't seem or feel like this. And yet God experiences
this sense of anger with sin, albeit unexpressed to human eyes.
- The servant hopelessly, desperately in debt to his Lord
is a picture of the believer's debt to God (Mt. 18:25). The Lord
didn't say 'Well, don't worry about it, I've got plenty, just
forget it'. He reckoned up the exact debt, calculated it with
the servant progressively panic stricken as the full figure registered:
and " his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and
children, and all that he had, and payment to be made" .
Only then- and this is a crucial feature of the story-
" the servant therefore fell down, and besought him, saying,
Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all" . This
was of course a nonsense; he had no way of paying it. But in his
desperation, at the very and utter limits of human feeling, he
fain would pay it all. And only then, " the lord of that
servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him" . This
is not to say that the Lord is a hard man. But His frank forgiveness
is not lightly given. Remember that God is elsewhere described
as the magistrate who is to be feared, " lest he hale thee
to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the
officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart
thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite" (Lk. 12:58).
And yet again, the Lord is not a hard man. In the context of our
spiritual bankruptcy, " He constantly lendeth to thee"
(Job 11:6 Heb.); and yet He demands our deep recognition that
He deserves and in a sense should be given it all back. This will
be our attitude, if we appreciate that indeed sin is serious..
- To not honour ones’ parents is, in the Lord’s
book, to actively curse them, even though it is doubtful those
He was critizing ever actually did so (Mt. 15:1-6).
- Paul reels off an awful list of sins in Romans 1, and builds up to a crescendo at the end of the passage. We're left waiting, with dropped jaws, for him to come out with some yet more awful sin. And Paul fulfils that expectation by listing the sin of having pleasure in those who commit sin (Rom. 1:32). Immediately we who are not grossly perverted and immoral are shaken from our seats. For in our generation like no other, one can secretly view sin, in movies, novels and on the internet, and vicariously get involved with it whilst not 'doing it' with our own bodies. This sin really is serious. It tops and caps and concludes the list of awful sins.
- James 4:9 tells some believers in the Jerusalem
ecclesia that their joy ought to be turned to heaviness, implying
the downcast look of the publican who could not so much as lift
up his eyes to God (Lk. 18:13). This man is held up by the Lord
and James as some kind of hero and example to us.
- Rom. 5:17,21 draws a parallel between Adam's sin and ours.
His tragedy, his desperation, as he looked at his body, at his
wife, with new vision; as his wide eyes wandered in tragedy around
the garden: all who fall are in that position, eagerly reaching
out to the clothing of the slain lamb.
- A man who deceives his neighbour and then laughs it off as "I was just
kiddin'!" is described as a madman casting firebrands, arrows and death
(Prov. 26:18,19). What we may shrug off as a small sin is perceived by God as
- After his sin with Bathsheba, David was a desperate man. Sin
is serious. He had to die, and he was shamed before all Israel.
What he had done could not be undone, nor could it be forgiven
through sacrifice. No amount of re-interpretation of the texts
could get round it. Having been confronted by his desperation
for 9 months, he found a miraculous forgiveness. And he uttered
a soliloquy: " Blessed is he (himself- David) whose transgression
is forgiven" (Ps. 32:1). Rom. 4:6,7 slightly changes this,
with the preface that these words describe " the blessedness
of [any] man" who finds true forgiveness: " Blessed
are they whose iniquities [plural] are forgiven"
. The point is plain: David's desperation is that of every one
redeemed in Christ. Through his experience, David came to know
what he calls 'truth in the inward parts' (Ps. 51:6): that he
" was shapen in iniquity" , and the required sacrifice
was a desperately broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17). According
to Paul's use of the Bathsheba incident, David's learning curve
must be ours. There are other links which show that David's
sin, desperation and restoration are typical of the experience
of all God's true people (e.g. Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18).
- Job repented at the end, in dust and ashes. And yet, of what
did he repent? He was, on God’s own admission, a just and upright
man. He hadn’t committed any gross sin. And yet his ‘little sins’,
the general sinfulness of the otherwise upright believer- this
is what he had to suffer so much to be convicted of. And this
is a powerful, powerful pattern for comfortable, upright living
(or appearing) believers. Moses too was an upright man. But he
had to be humbled, until he cowered in the rock as sinners will
do before the excellence of God’s glory (Is. 2:21), before he
could appreciate Yahweh’s glory. And Elijah too had to go through
the same experience (1 Kings 19:9-12). Eliphaz likewise recounted
how an Angel had passed before him, as the Angel passed before
Moses and Elijah, and through this he came to realize the essential
truth of man’s sinfulness and desperate need for repentance and
God’s gracious acceptance (Job 4:16).
- John places complaining about wages [a common
human fault] in juxtaposition with doing violence to others (Lk.
3:14)- to show that in his serious call to a devout and holy life,
there are no such things as little sins. Ez. 16:49,50 defines
the sins of Sodom as including “pride, fullness of bread, and
abundance of idleness, neither did she strengthen the hand of
the poor…they were haughty, and committed abomination”. The abomination
of their sexual perversion is placed last in the list, as if to
emphasize that all the other sins were just as much sin. Likewise
Paul writes to the Corinthians about their failures, but he doesn’t
start where I would have started- with their drunkenness at the
memorial meeting. Instead he starts off with their disunity. Those
things which we may consider as lesser sins, the Bible continually
lists together with those things we have been conditioned into
thinking are the greater sins. Clearest of all is the way Paul
lists schism and hatred in his lists of sins that will exclude
from the Kingdom. The Anglo-Saxon worldview has taught that sexual
sin is so infinitely far worse than a bit of argument within a
church. But is this really right…?
- That sin is serious was shown pre-eminently by the terror
of the cross. The Lord in His time of dying was not merely an
example; His living and dying in the way that He did, and rising
again, was the way to real atonement for sin in all its forms
and in all its implications.
All these points need to be increasingly realized and felt by
us. For we live in a world that increasingly devalues sin and
encourages us to commit ‘virtual’ sin, vicariously, through the
viewing and viewer-involvement in the things which the entertainment
industry produces. Legal systems also encourage us to devalue
sin. It has truly been observed: “The accepted maxim seems to
be that as long as evil can be ignored, it should be; one should
only punish as a last resort, and then only so far as is necessary
to prevent the evil having too grievous social consequences. Willingness
to tolerate evil up to the limit is seen as a virtue” (J.I. Packer,
Knowing God, p. 148). Yet God feels sin, and
His judgments condemn it for what it is. This is so different
to how men deal with sin.
God feels every sin, and judges it at the time, searching our
hearts even for our motives- and He rewards sin with the death
sentence. For the wages of sin is death. And yet, we don’t
die. The fact God views sin like this, and yet by grace forgives
us, makes that grace and forgiveness all the more wonderful. David
grasped this wonder: “Unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy:
for [because] thou renderest to every man according to his work”