Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10, verses 28-29.
Skipping ahead few verses we find this quote: It is a dreadful ting to fall into the hands of the living God. Perhaps that one verse better sums up the idea behind these two.
Just this morning, a Facebook friend posted a list of things God can’t do. They’re things like “God can’t stop loving you” and “God can’t break a promise.” All of them are accurately referenced to Bible verses, so they’re true. It seems crazy to think that there are things God can’t do, and I suppose you could argue whether the meme should say “won’t” versus “can’t.” I’m not partial to one term or the other, so either works for me.
One of them says “God can’t be unholy” from Isaiah 6:3. God is holy; the whole earth is full of His holiness, reflecting that holiness and His eternal glory. A holy God can’t tolerate un-holiness in His presence. In order for God to remain holy, He won’t tolerate un-reconciled un-holiness to be near Him in any way. When Satan strolled into heaven (in Job), God had already provided remedy for Satan’s wrongdoing (way back in Genesis). When you and I stand in front of God as believers in Jesus, Jesus has already done everything possible and necessary to reconcile our status with the Holy God. God can’t and won’t tolerate our un-holiness, and He can’t and won’t be made unholy or tarnished with our un-holiness. And because God will see us through the filter of His Son’s perfection (His own), He won’t see us as unholy sinners. God will see us as made holy by His own blood sacrifice.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person who spends their entire life rejecting Jesus. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who believes in Jesus, then recants. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is completely apathetic, even agnostic, about Jesus. If you know God doesn’t tolerate un-holiness, even if you don’t believe there is a God, do you want to be the person who stands against Him when you find out He’s real?
Mind you, these verses aren’t a guarantee of God’s vengeance. They aren’t hellfire and brimstone for the damn dirty sinners who turn Him away (which is each of us and some time or other). God is guaranteed to be just because holiness is just, and justice (real justice) is based in holiness, and God is holy. Yet God, who is both just and holy, doesn’t guarantee harsh treatment for those who reject him. Our holy God is also a God of beautiful mercy.
Instead, the point of these verses is to point out the fact that this holy, just God is all-powerful. It points out that a holy, just God has the power to smite those who oppose him. Unless you have some sick death wish, why would you want to pit yourself against Him?
In olden days (or in ‘modern’ Islamic nations), legal justice is meted out by ecclesiastical authorities. In the days of Moses, legal justice (as an extension of God’s delegated authority) would be meted out on those against whom witnesses would testify. Our legal system today is a descendant of that concept, namely in how those found guilty would be found guilty based on trial against them (including eyewitnesses). If you know your actions could place you in jeopardy, why would you want to act in ways that could bring ruin on you? After all, it’s a dreadful thing to fall in the hands of the living God, especially if you may deserve it. If you’ve ever played the “would you rather” game, then think of this proposition as that game. Would you rather adhere to God’s requests or dare Him to follow through?
For further reading: Deuteronomy 17:6-7, Isaiah 6:3, Matthew 18:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Revelation 1:5, Ephesians 4:30.
Lord, I fear, respect, and love you.