Divine Disgust – The Way of the Wicked

Divine Disgust – The Way of the Wicked

Divine Disgust – The Way of the Wicked.

“Enough! How long will you defend the evil-doers? How long will you show kindness to those who do wicked things? You’re here to defend the defenseless, to give justice to the weak and fatherless, to maintain the rights of the oppressed and needy. Your job is to rescue the powerless and stand up for them, to deliver them from all who exploit them!” (Psalm 82:2-4).

As we continue to grow in our relationship with God, we discover that we yearn to progress in loving what God loves and hating what God hates.  If we are not growing in those two areas of God’s character, it’s doubtful we even have a relationship with God to begin with. Following the example of Jesus in the gospels, loving the sinner while hating the sin itself is crucial to our growing in the character of the Lord. If God finds certain behavior morally disgusting, but we find it acceptable, then we are not where we should be. It might be surprising to realize that God can have hate in His heart. We know that God is full of love, that He is in fact Love. But hate? That is a difficult concept to digest. But think about it more, and it starts to make sense. Like the Father He is, God loves us so much that He hates whatever might be destructive to us, whatever might come to harm us or our relationship to Him. God’s hatred for evil comes out of His eternal protective instinct. Another thing to think about… God is purely righteous, virtuous, filled with goodness through and through. Out of His goodness, He established a moral universe. Since the profoundly tragic fall of mankind, the overall moral universe remains, but immorality has to be dealt with and judged. Because of the way God created the world, there are rights and wrongs, the moral and immoral, the righteous and the unrighteous. God hates the wrongs. It’s no wonder the early Christians called them the ”deadly sins.” God wants to give us life, the evil one wants to give us death. God hates whatever might be deadly to us. God hates whatever in the world was not a part of His righteous plan for the world. Simply put, God’s hate comes out of His righteous love for us and His world. Yes, God hates. But He hates whatever is worth hating. God speaks plainly in His Word about what He loves and what He hates, about what God embraces and what He rejects. The category entitled “Divine Disgust” is intended to be a biblical catalogue of what God hates, what God finds abominable. Naturally, as we are becoming aware of what God hates, we will also learn what God loves. The truth is, if we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus and thus the character of God, we show our fearful love of God by joining Him in hating what is evil. (Proverbs 8:13). Or, as the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 97:10, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.”

ABOMINATION: (Hebrew, “towebah”) = An activity that God considers morally disgusting; a detestable behavior; any action or attitude that is loathed with a passion by God; behavior that God has judged as spiritually abhorrent and unacceptable; something that God hates and finds deeply repugnant; something that is deeply offensive to God’s sensibilities; any action or attitude that God thinks is repulsive, revolting and utterly alien to God’s nature.

WAY: Hebrew, “derek” = path, road, lifestyle, course of life, continuing pattern of living.

“The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord Yahweh, but He loves the one who pursues righteousness.” (Psalm 15:9). Other official versions of this verse include:

“The Lord hates how sinners live, but He loves anyone who pursues godliness.”

“The way of the evil-doer is disgusting to Yahweh, but the one who goes after righteousness is dear to Him.”

“The Lord hates the path of the one who does evil, but the one who follows after justice is beloved by Him.”

There are times when a culture or a society, or an individual person for that matter, needs a confrontational John the Baptist. And other times when it needs a soft-spoken St. Francis. There are times when a grumpy old man has his place, and other times a Mr. Rodgers. How about now in America? What do we need? It seems that hate is up, and love is down; moral compromise is up and moral discernment is down; confusion is up and common sense is down. Much of the world seems to be scrambling for some type of grid that would help us figure out what is right and what is wrong. When a word like “wicked” is mentioned, people usually scratch their heads and wonder if there is such a thing as wickedness. On the other hand, I would think there are lots of thoughtful people out there who would want to know if God is finding something disgusting, or detestable, or offensive in the way we are living our lives. I would like to think that there are a few people in this society who have a sneaking suspicion that something is wrong. It is starting to dawn on some of us that the quality of our life together as a country is going downhill.  There may be many who would actually be grateful that our culture is becoming aware of a moral grid in Scripture that is intended to help us flourish. If a group of people is walking down a road, and it’s going in the wrong direction, wouldn’t it be helpful if they were persuaded to turn around and start going in the right direction, according to our Creator God? So, here’s my vote for a grumpy old man like myself to encourage our society that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong, and moral standards, and behavior that is good for you or bad for you. For those who need to get back to square one, this focus on biblical abominations might bring joy and comfort and hope. There might be some who just might be encouraged to hear that there is a right way and a wrong way, a righteous path and a wicked path, according to Almighty God. There is a road in life that will bring meaning and purpose to our lives, and this will bring hope to those who are starting to become hopeless. Consider this a call to make holy wisdom our quest, and sainthood, and godliness. This is one little voice in a rather loud culture that asks us to do whatever it takes to become a wise people in the eyes of God.

“I read my Bible often, I try to read it right, so far as I can understand, it’s nothing but a burning light.” (from the song Soul of a Man). These lyrics from the greatest blues legend probably of all time, Blind Willie Johnson, 1920’s), reminds us that when there is a fog of moral confusion, the “burning light” from Scripture can burn away the fog and bring clarity. When there seems to be a shortage of truth to believe in, the Bible is the best source of truth in the business. “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path.” The Hebrew word used for “path” in this verse (“lintibati”) is the one used for “pathway,” or “way.” The Way of Life for each of us is illumined by God’s Word.

There may be some of you readers at this point who are asking, why submit to a biblical morality when I can just decide for myself what is good or bad? Or some may rightly ask me, what gives you the right to choose biblical standards for others who might not believe in your Bible? Good questions… and all I can say is that if the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are not a reference point for you, most of this article may not make sense. I don’t claim to have the right to choose the right way for someone else, and feel free to ignore whatever is not in the spirit of the Jesus in the Gospels.  But give the Bible a good try, let it speak to you. It has proven to be a solid book of wisdom and truth for thousands of years, it has stood the test of time. So for you who haven’t read the Bible, for whatever reason, it definitely is worth a serious look.

Down through the centuries have come some biblical methods of moral teaching, and I will try to use two of them in a helpful way. One method could be called “the Creation” method toward wisdom, because it considers God’s creation, how He created the world, and why, what His intentions were, what His purposes were/are in creating the universe. The other method is historically called
the “Two Ways” model of moral instruction. First, the creational way to wisdom.

The definitive word from Jesus“Haven’t you read the Scriptures about creation? The Creator made us male and female from the very beginning, and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, sticking to her like glue. He will be literally joined with his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Husband and wife will be two persons united into one.” (Mathew 19:4-6).

The Biblical Principle of Separation. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the world with boundaries. Some things in Creator God’s structure of reality are meant to be separated. When this divine plan is not followed, there is chaos, confusion, and disorder.  The pagan religions embraced the idea of blurring the boundaries established by God. God made an ordered universe, with created things in their proper place in nature. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks maintains in his commentary on Leviticus, “Just as there is a scientific order to nature, so there is a moral order, and it consists of keeping separate the things that are separate, and maintaining the boundaries that respect the integrity of the world God created and seven times pronounced good.” The listing of sexual sins in Leviticus 18 are in this context of separation. There is to be no sexual blurring between male and female, humans and beasts, nor between blood relatives. That type of sexual activity is simply not how God ordered the universe, and so it is against His sacred plan for humanity. This principle of separation even extends to things like interbreeding different kinds of animals, weaving together wool and linen for clothing garments, planting a field with mixed seeds (Deuteronomy 22). The distinction of the sexes is sacred, a vital aspect of His creative design for humanity.  Jesus makes this point very clear in Matthew 19 (and in Mark 10), when he highlights the fact that God created us male and female from the very beginning. The two separated genders are a part of God’s structure of our reality on earth.

Sexual activity in Scripture. Leviticus 18 presents us with a list of sexual offenses according to the way God created the world. This chapter outlines what is not Nature’s Way, that which is morally repugnant in the eyes of Creator God. This passage mentions incest, bestiality, and homosexuality in particular. These were specifically mentioned because the land of Canaan, and most of the pagan religions, would consider these sexual activities an aspect of worshipping their gods. Yahweh wanted nothing whatsoever to do with how the pagans worshipped. It was defiling to the human body and outside His plan for human sexuality. It’s interesting that even being a transvestite is considered an abomination. In the New Testament, the Greek word “porneia” is used to include a wide variety of sexual sins, including prostitution, incest, fornication, sexual activity outside marriage (adultery), homosexuality, lesbianism, promiscuity and pedophilia. Any sexual activity outside the boundaries as stated in Genesis 2:24-25 and quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 is considered outside the divine model for sexual activity. All humans are greatly susceptible to these sins, and the blood of Jesus will cleanse any of us from those moral failures.

TWO WAYS. Another important method of moral instruction in the Jewish wisdom tradition is the presentation of a choice between one Way or the other Way. Here is Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “Today I have given to you the choice between life or death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your children might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. He is the key to your life.” Another example is in Jeremiah 6:16: “This is what the Lord Yahweh says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Make your choice. And ask for the ancient path, the old, godly way, and then walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” There are many such examples in Scripture of the Two Ways, including Proverbs 4:18-19 and Psalm 1. God has given each person free will, and we are to exercise that will with wisdom. But the responsibility is on each person to choose the right way, no excuses, no victimhood, no claims of ignorance. Every day, choose the right path, the path that God has marked out in His Word, and you will grow in goodness and wisdom. It seems like an easy choice when you look at, except the evil one loves to make it difficult. But look at the stark differences here:

The Way of Life vs. the Way of Death: the way of forgiveness vs. the way of judgment; the way of truth vs. the way of falsehood; the way of Thy Will be done vs. The way of my will be done; the way of obedience vs. the way of rebellion; the way of preservation vs. the way of self-destruction; the way of good vs. the way of evil; the way to a meaningful life vs. the way to a meaningless life; the way to a life with purpose vs. the way to a pointless life; the way to acquire wisdom vs. the way to remain stuck in foolishness; the way to a life that honors God vs. the way to a life that forgets God even exists; the way to a life of freedom in God vs. the way to a life of slavery to sin.

This time-honored way of teaching moral behavior continued into the Christian tradition from its foundation in the Jewish faith. The first church manual ever written, that has been discovered, anyway, is called the “Didache,” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.” It was written by early, early church leaders who were earnest about keeping the fledgling church within the Christian faith. Written around 100 AD, it started right out with something very important to these faithful Christian leaders… “There are two ways: A way of life and a way of death; and the difference between these two ways is great.”

A Monumental Question. Is there any nation in our contemporary word that is so far gone morally that God would just take unilateral action in judgment? Why in Scripture does God make these occasional judgment calls on whole cities, nations, civilizations? Here are some thoughts that at least help to explore this imponderable.

(1.) The Lord is a jealous God, a God who is sometimes stirred into action in His zeal for righteousness, to see holiness in His people on earth. If evil was only winked at and not held accountable, if there wasn’t a sense of a moral universe, then God and His righteous character would be mocked. Almighty God called his creation “Good!” at creation. And He has a holy Name that must be maintained, because that is a truth woven into the universe. Extreme unholiness would dishonor Him and make a mockery of His righteousness and purity, and it would make a mockery of His good world He carefully created. God is jealous for his holy Name, He refuses to be mocked by evil, by being replaced by other gods, by people engaging in a moral or spiritual free-for-all in His own backyard. We are encouraged to pray “hallowed be your Name” for good reason. It is vital that His name be kept holy.

(2.) God told the world’s first humans that if they disobeyed him, “you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17). Right from the start, anyone who sinned received a death sentence. This death warrant could be physical or spiritual or both. And it could be immediate death, or it could be involvement in the process of death in which we naturally reap what we sow, we are judged by the consequences of our sins over time. Either way, accountability is built into the structure of the world. Sin deserves death. Evil has a destiny that is inevitable… eventual punishment and spiritual accountability.

(3.) In Genesis 15:16, the Lord voiced a fascinating principle. God was explaining to Abram the reason why his distant family members would only enter the Promised Land after remaining slaves in a foreign land for 400 years. Their entrance would have to wait that long because “the iniquity of the Amorites (Canaanites) is not yet complete.” Other versions of this verse say, “the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.’ (NLT); “the sin has not yet reached its full measure.” (NIV); “the sin is not yet filled up. (Septuagint); “the iniquity will not have reached its full extent.” (NJB). So it seems that sin has to be fully developed in a society, it must reach a point of no return, before God will intervene with judgment. Sin is never acceptable to a purely righteous and holy God. But evidently it has to reach a certain level of evil, a full measure of evil that has become hopeless. God is slow to anger, but divine justice demands that He reach His limits at certain times. We saw it with Noah and that particular corrupt world (Genesis 6); we saw it with the seven nations of the Canaanites as they were judged by God through the Chosen People; we saw it with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18, 19); we read about the Ninevites in Nahum; we even saw it to some extent with His People through the Babylonian destruction of Israel. In all these cases, God was acting true to His nature and character. When a group of people reaches a moral tipping point, a completeness of evil in God’s eyes, they receive divine justice and corporate punishment. Evidently, even the endless patience of God has its limits.

(4.) One other element in God’s judgments is that He doesn’t want sin to spread its corruption. Great evil needs to be destroyed in order to stop the evil from polluting other peoples. As W. L. Alexander once wrote, “It is a mercy to the world when the evil is stamped out.” He went on to say, “No nation has any absolute right to itself or its land. It holds its existence subject to God’s will, and to that will alone; and if it is good for the world that it should give place to others, God will cause it to pass away.” When a nation is given over to evil, in God’s eyes they are only getting what they deserve when they are destroyed. This mystery is in the hands of an eminently fair Lord of the universe. And sometimes God has to look at the welfare of the world when judging the sins of a nation. God has a zeal that people flourish by living in goodness and purity. God knows that it is best that people choose His Way, follow his will, that people thrive. God doesn’t want the evil to spread and then have it result in people running to self-destruction. Christian believers are thus called to be salt and light to their societies in which they dwell… salt applied to society that is rotting and need a preservative; light to be shone in the darkness of a world that needs truth and love.

(5.)  Bringing the corporate judgment down to the individual level, would the Lord ever consider an individual person to be hopelessly past the point of no return? Would God ever consider that sin has reached its full measure, that wickedness had somehow been completed, in an individual person? Would God ever bring about a death sentence on someone considered fully evil so that the wickedness does not spread to others? In fact, would God ever consider an individual to be fully evil at all?  The short answer to this question is: No! With Jesus, no one is ever beyond redemption till Judgment Day. Jesus changed everything relating to sin and death. On the Cross He took God’s death sentence, deserved by all of us, and somehow absorbed it unto Himself, and He literally died in order to fulfill our death sentence. He carried the death sentence for us and was put on death row so sinners could have the hope of redemption and deliverance. Jesus bore on His shoulders God’s death sentence for sin. Mankind continues to reap what they sow in the natural order of things that God put into place. We still experience the natural consequences of sin in our lives. But Jesus has taken upon Himself the spiritual death of sin, giving new life to all those who trust in Him. He took on the sin of the world and opened up a new destiny for all people who believe. As John the Baptist once said (John 1:29), “Look , the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Sin no longer has a deathly grip on those who believe, taking away both the guilt and the power of evil in one’s life. Jesus’ sacrificial blood was so pure and powerful that it is able to cover over all the sins of the universe! The potential holding forth in the world is that everyone on the face of the earth can be saved and redeemed from evil.

So, the bottom line is, don’t go wearing a sandwich board that says, WE ARE DOOMED on one side and REPENT OR BE BURNED TO A CRISP” on the other side. Because of Jesus, God’s will of mercy will remain as the way God chooses to operate in our sinful world. America will not be hit with a divine lightning strike. Jesus changed all that.