Many people reject or spend little time in the Old Testament because they mistakenly take from its pages that God is harsh and distant. Others dislike it because they are uncomfortable with its judgments. Nonetheless, judgment is essential to an accurate understanding of God, the coming of the world’s Messiah, and the grace that is received by placing one’s faith in God’s wrath being placed upon His own dear Son. Without understanding the harshness of His judgments in the Old Testament, which always comes as a consequence of unbridled rebellion against His principles and commands that preserve and enhance life, there can be no appreciation or acceptance of the harshness and purpose of the judgment that He placed upon His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. This would have been His final judgment had humanity recognized the purpose of this judgment. If everyone understood and believed in or accepted Christ as the Messiah, judgment would have been forevermore unnecessary, the Kingdom of God would have been established, and sin would have been eradicated; however, the opposite occurred. While a few recognized the Messiah, most people mocked the death of Christ (as God had anticipated) and rebellion against the Creator continued unabated. The next phase of God’s work upon the earth continued in the development and expansion of the Church of Christ throughout the world. Rebellion against the Creator God is as natural now as it has been since the fall of Adam and Eve. Israel was throughout its history, and still is, a rebellious house, every nation is now a rebellious house as they have ever been, and, to the surprise of many modern “Christians,” the Church has been mostly in the background, kept in God’s grace without judgment caring for and maturing believers throughout the world. It is generally, an obedient house!
What is a person, family, community, or nation like when God is not its Lord? Will it be moral and peaceful? Will life be precious and protected? Would you find freedom and prosperity across the classes of people or subjugation of the less fortunate by elites who own them? Can any people or nation know love, justice, and righteousness apart from their Creator? The Old Testament story of Israel reveals the answer—without the knowledge and wisdom of God, an indwelling Spirit to guide the ever-wandering human mind, and a sacrificial Messiah who willingly pays the debt of death for sin and who rises again to give His citizens new life, evil has no bounds.
No nation in the ancient world received more grace, knowledge, or divine direction than the people of Israel. From the time Israel began its journey from Egypt, across the wilderness of Sanai, through the “Red” Sea on dry land, on to Mount Sanai, north to the wilderness area just outside of Canaan (the future homeland that God would eventually give to His people), where they wandered for 40 years before crossing the Jordan into Canaan from the East, just north of the Dead Sea. Israel experienced the very hand of God in their everyday lives. It wasn’t simply a matter of faith. Israelites saw the hand of God at work in their lives every day. He watched over them, fed them, quenched their thirst, kept them comfortably dressed, protected them, and provided them essential spiritual guidance that, if followed, would make them the greatest and most prosperous, and, more importantly, the most just, righteous, and loving nation the world would ever see. Would they follow the writings of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and stay faithful to the guidance of God? Seldomly! So much grace, so little faithfulness!
In Ezekiel, chapters 2, 3, and 12, “rebellious house” defines the nation of Israel in the year 597 BC. By this time, the northern kingdom of Israel, which was ruled only by rebellious kings since the turn to the first century BC, had been totally destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The surviving Israelites were dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire and assimilated culturally. In 605 BC, the sin of the southern kingdom of Judah had become so great that God placed the kingdom under siege by the Babylonians. The siege would last until 586 BC when the city of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed.
Ezekiel was deported to Chebar near Babylon in 597 BC during an early assault on Judah. He was called by God to remind the Israelites, in Babylonia, why they were deported and what would happen to the rest of the Israelites in Judah and Jerusalem. Why did God decimate His people and destroy their sacred city? Remarkably, they had forgotten their God and replaced Him with every abominable belief and practice that disobedience can spawn, including the sacrifice of their own children to idols, false gods. The wrath of God is meant to end the wickedness of people who should know better because His presence and greatness are clearly visible in the creation of the heavens and the earth.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident] within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom. 1:18-23).
God’s wrath is against a rebellious house. Rebellion implies that people know what is right, but choose to ignore it and “march to their own drum”. Rebellion is intentional; it is ignoring God. But after wrath, God once again continues to reach out to those who will love Him.
Since the resurrection, the Lord has been and continues to pursue a people who will comprise His assembly of believers, the Church, an “obedient house”. To develop this lasting assembly, as in the Old Testament, there needs to be a living sacrifice that must spill its blood (die) so that the natural instinct to rebel against God, i.e., sin, can be divinely forgiven. But this time, the sacrifice will not be in the form of animal, bird, or grain. It will be the sacrifice of a Person, One who is without blemish, i.e., sin. All the wrath that God displayed against Israel and others for their rebellion will be laid upon the shoulders and body of our sinless and divine Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The sin of the world was placed upon the Son of God so that the faith of those who believed God prior to and after His Son’s death could be eternally free from God’s wrath. Those who accept this divine gift can live without fear of eternal judgment, safe in the promise of eternal life with God.
9 Much more then, having now been justified (made righteous) by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled (be at peace) to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:9-11).
I will be disciplined as a Father disciplines His child; however, I will NEVER KNOW THE WRATH OF GOD because my Savior, Jesus Christ, took that wrath for me. Next time you read the crucifixion story, keep this in mind—all the wrath that fell upon those who rejected and mocked God in the Old Testament fell upon the body of Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine what the triune God experienced in that horrid moment in time, but how I love Him for it! He/They suffered humiliation at the hands of arrogant Romans and callous religious leaders, separation from one another, intense physical and emotional pain, ridicule from callous creatures who were unworthy of His very presence, and desertion by those whom He loved. He died in my place and yours and rose from the grave to give us eternal life.
Though I have experienced the wrath of men in various degrees, I will never experience the wrath of God: I “turned to God from idols (anything that replaced devotion to God) to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son (Jesus Christ) from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues me from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9b-10) on the Rebellious House. While true members of the Church of Christ (the Obedient House) will develop spiritually through knowledge and discipline, they will never turn against their Lord as did Israel and, therefore, they will never experience the wrath of God, as will those who reject Him.
Today, we are seeing the spoiled fruit of the Rebellious House in the streets of our cities throughout the United States. The world is looking for that one human leader who will give them purpose in a global community. They are looking for that great and new Stalin who will lead them to their utopian dreams. Friends, there is no utopian paradise without the Triune Creator God.
I am thrilled to be a citizen of God’s House. I hope that you too have confessed your disobedience (sin) to God, accepted Christ’s sacrifice as your own, and asked for the salvation that He will freely give you. Salvation is a gift for the asking. Ask for it—your life will become eternal in the best sense of the word.