“By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
In biblical times God often spoke of judgment on His people. He did so because of their waywardness and unrighteous living. Consistently He used the prophets to forecast His judgment and call the people back to righteousness. Through Hosea, He spoke to their idolatry and unfaithfulness. Through Amos, He addressed insincere worship and oppression of the poor. He used Micah to speak to injustice and Joel to deal with self-centredness. Zephaniah dealt with idolatry and Jonah was sent to preach against the wickedness of Nineveh. Of course, Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke to many of these issues.
Even before the era of the prophets we had the flood of Noah’s day, and Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s time. There is also Amos’ declaration of judgment on the people of God. Of primary interest is His suggestion that God would use a plumbline in measuring the people’s righteousness and assessing their behaviour. (Amos 7:7-9) Because they did not ‘measure up’ they would be punished. In his final vision, Amos saw God at the altar executing judgment. However, provision was made for those who lived righteously to escape such judgment. (Amos 9:1-12).
So even as God’s judgment was declared we often saw God’s compassion as a result of human intervention, such as when Abraham or a prophet pleaded, or as a result of human repentance following a prophet’s preaching.
Indeed, with Jonah God immediately changed his mind from punishment after the prophet’s preaching led to the repentance of Nineveh. And so we begin to see the grace of God serving as an antidote to sin. This season of Easter brings sharply into focus the amazing grace of God set alongside His holding of the plumbline. We are thus led to Eph. 2:8 which highlights the fact that this gift of grace is offered to us and works towards our salvation.
It is vital to see God’s grace alongside His judgment. Indeed, as He proclaimed judgment he also provided grace. That free facility has always been provided by God. Therefore He made provision in both Noah’s case and Lot’s case for persons to be saved. Sadly, only few were saved in each instance. God used the prophets to intervene so that the people could learn and be spared, as they were in the case of Jonah’s preaching. But frequently, they did not repent.
Eventually God sent His Son to become the penalty for our sin. (See 1 John 2:2; 4:10) Hence Eph. 2:4-6 outlines God’s own intervention thus: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together”. Even now, when God’s grace is so general and salvation so wide-spread, few seek to take advantage of it.
The Easter story is about the need for judgment in this world, and the Son’s intervention to provide escape from the same – the plumbline and the amazing grace. Today, by God’s grace you can be saved as a gift from God. Christ’s death and resurrection have provided for this. Remember: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20) Why ignore so great a gift? Why risk suffering such judgment? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”! (Heb. 10:31) But note: “It is for you He suffered so”. Easter Grace is available!
By Roslyn Hamblim (Moravian Church, Barbados Conference)