Under the Altar

Lately, I’ve been thinking/preaching a lot about the big question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” which is really asking, “Is God fair?  Is He good and loving?” and most importantly, “Does God really love me?”

In my devotions today I came across another Biblical example of the Great Controversy being played out …

I’m reading through Revelations, and in Chapters 16 a whole lot of bad happens (the 7 bowls).  It’s a lot like the 10 plagues before the Exodus, and we may wonder why they’re necessary. I addressed this question in my February 1 devotional thought: “It’s Not About Real Estate” – to summarize, God lets things get real bad so that we can realize just how detrimental Satan’s sinful domain is and desire instead God’s sinless government.

In this particular scene of Earth’s closing history, God is especially careful to let the whole universe see that each individual is choosing his or her own destiny and that He has justly judged.

When the calamities come, the wicked “blasphemed the name of God, who has power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory” (Rev 16:9); “they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (v 11). The wickedly automatically blame God for their suffering rather than realizing that the guilt lies on Satan and themselves.  This reaction confirms that they have rejected God’s offer of forgiveness and remain thus in their sins.

On the other hand, had they repented, God would have forgiven them.  The righteous depicted in Revelation 6 as crying out for justice “under the altar” (rev 6:9) understand that God is just — even though they were killed unjustly!   Think of the irony – they get what they don’t deserve – martyrdom, persecution, and the experience of the cross.  Yet, they trust that God will bring justice and the redeemed sing together in Revelation 15 the song of Moses, the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!  Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!” (Rev 15:3).

How are they able to do this?  They are “under the altar” – the altar where the Lamb of God suffered and died unjustly, to bring justice and mercy together.   The cross is where Jesus fulfilled the requirements of justice fully and yet also extended grace to all who repent of the sins that put Him there.  It’s an extraordinary display of God’s character.

All those who understand the depth of meaning of the cross will trust God, even when babies die of hunger, children are abused, and youth are forced to fight.  All those “under the altar” will ask God for strength, understanding, and courage to champion for justice, truth, and mercy in this dark world.

Are you “under the altar” today?

If you find yourself doubting God’s justice, if you feel insecure in His love, in addition to reading the closing chapters of Jesus’ life (my appeal from last week’s devotional thought), read and meditate on Ch 78 & 79 of Desire of Ages.  And may the truth of His character set you free.

 Father God, help me to understand the riches of the cross – and may the truth of who You create in me a repentant heart. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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