Friday, January 01, 2010

Why God Warns

Our Mother who is within us
we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come.
Your will be done,....

Re-imaging God is very Lutheran...
...Images of the Goddess help to break the hold of “male control” that has shaped our images not only of God, but of all significant power in the universe.

--Quotations found on the main webpage of Ebenezer/herchurch ELCA Lutheran

...[I]f you still think the Emergent Church movement poses no danger to your youth then you seriously need to have your spiritual head examined…
--Pastor Ken Silva, commenting on Ebenezer/herchurch*

Part 5: Preparations for Sufferings

Idolatry in our generation is rapidly on the rise -- IN the churches! Idolatry is not only tolerated, but it is being accepted, patronized, mainstreamed, marketed, and set up as a hip model for the new-style Emerging Evangelicals. Christian believers have allowed themselves to be lured into soft-core idolatry, which delights the senses, charms the mind and, ultimately, corrupts the heart. God will not tolerate such idolatry, but He is gracious to warn those who are engaged in it.

Why does God warn? John Flavel, in his classic work** Preparations for Sufferings,[1] outlines three reasons why God warns before His judgments:

1. To prevent the execution. Why does God warn, but to help his people prepare in such a way that it might prevent the execution of judgments? Flavel cites Amos 4:12: "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." When the modern church no longer believes in Hell or God's judgments, they will not likely heed God's warnings. Nevertheless, God warns them. Warning of the wrath to come may lead people to humiliation, repentance and prevent the execution of judgment, such as Jonah's warning to Ninevah:

This Jonah knew to be the Lord's meaning,... knowing, that if upon warning given they repented, the gracious nature of God would soon melt into compassion over them, and free grace would make him appear as a liar;... Jonah 4:2.[2]

2. To make the judgments more tolerable. Christ graciously forewarned his disciples of the persecution to come and "gave them fair warning... John 16:4."[3] Flavel notes that

expected evils are nothing so heavy as those that come by surprisal;... so the expectation of judgments before they befal us, make them less bitter and burdensome than else they would be, the soul having inured[4] and accustomed itself to them, by frequent thoughts, and prepared and made ready itself to entertain them, as Paul did in my text [Acts 21:13].[5]

3. To leave the incorrigible inexcusable. One cannot flirt long with idolatry before becoming captivated. Once ensnared they become incorrigible. Incorrigible people are "bad beyond correction or reform, impervious to constraints or punishment, willful, unruly, uncontrollable."[6] They have "no sense of sin, nor care to prevent ruin... no cloke[7] for their folly when judgments overtake them," says Flavel, quoting the first part of Jeremiah 13:21: "What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee?"[8] Paraphrasing this Scripture, Flavel says that God is asking

What plea, or apology is left thee, after so many fair warnings and timely premonitions? Thou canst not say, I have surprised thee, or that thou was ruined before thou wast warned. Thy destruction therefore is of thyself.

The Truth:

It is a sober message to realize that God is clearly sounding warnings to our generation. Will we repent? Repentance begins in each individual heart, the same place where idolatry can lodge and fester and grow. Ezekiel 14 warns that:

Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?

Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by Myself: And I will set My face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
(Ezekiel 14: 1-8)

1. Works of John Flavel (6 vol set), Banner of Truth Trust (1820, 1968), ISBN 0-85151-060-4. Flavel's dissertation titled "Preparations for Suffering, or The Best Work in the Worst Times" appears in Volume 6, pages 3-83.
2. Jonah 4:2 states: "And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil."
3. John 16:4 reads: "But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you."
4. "Inured" means "to accustom to hardship, difficulty, pain, etc.; toughen or harden; habituate." From
5. Acts 21:13 is the text upon which Flavel's Preparations for Sufferings is based. It reads: "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." See Part 1 for further discussion on this text.
6. Definition from
7. "Cloke" is an obsolete form of the word "cloak." In this sense it means they have no cover, rationale or pretense for their sin that could protect them from the Lord's judgment. See:
8. Flavel cites two verses here, Jeremiah 13:21-22: "What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail? And if thou say in thine heart, 'Wherefore come these things upon me?' For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare." The context of these verses is the episode when the Lord asked Jeremiah to travel to the river Euphrates and bury a linen girdle, which when it was retrieved some time later was found to be "marred" and "profitable for nothing" (verse 7). The Lord then told Jeremiah that "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing" (verse 10).


**ED. NOTE: We have taken minor liberties to reformat some of the published text by altering some of the punctuation, Roman numerals, and other obsolete forms.