The Fright of the Condemned

“For behold, the kings gathered together 

and they passed by it together. 

They saw it and thus were terrified;

They were horrified and ran away in haste.”

(Psalm 48: 5-6 {verses 4-5 in English})

It does not take much reflection to recognize just how often it plays out in history that the nations have waged war against God’s people. From the Exodus forward nations have attacked from all corners … Egypt from the south, Philistia from the west, Babylon from the East, and Persia from the north are just a few to get started. And apart from the times when the hand of the Lord was against his people in discipline, God was faithful as the Warrior of Israel…our rOw;b…Ig lEa (El Gibor — “the Heroic God” — Isaiah 9:6). He is our defender in times of trouble (Isaiah 33:2).

The language of God defending his people is common enough, but have you ever reflected on what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of God’s wrath in these cases? Have you ever wondered what it must have been like for the Egyptians to fact the dark side of the glory cloud, which defended Israel while they waited for the Red Sea to part (Exodus 14:19-20) or perhaps on the next day, what it must have been like for those Egyptian charioteers upon whom the walls of the Red Sea collapsed. Think about what it must have been like when the confusion came upon the camp of the Midianites and they, in their confusion, attacked one another (Judges 7:22-23) or when Shamgar slew 600 Philistines with an ox-goad (Judges 3:31) or Samson slew 1000 with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:15). Can you imagine what the night must have been like when the Angel of Yahweh went out and delivered his people by slaying 185,000 Assyrians in a single night?

The examples abound when we look back across history, but there yet lays ahead an example that is singular in significance and awe. For when Jesus returns again, he will call his people to himself but enter into final judgement against his enemies…the reprobate. There all of the nations of the earth will stand before our warrior God and taste the fullness of his wrath and for all eternity find themselves under judgment.

The kings are described as gathering together to pass by — to pass through — Israel…with the implication that they will be plundering the land on their way and yet they were terrified. The Hebrew word used here is hAmDt (tamah), which means to be horrified and frozen with fear, and indeed, this will describe (at the very least) those who will be under God’s wrath. How might we escape this wrath, you ask? Through the gate of Jesus and through Jesus alone. Turn from your sins, confess them to God, and seek Jesus in the faith that only God can give. Yet, let us be clear, serving God rather than self or mankind is not primarily about escaping wrath…it is first and foremost about giving God the honor and glory that he is due. Let us stand in awe of our God, not out of fear of impending destruction but because he is glorious and worthy of our praise and adoration.

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