Church bulletins are great. They contain information the congregant will need during the week, such as which deacons are ‘on call’, who is going to staff the nursery next week, and what time the church supper starts on Wednesday. Some pastors include sermon notes, or a devotional.
The cover always contains a pretty picture and a lovely verse. The picture is always eye catching. One might see a meadow-covered mountain top or a close-up of a pretty flower. The verse is always likewise. Always. It’s encouraging, or it speaks of God’s love or a promise of God.
I’m irked by this.
Leave it to me to be irked by something pleasant, right? But just once I’d like to see a different kind of verse on the front of a bulletin, a verse that speaks of God’s wrath, or His justice, or something unpleasant. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” says 2 Timothy 3:16, so let’s not always focus on the verses that please us or encourage us. What about the verses that challenge us, or convict us, or make us think, or speak of an aspect of God that’s increasingly denied these days, such as His wrath?
Here is today’s entry:
In this Old Testament verse, God is prophesying against the Philistines. God’s promise here serves as a specific warning about the Philistines and a sort of comfort to the Israelites, whom the Philistines were harassing. Matthew Henry’s Commentary says of the general promise here,
Those who glory in any other defence and protection than the Divine power, providence, and promise, will, sooner or later, be ashamed of their glorying. Those who will not leave it to God to take vengeance for them, may expect that he will take vengeance on them. The equity of the Lord’s judgments is to be observed, when he not only avenges injuries upon those that did them, but by those against whom they were done. Those who treasure up old hatred, and watch for the opportunity of manifesting it, are treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath.
A parallel verse to the Ezekiel verse comes from Psalm 9:16: “They shall know Me, not in mercy, but by My vengeance on them.”
It is a fitting concept on which to end the imaginary “Church Bulletin” series. Far from presenting only one attribute of God, the “pleasant” side as most American worship bulletins do, it is comforting to see Him fully, including His wrathful side. His holy justice, His perfect rebukes, His righteous anger, these are comforting in their own way. Any persecuted Christian whose family has been slain would take comfort in knowing that future justice will be done to the persecutors. In Israel’s Old Testament days, that would be the Philistines. In our day, it is still the Philistines, though Middle East persecutors are not called that now.
“But what if there is a lost person in the church who reads these about His anger or wrath or holy justice?” Then I say “Good.” Sinners need to understand that God’s anger abides on them. The sword of vengeance is pointed at their heart and soul, to be released any moment at God’s good will and pleasure. Sinners must understand we have a loving and merciful God because we have a HOLY God.