I read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” recently. I had read this quote in critiques, but having read the entire sermon, it aptly paints the picture Edwards paints of God throughout the sermon.
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.” – Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
Edwards’ god looks nothing like Jesus and, hence, nothing like the Father.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” Hebrews 1:1-3.
Edwards’ god does not look like the Peter’s or Ezekiel’s God.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’” Ezekiel 33:11
Again, Edwards’ god looks nothing like God as revealed in Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:6-9
Edwards’ god resembles pagan gods rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m by no means an expert on the Egyptian, Canaanite, Mesopotamian, or Greco/Roman gods, nor any other mythical gods of various regions and cultures, but I know enough to differentiate Yahweh from them because of Jesus.
As Brian Zhand says, “God has always been like Jesus.” God does not “abhor” us; he loves us.
“’For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’” John 3:16
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Jesus shows us that God loves us so much he will let us kill him to demonstrate just how much he loves us. We are the pinnacle of His creation whom he declared “very good” rather than just “good” like the rest of creation. If He truly abhorred His creation, it would have ended with the destruction of Adam and Eve. But he didn’t destroy them. They had devastating consequences affecting the entire world and all of their descendants, but God still provided for their needs post-fall. You know, because 1) He loved them and 2) He knew they would fall.
In the movie version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort is castigating his followers for not returning. Only Wormtail (Peter Pettigrew) could claim to have returned. However, instead of praising him, Voldemort replies, “Out of fear, not loyalty!” Voldemort does reward Wormtail with a replacement hand to reward his sacrifice. Ironically, Wormtail’s reward, in the end, killed him. Voldemort knew that obedience through fear was a major weakness. Fear-based obedience is rooted in self-preservation and cannot ever produce a fully devoted follower. Fear doesn’t produce good fruit.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We lovebecause he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19
The pagan gods were not gods of love. The God who is fully revealed in Jesus, is the God of love. Love changes hearts and minds. Love produces good fruit. Love produces true revival which reproduces love in those transformed by love. Only love can usher a true awakening in which the awakened love as they are loved – self-sacrificially.