The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy.
Hell is God’s justice, heaven His mercy, and the earth His long-suffering.
The goodness of God leads you to repentance.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the children of men is fully set in them to do evil.
All the day long I have stretched out My hands unto a people disobeying and opposing.
Romans 10:21, Darby Translation
My stars, this is painful.
It’s like I’m watching a train wreck about to happen.
I can see a horrible collision unfolding but am helpless to stop it. I can warn the train: The bridge is out! I can jump up and down, wave my arms and yell, but the train keeps barreling down the track, unconcerned about the impending danger to itself and others. There will most certainly be a violent end, a cacophony of twisted metal and burning flesh. And there’s nothing I can do to prevent it from happening.
I’m not speaking curses here, I’ve just stood around enough tracks to see how these things turn out. Be not deceived, we are told, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, the same he will reap. Oh, how I wish this time could be different, yes I do, but this is an immutable law of life and those who refuse to learn from the past are destined to repeat it.
The hard way.
Once upon a past offense, a kindly, elderly authority figure looked earnestly at the impending train wreck in question and offered this grave advice: “Mark my words, son, grace refused is grace removed.” He told this tragic figure, you keep rattling down this same track you’re on, ignoring all the warning signs, pushing on, pushing on, rebelling, you will end up in a railroad graveyard.
That was five years ago and little has changed, except the train is getting faster.
I recently sat down (what else would I be doing?) and opened the scriptures to Ecclesiastes and read it through in an hour. It’s a dark book, I suppose, but the previous paragraph pretty much sums up the message.
I cannot say if Solomon dwells with the redeemed; we’re best served to let the statement “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19) speak to it, and leave it with God. All I can say is that the man who lived the narrative may have been a covenant Jew, but that did not mean he was of Abraham’s seed (see Romans 9:6-8). He may have been physically trimmed, but his heart was robustly his own.
And that is the epitaph of lostness.
Count the personal pronouns in a single paragraph of chapter two. Thirty-nine, by mine. Thirty-nine hat tips to himself. Thirty-nine refusals of grace. Thirty-nine pats on his own back. Thirty-nine acts of defiance. Thirty-nine tableaus of tyranny. Thirty-nine close brushes with eternal death. In one short paragraph!
Thirty-nine. And counting.
Of them all, Solomon said he may as well have been chasing the wind. He called it a “vain” pursuit. Utter stupidity and nonsensical.
Did he turn it around?
Were the brakes of the mighty train applied?
Again, I don’t know. I think so. I hope. Lord knows I’ve had my thirty-nine proliferations of self, and then some. God’s grace for me has been like a referee going way past the ten count and his hand keeps slicing the air:
Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine…
All the while, the opponent is looking at him with a ‘What gives, ref?’ expression. He cannot believe the referee is giving me an inordinate amount of chances to come back to life. It’s like the man in the white shirt is taking my side.
If Ecclesiastes tells us anything, though, it informs us that such grace will not go on and on, because then it would start looking like endorsement and unloving enablement.
Remember now your Creator before the evil days come…(12:1)
‘Cause they will come. The shoe will drop. The extended Hand will retract. Grace will be removed. Whatever a man has sown, he will reap. There will be blood.
But it doesn’t have to be. Things can change in a second. Trains can be diverted. I’ve got my own rescue story and you’ve got yours. Oh, the stories we can tell! Which is why we hold out hope as we wave our arms, flag down trains, swing our lanterns, jump and yell. One more time. Until…well, let’s not think about that.
But it’s still got to be their choice. So…what, then, is the conclusion of the matter?
See that you refuse not Him who speaketh…(Hebrews 12:25)
Repent before you get to forty, young man. While He is mercifully counting thirty-nine.