By Nick Batzig
A few years ago, a high school English teacher in our town had the junior class read Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The teacher told his students that he had assigned it to them in order to stir up distaste for puritanical theology and preaching. After all, among the countless unpopular subjects someone could bring up, the judgment of God must take first place.
Academics have often used this sermon for similar pejorative purposes. However, it must be noted that the content and purpose of this sermon has often been misrepresented. As he brought this sermon to an end, Edwards, in no uncertain terms, held forth the hope of the mercy and grace of God to those who would come to Christ.
The judgment of God is a subject of supreme importance, both for our understanding of who God is and for our understanding of who we are. It is necessary that we come to terms with the reality of the righteous judgment of God if we are ever going to understand the nature of His saving work in Christ.
Here in Hosea 5—as the covenant-keeping Lord brings further indictment against Israel for her spiritual adultery—He now sets before His people, in highly symbolic language, the judgment that they deserve for their idolatrous rejection of Him. Hosea explains that God’s judgment will be poured out like water and that He was promising to come as a destroying rot (vv.10,12). Additionally, the covenant-keeping Lord speaks of His coming in judgment as a lion to “tear them to pieces” (v.14). These figures are meant to stir up an understanding of what the people should expect from the Lord.
However, mingled in the promise of impending judgment is a note of hope. At the end of the charge that the Lord brings against the whole nation, He says, “I will depart and return to my place until they recognize their guilt and seek my face; they will search for me in their distress.” (Hosea 5:15).
Here the hope of mercy is held out for those who would turn from their idols to the Lord. The same God who promises to come in judgment offers the hope of mercy and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.