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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 12, 2012

“The great and terrible God” (Nehemiah 1:5).

“O Lord, the great and dreadful God” (Daniel 9:4).

Once again this sermon is loosely adapted from “The Great and Terrible God” by Dr. John R. Rice (Sword of the Lord, 1977, pp. 7-38).

These texts in Nehemiah and Daniel tell us that God is a great, terrible and dreadful God. We have seen that the God spoken of throughout the Bible is a terrible and a dreadful God. Those who speak of Him only as a God of love are not true to the Scriptures. He is also a God of judgment and vengeance. Most preachers today seldom if ever preach that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). But such preaching misrepresents God. It is a dishonest presentation of God. This is nothing new. In the time of Jeremiah God said,

“This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 5:23-24).

And the preachers of that day misrepresented God, who said to Jeremiah,

“From the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely... saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace”
       (Jeremiah 6:13-14).

“Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?...from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely...saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace”
       (Jeremiah 8:9-11).

“I will surely consume them, saith the Lord...and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them”
      (Jeremiah 8:13).

“Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets...for I will pour their wickedness upon them” (Jeremiah 14:15-16).

Where, oh where, do we hear such words from our pulpits in these evil days? Where, oh where, are preachers telling us of soon-coming judgment from the great, and terrible, God of Jeremiah? Yet, whether they preach it or not, He is still a holy, righteous, great, terrible and dreadful God.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle” (Jeremiah 19:3).

I was in the jacuzzi at my gym the other evening. A man who was there asked me why I thought America is in so much trouble. Without hesitation I said, “Because we have murdered fifty-four million children. That’s why we are in trouble. God is angry with America for slaughtering a whole generation of innocent babies. And God is angry with our preachers for not doing anything practical to end this holocaust.” His face turned white. Then he said, “My mother would agree with you.” I said, “You will agree with me when God pours out His fury and wrath on our nation.” Jeremiah said,

“Do no violence to the...fatherless...neither shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3).

“But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation...surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited” (Jeremiah 22:5-6).

“And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 23:40).

That is what the terrible, dreadful God of Jeremiah says to America at this hour!

That is the great, terrible and dreadful God of Noah, who brought judgment down upon the entire human race. That is the great, terrible and dreadful God of Abraham, who time after time punished the nation of Israel for its sin. And, yes, that is the terrible and dreadful God of Jeremiah, who prophesied the Babylonian captivity of Israel!

The Bible makes it clear that the Jews are God’s chosen people. The Jewish people are dear to the heart of God. They are God’s chosen people on earth (Genesis 12:1-3). God gave the land of Canaan to them for an everlasting possession. God said to them, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Even in their apostasy, God said to them, “I am married unto you” (Jeremiah 3:14; cf. Hosea 2:19-20).

Yet God’s punishment of Israel for her sins has sometimes been so furious that it ought to make us tremble! At Kadesh Barnea, in the wilderness, Israel doubted God. They listened to the unbelieving spies and feared to go into the promised land. Then God said He would keep them in the wilderness until all those rebels died and their bodies rotted in the desert. He would take their children into the land only after that unbelieving generation died. The direct punishment of God on His beloved people is a solemn warning that no one can sin and get away with it!

After the children of Israel danced naked around a golden calf, God called for the slaughter of 3,000 of them in judgment. In the wilderness, they complained against God, “And the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1). When they complained about having nothing to eat but manna, and wanted flesh to eat, God was angered by their complaining, and sent them more quails than they could eat. “While the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:33). Oh, the anger and judgment of this dreadful, terrible God!

Then Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and Aaron. God told Moses to separate his people from these wicked men. And the earth opened up under them and swallowed them, and all the people that were with them. They “went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:33). Still others complained and rebelled over this judgment, and God sent a plague that killed 14,700 more of them! Oh dreadful, terrible God, the God who is angry with sin, the furious God who sent judgment to them for their sin and rebellion!

Again, the Israelites complained that they had nothing but manna to eat. “And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6).

Later the people were tempted to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. The judgment of God fell on them, and 24,000 Israelites died of a plague before the Lord!

Read the Book of Judges. See how God punished Israel for their sin again and again by turning them over to their enemies. Oh, how true it is that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Later, the people forgot God again and worshipped idols, committing all kinds of sin. After repeated warnings, the northern kingdom of Israel fell. Then the southern kingdom of Judah was judged, and went into captivity in Babylon. Jerusalem was destroyed. The walls were broken down. The gates and palaces were burned. Even the temple of God was destroyed! The handful of people that were left were carried away into slavery in Babylon for seventy years. Oh Israel, how heavy was the judgment of God upon thee! No wonder Nehemiah prayed in Babylon to “the great and terrible God” (Nehemiah 1:5). No wonder that Daniel prayed in that far off land to “the great and dreadful God” (Daniel 9:4).

In mercy God brought a remnant of Israel back to their land in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra. The temple was rebuilt. Jesus was born. Many people in Israel believed in Him and were saved. But the chief priests, the Pharisees and others rejected Him.

In 70 A.D. the Romans, under Titus, destroyed Jerusalem. The city was taken with a dreadful slaughter. The Jewish historian Josephus said that 1,100,000 Jews were slain. Another 50,000 were sold as slaves. The temple was burned to the ground. God’s people were scattered to every nation on earth until God, in His mercy, began to regather them in 1948. O God! O great, dreadful, terrible God! Oh God, who will not let sin go unpunished! This is the God who plainly warned, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). O great and terrible God! O Lord, the great and dreadful God!

Make no mistake about this! The Bible says that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). If your sins have never been pardoned, and you have never been saved, God is angry with you this morning. There is only one way for you to be saved. God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, down to earth to pay the penalty for our sin on the Cross. When I realized that He died to save me, I knew that I had killed him, as surely as though I had driven the nails through His hands and feet; as surely as if I had pierced His side with a spear! It was our sins that nailed Jesus to the Cross!

‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins
   His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
   And unbelief the spear.

Do not treat the crucifixion of Christ lightly! Jesus died on the Cross to satisfy the wrath of God and to atone for your sin. That is why “we preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). You must turn from your sins and trust Jesus Christ. Only then will His precious Blood cleanse you “from all sin” (I John 1:7). Only the crucified and risen Christ can save you from the wrath and judgment of the great and terrible God of Nehemiah and Daniel, Moses and Paul. If you do not come to Jesus, who was punished in your place, for your sins, then the great and terrible God will punish you. No one but Jesus can save you from the wrath of God. Flee to Jesus at once!

William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote, “There is a fountain filled with Blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” William Cowper also wrote the hymn Mr. Griffith sang before I preached this sermon.

My former hopes are fled,
   My terror now begins;
I feel, alas! that I am dead
   In trespasses and sins.

Ah, whither [can] I [flee]?
   I hear the thunder roar;
The law proclaims destruction nigh,
   And vengeance at the door.

When I review my ways,
   I fear impending doom;
But sure, a friendly whisper says,
   "Flee from the wrath to come."
(“Under Conviction” by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

Are you under conviction? Do your sins trouble you in the night, when you are alone? Do you fear the wrath of an angry God? Do you feel your need for Jesus to pardon your sins and cleanse them with His Blood? Will you flee to Jesus from the wrath of our great and terrible God?

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Jeremiah 22:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Under Conviction” (by William Cowper, 1731-1800).