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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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

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

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

In the past three sermons I have shown that the God of the Bible is a great, terrible and dreadful God. These messages have been adapted from a sermon by Dr. John R. Rice titled, “O Great and Terrible God!” (John R. Rice, D.D., The Great and Terrible God, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1977 edition, pp. 7-38).

Dr. Rice said, “When Harry Emerson Fosdick, in his book The Modern Use of the Bible, said that modern people could not accept the moral standards ascribed to God in the Old Testament, he [was] only repeating the complaints of [unbelievers] who have hated God through the years...Fosdick...represents all the infidels and immoral people through the ages who have hated the God of judgment, the God who punishes sin, the God who demands repentance” (ibid., p. 9). It should be remembered that Fosdick put the great Chinese evangelist Dr. John Sung in an insane asylum when he was converted. That shows how much Harry Emerson Fosdick hated the God of the Bible! (Click here to read, “The Real Conversion of Dr. John Sung.”)

For many years unbelievers like Fosdick have attacked and ridiculed the Bible doctrine of Christ’s atonement on the Cross, calling it a “slaughterhouse religion.” Such rebellious sinners hate the idea that Christ actually died for the sins of mankind. The Apostle Paul said, “they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). He wrote to the churches of Galatia about “the offence of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). He said, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (I Corinthians 1:18). Even some men, who claim to be Bible-believers, have in recent years spoken against the doctrine of salvation by the Blood of Christ!

The cross is, in some ways, the most terrible evidence of God’s wrath against sin. When God gave His Son to die a bloody, cruel, unjust death on the cross, it was a terrible act of a dreadful, terrible God!

Down through the centuries God required His people to shed the blood of animals, which pointed to the death of Jesus on the cross, when He would pour out His Blood to atone for man’s sin. For 1,500 years, between the Exodus and Christ’s crucifixion, an average of at least a quarter of a million lambs were killed every year. That would make a total of over 300 million lambs slain for the yearly Passover through the years. But that does not include the many other sacrifices, the morning and evening sacrifices, the bullocks, the rams, the red heifers, the turtledoves, and the pigeons that were slain. Oh, what a river of blood! It was innocent blood, shed to remind man that a holy and terrible God must punish sin! It was a reminder that only by the shedding of blood could there be remission of sin. That river of blood, flowing down through the centuries, reminded every Israelite of God’s anger against sin. Every time a sacrifice of blood was made, it spoke of God judging sin. O great and terrible God! O great and dreadful God!

Finally Jesus, the Son of God, went through horrible pain and suffering to fulfill those bloody Old Testament types. Wicked men spit in Jesus’ face. They plucked out His beard. They beat Him half to death. His flesh was cut to the bone and Blood ran down His back to the floor. They pushed a crown of thorns down on His bleeding head. They stripped Him naked and forced Him to carry a cross to the place of crucifixion. They nailed His hands and feet to that cross. Jesus hung there, in great agony and pain. They stared at His naked, bleeding body. They laughed and mocked Him. There on the cross His Blood slowly drained from His tortured body. At last He died a horrible death on that cross. O God, why did Jesus have to go through such humiliation, such pain, such torments? Why? Why?

What a dreadful God planned to have Jesus die like that! It was all planned by God. Wicked men did it, but God planned it. The Apostle Peter said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). His wounded hands and feet, His pierced side, the curse of hanging on a cross – all of that was planned and determined by God, and foretold in the Old Testament. Oh, what a terrible and dreadful God required Jesus Christ to go through such suffering to pay for our sins!

But that is not all. When Jesus Christ hung on the cross, the sky became black. For God the Father turned away from His Son. Jesus was left to die alone on that cross.

Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
    He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled and died
   Alone, alone.
(“Alone” by Ben H. Price, 1914).

The cry of Jesus, foretold in Psalm 22:1, was uttered by Him on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God forsook Jesus. God turned His face away. If God had not turned away from Jesus, the Saviour could not have taken the place of God-forsaken sinners.

Alone upon the cross He hung That others He might save;
   Forsaken then by God and man Alone, His life He gave.
Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
   He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled and died
   Alone, alone.

Sing the chorus,

Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
   He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled and died
   Alone, alone.

Jesus must have felt great pain when they yanked out swatches of His beard. He must have felt more pain when they hit Him with a stick, and when they pushed down a crown of thorns upon His head. I know that the scourging, when they cut His back to ribbons, must have caused excruciating agony. Men often died during such scourgings. It is certain that the nails they pounded through His hands and feet caused Him unspeakable torment. I am sure that the mocking of the crowd around the cross must have broken His heart.

Judas had betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him. All of the Disciples had forsaken Him and run away. The people He had healed and fed now mocked Him. Those He had come to save killed Him. Their ingratitude must have caused Him great sorrow.

But there was no pain like the fact that God the Father turned away from Him and left Him alone on the cross. O dreadful God! How great was Thy anger in punishing Thy own Son in our place! O terrible God, who required such a price to be paid for our sin!

No wonder that the earth shook and trembled at such pain, such unjust agony, such a horrible price for sin. No wonder that such sorrow seemed to break the heart of nature itself when Jesus died on the cross. O dreadful, terrible God! How God hates sin!

But wait! When I look at the mighty God, I see Him weeping. I find that God is brokenhearted. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...” (John 3:16). I have talked about how Jesus suffered. But God the Father suffered also. Every pain the Son experienced pained the heart of God as well. I believe that the crucifixion pictures a brokenhearted God bringing back a wicked race of sinners who should have gone to Hell! Oh, God’s anger at sin is dreadful and terrible, but His mercy is also great!

It is true that Nehemiah called God “terrible.” It is true that Daniel called God “dreadful.” But both of them said God has “mercy for them that love him and to them that keep his commandments.” In the death of Jesus Christ we see, not only the judgment of God, but also the love and mercy He has for ungodly sinners. God loves sinners like you so much that He sent His Son to die in your place, to pay the price for your sin on that awful cross! O merciful God!

I would not say one word to lighten the fearful things I have said about the wrath of God against sin. His wrath against sin is terrible. And there is only one way that you can avoid the anger and wrath of God against your sin. That is by coming to Jesus Christ for pardon. If you will repent and turn to Jesus, God will have mercy on you! God’s wrath will be turned away from you, and you will be saved by the sacrifice of His Son for your sin. The Bible says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The moment you trust Christ, and come to Him by faith, you are no longer condemned! But if you reject Christ you are “condemned already.”

Jesus is the Saviour of sinners like you! He paid your sin-debt on the cross! The moment you come to Jesus, that moment you will have peace with God. In the moment that you come to Jesus you will escape the judgment of the great and terrible God!

One of the songs in Dr. Asahel Nettleton’s hymnal has words to help you. Mr. Griffith sang it before I preached this sermon. I want him to sing it again. Pay careful attention to the words!

Come humble sinner, in whose breast,
   A thousand thoughts revolve;
Come, with your guilt and fear oppressed
   And make this last resolve:

“I’ll go to Jesus, though my sin
   “Hath like a mountain rose;
“I know His courts, I’ll enter in,
   “Whatever may oppose.

“Prostrate I’ll lie before His throne,
   “And there my guilt confess,
“I’ll tell Him, I’m a wretch undone
   “Without His sovereign grace.

“I can but perish if I go;
   “I am resolved to try
“For if I stay away,
   “I know I must for ever die.”
(“Resolve” by Edmund Jones, 1722-1765.)

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 27:26-35.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Resolve” (by Edmund Jones, 1722-1765).