It’s easy to see the law as harsh and oppressive. Martin Luther counted it as an enemy sided with the flesh and the devil, set against us to destroy us. It’s understandable. We are sinners. We have broken the law. We carry guilt with us. So, when we read things like, if you turn away and serve other gods, “then the anger of Yahweh would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly,” it can sound like God is just waiting for us to misstep so He can crush us. But that is not the case.
God is in the business of destroying evil. He tells the Israelites to destroy the idols, the empty, worthless, vaporous things of the Canaanites because these things would draw the people away from the source of all things, the source of life. We see this at the battle of Jericho. When the whole city was to be devoted to destruction, Achan took some of the plunder and hid it in his tent, at the very heart of his possessions, and he was consumed in the destruction of the city.
This is the same thing that lies behind Jesus’ warning, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It isn’t just that these things are transitory and will ultimately lead to loss and disappointment, but that “what is with the treasure must fare as the treasure; that the heart which haunts the treasure-house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure, will itself be rusted and moth-eaten.*”
But that cannot be with God’s own children, and it will not be with His Bride. He does not leave us to be consumed by moth and rust, but continually works to refine us, to purify us. “Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected—not in itself, but in the object. . . Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.
And our God is a consuming fire.*”
So, we turn to Him and He gives us His Son and His Spirit. He gives us His kingdom – that which cannot be shaken and cannot be destroyed. If we are members of that unshakeable kingdom, then we ourselves are being made unshakeable by the purifying fire of God so that we would be like Him, that that fire would burn in us and we would worship God face to face. This acceptable worship that we offer God through His purifying fire is this: that we love one another. As John says in his first epistle, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. . . If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
* George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons – available for free on Project Gutenberg