How does God honor Himself? We might cite multiple answers to that question. Some might immediately note that God honors Himself through His two greatest works: the creation of the universe and the redemption of lost sinners. Others might think of His self-revelation in the pages of Scripture or His miraculous acts throughout human history. But few would probably think to mention one manner in which God Himself declared that He was bringing honor to Himself. We learn of this self-honoring activity directly from the mouth of God as He spoke with Moses when Israel huddled on the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army of Pharaoh in hot pursuit.
“’As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them [i.e., pursue Israel as they flee on dry ground through the Red Sea]; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen’” (Ex. 14:17, 18).
One of the clearest evidences of a corrupt, degenerate culture is a societal reluctance to acknowledge sinful behavior and to deal with it appropriately. Almost any extreme of criminal behavior finds its apologists excusing the activity on the basis of poverty, the lack of opportunity, the dysfunctional nature of the family, etc. And every kind of perversion has its advocates in a society that views morals, not as absolute universal imperatives governing human behavior, but as subjective opinions and wishes governing only the individual who holds them, and then, only so long as he finds it convenient to follow them. Those same individuals who believe themselves to be charitable by accepting outrageous behavior profess horror at the thought of punishing any but the most heinous of crimes. Even then, many would spurn the remedy of capital punishment. But God is not squeamish about judging sin. And in His behavior we learn much about Him.
God is as much glorified in judging sinners as He is in redeeming them. His destruction of Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army, which God pointedly calls to our attention, demonstrates that He is God. In judging sin, God honors His sovereignty: He alone of all beings can and will do whatever He pleases. In judging sin, God honors His holiness: He is not like depraved humanity but infinitely separate from it in every way. He is infinitely distant from sin and neither will nor can abide its existence. In judging sin, God honors His righteousness: there is an almost mathematical correspondence between sin and its consequences. Because sin dishonors God, Who created man in His image, and because all sin is ultimately harmful to all it touches, God is just in punishing sinners who, like Pharaoh, resist His grace and refuse the opportunities that God provides for repentance. (Note, for example, the individual plagues on Egypt followed by God’s demands through Moses that Pharaoh let His people go and Pharaoh’s steadfast refusal to do so.)
Since no one attribute of God is more glorious than another, all existing together in infinitely perfect harmony (God’s love, grace, mercy, and longsuffering, for example, are not superior to His holiness, righteousness, and justice.), God honors Himself by exercising all His attributes in accord with His nature and by displaying them faithfully and consistently before men as He intervenes in human affairs.
He could be no more truly God were He to forsake judging sinners than if He were to abandon His omnipotence. The person who wishes to embrace the love and grace of God must embrace the holiness and justice of God: they are essential and inseparable attributes of God. May we honor God in His essential character and rejoice that He judges sin.
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