That God has been pleased to intervene in the downward course of human affairs is abundantly plain.
Thus He intervened for the deliverance of Israel when He heard their cry in the land of Egypt; He did so over and over again at the intercession of Moses on their behalf; so in the case of Samuel, Hezekiah and others, pardoning their sins and granting relief from enemies. He intervened most of all in the gift of His Son when in Him He found a Ransom, not for Israel only, but for the world at large. All this was the result of His pity, mercy, and love.
But there are occasions when He has seen fit not to intervene. For instance, there was no interposition on behalf of fallen angels. Sin originated in those heavenly beings by the working of pride. They “left their own habitation,” and are “reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day” (see Jude). That which awaits them is no possible intervention of mercy, but only the judgment of that day.
This is the result of their apostasy and is its fearful moral consequence. Again, there is the sin of the first man who, whatever may be his own eternal future, has plunged the world in a deep and long-lasting ocean of misery, and involved the whole race in the dread consequences of his transgression. “Death has passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” This awful moral effect we are bitterly proving today. Intervention in mercy as to this judgment there is none “There is no discharge in that war.”
Again, there is the Flood; it was sent as a divine protest against universal corruption, and as a terrible witness to God’s hatred of sin. Mercy did not interfere with the desolation of the forty days’ rain, nor the extinction of everything that had life, till the very mountains was submerged and the entire race (save eight) absolutely obliterated. Sin and judgment followed as cause and effect. Moral consequence was necessary in the maintenance of divine holiness.
Again, Israel sinned until there was “no remedy” (2 Chr. 36:16). And this favoured and oft-forgiven but rebellious people had, at last, to reap what they had sowed and bear the consequence of their disobedience. They were carried captive beyond Babylon. This, too, in order to prove that God will not be mocked. He may be, and is, long-suffering. Oh how long, how patient, how infinitely gracious is He to guilty, wayward, wilful man! How His gospel proclaims that grace, and points to the death of His beloved Son as the highest, richest proof of His intervening mercy:
“In Thee only good,
In us only ill,
And sin has but shown us
Thy love deeper still.”
All true; but while “God is love,” let us never forget that He who is love is God! And that while love is His nature, righteousness, holiness, and truth are (speaking reverently) His character. No act of mercy, no intervention of compassion is wrought at the expense of righteousness, for on this “His throne is established,” and necessarily so.
The word that has gone out of His mouth, whether known by man, or not, must be fulfilled. And if that word be disobeyed, or set aside, or perverted by an individual, or by a nation, then the consequences of so doing must be borne individually or nationally; and it may be that in the violation of that word by the proud nations of Christendom lies the secret of the present convulsion.
But, by way of contrast, take special notice of the emphasis laid on the fulfilment of Scripture, and the accomplishment of the will of God by our Lord Jesus Christ, when, in Gethsemane He certified that, if He called on His Father for twelve legions of angels to stand by Him, they would be sent, and Himself delivered from the cruel foe. But His lips did not breathe that prayer. He sought no intervention on His behalf; He was prepared to bare His bosom to the dreadful shaft, and to go to the utmost extreme in obedience. Hence He said, “How, then, shall the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be” (Matt. 26:54). The fulfilment of Scripture was paramount in His holy, devoted heart. “Thus,” He said, “it must be.” Intervention, even for Him, was impossible if the will of God were to be done and the work of redemption completed.
There was the refusal of angelic intervention in order that the moral consequences of the sin, with which He had no trace of personal connection whatever, might be borne, in all the awful reality of divine judgment against it, by Himself the spotless Lamb of God and the Saviour of those on whom that judgment should have fallen for ever.
There was no intervention at the cross. Jesus was absolutely forsaken then, and only then; but there was, thank God, the bearing of the consequences of human wickedness by the One who alone was able to bear them, and to “give His life a ransom for many.” Happy they who avail themselves of that ransom—God’s intervention on their behalf.