(Article for publication week of 10-6-2010 AD)
"Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath Thou shalt restrain" (Psalm 76:10).
We saw last week how that God ordains the sinful actions of men to work for His eternal praise, yet He is not the author, nor the approver of sin. We saw that most clearly in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:28), and the betrayal of Joseph (Genesis 50:20). God Who is the First Great Cause, causes all things to work for His glory and His people's good.
Our text this week says that God permits sin for His praise, and restrains the rest. Thank God that He is pleased to restrain sin! The world is under the curse of sin caused by the Fall. Yet, it is still a bearable place to live because God restrains sin. Men would sin much more were it not for God's restraint of sin.
One way that God restrains sin is by His good Providence. God is pleased in His Providence to situate many in families where there is discipline. To have Christian parents is a wonderful blessing from the Lord, for in such a good situation we are restrained from much evil. Even to have moral parents that are not believers is a blessing for moral unsaved parents will still restrain their children.
Another way God restrains sin is by blessing states with wholesome laws. When a commonwealth has laws that are based on God's Law, there will be much happiness in the land. When commonwealths punish murderers and require thieves to restore, it restrains much evil. When a commonwealth rewards the institution of marriage by denying divorce except for Biblical cause, it is a blessing. When a state punishes perversion, it is a blessing to the people. And when the commonwealth holds high regard for the Lord's Day, it is a great blessing. When our part of the world was the Bible Belt (it no longer is), the people were greatly blessed. It appears that God is loosening His restraint of sin in our part of the world, and that is a fearful thing.
God also restrains sin by direct intervention. In Genesis 20 we see a vivid example of this. Abraham had gone to sojourn in Gerar. In the providence of God, Sarah his wife was taken to the harem of King Abimilech. However God kept the man from violating her chastity. Verse 6 says that God "withheld" Abimilech from sinning. This is a wonderful thing, that God prevented this powerful man from touching Sarah!
But the most wonderful way that God restrains sin is by regeneration. When the Lord is pleased to quicken one who is dead in sin into spiritual life He gives that person a new nature that hates sin and loves holiness. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world " (Titus 2:11-12).
But the most dreadful way that God restrains the wrath of man is when He shuts up sinners in the prison of hell. (I shudder to write it!) Dying sinner, you are presently restrained by law and God's providence from going as far into sin as you could. But unless God begins to restrain you now by regeneration, He will send you to hell forever and ever where you can't hurt the Lord's people anymore and where you can't be a menace to God's order. Hell is spoken of as a prison and a place where sinners are bound with chains. Unless God has mercy on you, you will be chained up in hell. May He have mercy on some of you this day.