Will the Bell Toll on the Wicked? A Meditation on Psalm 36

19 Apr

The following is a poetic essay in response to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins:

Blessed vagueness:
“There the workers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been cast down and are not able to rise.”

There—not where, not when, not how, but a fact:
Someday the workers of iniquity will be cast down, never to rise again.

According to Psalms 5, 6, and 14,
these workers of iniquity, these trouble-makers, feed on God’s people;
they are the object of His hatred and of His command to depart.

But is it forever?
Is there no point of returning?
Why must there be a vague point, in a vague place (“there”),
when the bell tolls once and for all on the wicked,
when they are not able to rise?

According to Psalm 36,
there is something in the nature of the wicked
and something in the nature of God that demands such a bell.

Regarding the wicked man, it is his inveterate, internal corruption:
“He has ceased to be wise and to do good.”

As in Psalm 14, so also here:
“There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Because we doubt this, we doubt hell.
If we believed this, we too would throw the wicked away.
In fact, we would marvel that God does not do so sooner!

But by nature, we do not marvel, we do not believe.
Like all others, we too flatter ourselves in our own eyes.
We have reasons for our iniquity, our hatred.
Like all others, we have no fear of God before our eyes,
and without this core worship, all good deeds are idolatry to our glory.
By nature, we too are children of wrath, but we think not.

Until the Spirit of Truth gives us an “oracle” about our hearts,
we lack this fundamental insight about ourselves and others.

As in Psalm 14, so also here: The problem is our denial of God.

Against this cave of iniquity shoots forth the expansive glory of God:
“Your loyal-love, O LORD, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains;
Your judgments are a great deep;
O LORD, You save man and beast.”

Against our denial stands the open-heartedness of God:
“How precious is Your loyal-love, O God!
And the sons of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”

Our views are so cramped, but His glory so expansive!
Our views put Him out, but His love calls us in!
We think big of ourselves and little of Him,
but when His oracle convicts, light and life are restored.

“Oh, continue Your loyal-love to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”

Let no generic love rob us of our refuge, O God of loyal-love!
Let no such love treat all in the end the same, O God of righteousness!
Be loyal to us who acknowledge You,
and rightly affirm Your glory in rewarding us who take refuge in You!

And, if You really do love us, being loyal to us in Your love to Christ,
then cuff the hand that drives us away from You,
and chain the foot of pride that refuses to fear You.

“There the workers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been cast down and are not able to rise.”

When the bell tolls forever on the wicked, it will be liberty to believers.
In ceasing to love those ceasing from good, God does not cease to love.
In cutting the foot of pride and the hand that drives, He loves His own.
While many are condemned, others are saved by the bell.

And to deny such a bell is to rob God of His glory.

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