Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are currently finishing a study of several chapters of Isaiah that was included in the Book of Mormon by its ancient authors. It is obvious that many tribes the world over find the words of Isaiah of great value, especially the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah and his work in the last days.
Many are quite familiar with the mortal life of Jesus and paint a somewhat accurate picture of his meekness and sufferings during that time. As the Jehovah of the old testament, we get an understanding of other aspects of his character, where God can be jealous for worship and vengeful toward those who lead his covenant people astray. Many people have never equated the kind and loving Christ with the often punishing and demanding Jehovah of the old testament, but they are the same man!
Isaiah uses strong words in some chapters on how the Lord will destroy idols and "smite" the people in various ways in the last days. For students of Jesus, the tendency to accentuate the positive (nice) and push aside the negative (nasty) is painfully obvious, but Isaiah pulls no punches: If you choose to disobey God, you will be punished and its graphic description from this old testament prophet should be seen as a strong warning. While so many appeal to the better nature of Christ, if people fail to obey Jesus, terrible punishments will fall upon them.
Often, this is referred to as "the fear of the Lord".
It often amazes me how few people FEAR the Lord, as many should be trembling and hiding from his coming wrath. So many people in these times choose to either ignore God or proclaim that he does not exist. The "intelligencia" are fond of not only believing this, but preaching this idea widely and castigating any who do not agree with them. Obviously, this is a great example of people who do not fear the Lord and teach others not to fear the Lord. Using some of the nastier bits of Isaiah as a measure, I can only imagine the suffering of those who take the satanic course of leading others away from God!
It has become unfashionable to fear God, but I often preach "the fear of the Lord" publicly, just because so little is said of it. If terror of coming personal destruction is the only way to pursuade someone to turn to the Lord and begin to keep his commandments, that is a start. I don't want to discount in any way the shower of blessings and love that God sends to those who obey him, but one has to get to the point of testing obedience to see the Lord's loving nature!
In another section of the Book of Mormon, we are introducted to a man named Alma. In a phrase, he went about destroying the church. On one foray to convince believers to turn away from God, he was struck down by the Lord. Alma was shown the reality of hell to the point that he cried to the Christ he had been taught as a boy to save him from destruction, and then Christ rescued him. Please notice that the threat of hellfire was given first, then the gentle fruits that come with obeying God, even just a little. Alma went on to become a mighty preacher of God and Christ, telling his experience to many and of his undying gratitute to Jesus for saving him from hell. The fear of the Lord and his wrath saved Alma and it can save millions more. I hope we don't ignore or discount the several methods, including fear, that God and his servants use to pursuade people to find Christ and follow him!
I love the Savior Jesus Christ! I am grateful for his kindness and blessings toward me. I don't recall ever having to be stuck down particularly or threatened with destruction for a sinful path, but I hope to never discount the road that many must travel to find Christ's redemption. We must obey and we must obey completely. Our loving redeemer provides us with time to learn how to do this and forgives our follies as long as we are moving toward greater obedience! May each of us remember the words of Isaiah, both good and bad, accept Alma's story, and turn to the Lord in obedience, never to wander.