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“When sin grows ripe, and abounds in a land or nation, at such a time as this a man may know there is some fearful judgment approaching. But when is sin ripe?” Puritan pastor Richard Sibbes asked the question 400 years ago. Many have asked it since. Every generation has cause to do so. A fallen world, after all, exhibits fallenness. But how long before God says enough?
Sibbes answered the question by responding that sin is ripe and God’s judgment on the horizon, “When men grow bold in sin, making it their whole course and trade of life. When men’s wicked courses are their common lifestyle, and they do not even know how to do otherwise.” Given his answer some might say God’s fearful judgment may be coming tomorrow. Our nation is not in a good place. Few seem interested in pumping the brakes.
Sibbes ends his reflection this way. “When men are secure in their sinning, it is as if they are daring the God of heaven to do his worst.” We have been daring God for some time. Shame is no longer a thing. What once was done in the dark, not wanting to be exposed, has been brought into the light. And not sheepishly, either. More like a second grader giddy at show-and-tell, wanting all the world to see.
Sin is fun. That is what makes it enticing. But it is not always fun to watch. Lewdness and self-destructive behavior on parade is like the stare we give when passing a car accident. Soon one turns away. Especially when there are casualties. It is upsetting to see people hurt. People are getting hurt in our cultural meltdown.
Sibbes asked, “When is sin ripe?” Our answer might be, “When things start smelling rotten.” Well, the odor is getting thick.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap,” says the apostle (Galatians 6:7). At some point there will be a reckoning. Psalm 86:15 comforts, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Note, “slow to anger.” Not, “never being so.” And he does say, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).
We have a game at home that displays a word you try and get your team to say by providing synonyms or clues. Once your team gets the word you pass the game to the other team who tries to do the same. The contest continues back and forth until the ticking stops. When it does a loud sound goes off. Your team loses if you are holding the game when it does. Similarly, at some point the ticking will stop for the world. When it does, you must be right with God.
Sibbes warns that when “men grow bold in sin” and are “secure in their sinning” judgment is nigh. Never in my lifetime has this been more the case than now. It is getting riper. Daring God is never a good thing. Will we stop?
Pastor Rich Hamlin
March 16, 2023