They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun…
You know that only the good die young
Billy Joel released that song in 1977, and it climbed to #24 on the U.S.charts. I’m not so much concerned about pop music trivia as I am about the sentiment of that particular stanza in light of the popularity of this specific song. Has sin gotten a bad rap? Is it possible to “have a little fun” without it impacting our eternal destinies?
Insights from the Septuagint
4Because you are not a God who desires lawlessness;
evil ones may not sojourn with you.
5Lawless ones shall not remain in your sight;
you hate all who practice lawlessness.
6You will destroy all who talk in lies;
the Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and treachery.
The LXX is particularly handy in addressing the very questions which were asked above. Notice that three times I translated a Greek word “lawlessness”. That was intentional on my part. Not only am I working with my own limited Greek vocabulary, but I decided to remain consistent with the translation this time because the word “lawless” drives home the point of what exactly sin is (1 John 3:4).
Law & Gospel
All sin is rebellion towards God. This is why the word “lawless” works so well. God has set a standard, and sin deviates from that standard.
It is a concept that is still sometimes difficult for us to understand. We have been raised in a world that glorifies rebellion. From Robin Hood and his merry men to the Dukes of Hazzard, we have been trained to celebrate mischief, especially when it happens at the expense of less than wholesome individuals such as Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Boss Hogg.
Plus, there is nothing our sinful natures enjoy more than alleviating our consciences with the lie that sin is not a big deal. It’s playful. It’s innocent. It’s harmless. But all this accomplishes is giving us license to sin some more.
But what if the law enforcer is perfect, righteous, holy, just, and pure? What becomes of our rebellion? Consider the English words used to describe sin in verses four through six: wickedness, evil, boastful, evildoers, lies, bloodthirsty, deceitful. Sin is ugly and disgusting, especially to God, and it is absolutely not something to make light of.
This is why we need to step back and see sin through God’s eyes. There is a progression in verses four through six that intensifies as we read through the passage. God does not delight in wickedness (v.4a); evil may not dwell with God (v.4b); “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes,” (v.5a); “you hate all evildoers,” (v.5b); God destroys those who speak lies (v.6a); “the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful men,” (v.6b). We’ve gone from “does not delight” to “abhor” in six short lines of poetry.
At this point, we begin to understand the brokenness of the tax collector who prayed, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Sin is a big deal. It’s immense. The depth of our sin is immeasurable (Jer. 17:9).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Cor. 5:21). We can only see the beauty of this statement if we are able to recognize the horror of sin in our lives. The entirety of our sin in all its ugliness was pinned to Jesus Christ. In Jesus we are cleansed from our sin and God forgives us for our lawlessness. In fact, God promises that, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” (Ps. 103:12). That is truly amazing.
 At least according to Wikipedia.com.