Front Page
Meditations Contents

Series Theme:   Judgments of God

This Page: Part 1: Studies 1.1 - 1.11  -  About God




PART 1: About God

1.1 God's Loving Forgiveness

1.2 God's Loving Goodness

1.3 A Perfect God

1.4 God's Love and Anger and Judgment

1.5 The Throne of God

1.6 God's Will & Purpose

1.7 God's Bench Mark

1.8 A Hard-nosed God?

1.9 The Testimony of the Bible

1.10 The Glory of God?

1.11 Balance


PART 2: About Judgments 

2.1 The Concept of Indirect Judgment

2.2 Judgments – involving Satan

2.3 Judgment. Was it God?

2.4 The Corrective Elements of Judgments

2.5 Discipline = Correction & Change

2.6 Corrective Warnings & God's Reputation

2.7 General Warnings


PART 3: Judgments in Genesis 

3.1 Adam and Eve

3.2 Cain and Abel

3.3 The Flood

3.4 Canaan Cursed

3.5 The Tower of Babel

3.6 Abram and Pharaoh

3.7 Sodom and Gomorrah

3.8 Er and Onan

3.9 Famines

3.10 Genesis Recap


PART 4: Judgments in Exodus & Leviticus 

4.1 The Exodus

4.2 To Sinai

4.3 The Golden Calf

4.4 Casual Priests

4.5 Casual Blasphemy


Part 5: Judgments in Numbers

5.1 Casual Sabbath Disobedience

5.2 Grumblings about Hardships

5.3 Miriam's Leprosy

5.4 The Rejection of Canaan

5.5 Korah's Rebellion

5.6 More Foolish Grumbling

5.7 Grumblings get to Moses

5.8 Judgment of Snakes

5.9 Folly with Moab


Part 6: The Struggle for Canaan

6.1 Origins

6.2 Instructions

6.3 Reasons

6.4 Take Possession Gradually

6.5 Take Possession – Completely

6.6 Take Possession – Completely (2)

6.7 Take Possession – Completely (3)

6.8 Hardened Hearts

6.9 The Fear of the Lord

6.10 Miracles of the Lord

6.11 Incompleteness

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General Introduction

We start to move into a new area of consideration, possibly the most difficult area of meditation we have ever sought when writing these various series'. Yes, the heading is right; we are going to focus on God's judgments. Now when we put it like that it doesn't sound as bad as if we had said simply, ‘The Judgment of God' because so often when we speak of ‘the Judgment of God' we have in mind the acts of death and destruction that apparently God brings about - and He does! But when we speak about ‘God's judgments' I want to focus more on God's ‘decisions' and that is really what is more important, because every time in Scripture we witness an act of death or destruction, before that happens, something even more significant happens: God chose to do it and it is the thinking behind that decision of His that we want to look at, with His help.


Having paused at the end of Part 6 (and I will continue) I must confess that working through the specific judgments has not always been easy and I am sure that I have not, when considering the individual judgments, examined them in the light of all the criteria you will find in this first Part. I am fairly sure that I will have to return here and revisit some of them again after further thought and prayer.


Perhaps from the outset we should ask the question that may arise in many, “Why study judgment? Isn't it a miserable subject?” My answers, and they have to be the reasons for this series are as follows:

•  first we need to consider the subject because death and destruction (apparently at the hand of God) DOES appear so often in the Bible and we need to understand it and,
•  second, we should not be afraid of facing up apparent contradictions, such as how a loving God can kill people and,
•  third, no it is not miserable to face and understand the grace, mercy and justice of God; it is actually freeing.


The structure of this series will be as follows:

•  Part 1 of this series will be studies that will focus on God Himself, on His nature or His character, the person behind the judgments we will go on to consider.
•  Part 2 will go on to consider aspects of judgment things, I am going to suggest, that we mostly don't think about. There is bound to be a little overlap within these first two Parts.
•  In Part 3 we will start to work our way through specific judgments of God in the book of Genesis,
•  Part 4 will cover Exodus and Leviticus and
•  Part 5 covers the book of Numbers.
•  Part 6 will look in depth at the struggle for Canaan .

I hope eventually to continue and cover all the judgements of God in the Old Testament but time will tell if that is possible.


Crusading atheists pound at God for being a vindictive and destructive being (who they don't believe exists!) and Christians tend to cower and hope that in some way they were wrong, while in their sub-conscious minds having this horrible feeling that perhaps God is a ‘hard man' (Mt 25:24), and that He does do nasty things – and they don't know why! Well, in these studies we are going to try to give some answers. To do that I may have to repeat what I have written in other studies, especially the more recent one on the Will of God.


Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.1 God's Loving Forgiveness


Prov 3:19,20 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.


Our starting point has to be what we know of God or, rather, what the Bible tells us about Him. If you have never trodden this path before, I have to warn you that you are about to venture into an area that will challenge your mind and your faith like never before. We are going to look at the character of God and then the acts of judgment of God and struggle to see how the acts can possibly be the works of the One with the character we will see.


This is not a new struggle, it has gone on since the formation of the church and some early heretics answered the problem by creating two Gods, one of the Old Testament, and another of the New. But let's be quite clear from the outset, philosophically and theologically, that doesn't work. There is one Creator God who made all things, who brought Israel into being and who had dealings with Israel and eventually brought His Son into the world to save it and who still works to bless it. So what does the Bible tell us about God. Well I'm going to take them in the order they impressed upon me.


Well, this Creator God is all-powerful, all-wise and all-knowing, eternal and unchanging. Those are givens you will find in any basic book on theology and so we won't take up space providing quotes for that. But then I found I was impacted by the apostle John who declared, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16). Yes, he said it twice to make sure we took it in. Is that just a New Testament teaching I wondered? No, definitely not. Listen! Moses caught something of this when he sung with Israel , In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” (Ex 15:13) He saw the Exodus deliverance as an act of love, and that even before Israel had been constituted as a nation at Sinai.


It wasn't a temporary, frail love but an “unfailing love” which suggests strong and enduring. But then later Moses has a particularly close encounter with the Lord and receives the Ten Commandments, and we find there is a ‘love element' built into them at one point describing the Lord as, “showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Ex 20:6). Now that offsets the verse before it that speak about God who is described as “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Ex 20:5b) i.e. a God of judgment. He may punish up to four generations (and we will look at that in a later meditation) but He will bless a thousand generations.


At an even closer encounter a little later, the Lord describes Himself to Moses and we read, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 34:6,7) So, yes, He is a God who deals with sins and brings judgment but the stronger emphasis is on His love. He abounds in love and He maintains His love. Somehow love and punishment sit together in this description, two aspects of the same God. In a later study we will look at why God punishes but of the moment we simply note that He does intervene in His world and bring punishment to sinners, those who are guilty and are unchanging in their Sin.


We should note that point in passing because it did just say that He forgives “wickedness, rebellion and sin.” So how does forgiveness equate with punishment. The forgiveness is there for the repentant, the punishment is there for the unrepentant. As the Lord declared through Ezekiel,

•  “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and
•  “Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel ? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:31,32) and
•  “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel ?” (Ezek 33;11).

THREE times there in Ezekiel the Lord makes this point. He does NOT relish death and would far rather Israel repented and were saved. This is God who longs to forgive “wickedness, rebellion and sin.” All it needs is our repentance.


So here is our starting place. If we are going to talk about the judgments (decisions) and judgments (acts of punishment) of God, then we must first observe His character. This is vital and we will say something even more earth shattering about it in the next meditation. If you are new to this area of thought, read back through this one before continuing to the next.


May I state from this opening meditation what I am intending to do. I am suggesting we do something that is quite unusual: that we

•  see what the Bible says is the character of God and then
•  what thing LOGICALLY flow from that.


If the Bible says God is love, what LOGICALLY flows from that? What MUST flow from that if that description is accurate. Before we move into the next study, I am going to state four propositions as foundations for this book:

1. We will see what the Bible states about the character of God

2. We will consider what are the LOGICAL things that MUST flow from them if they are true

3. We will examine the judgments in the light of both those things

4. We will see that the end conclusion MAKES SENSE like nothing else does.

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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.2 God's Loving Goodness


1 Chron 16:34  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.


In the first meditation we said, by way of laying a foundation to consider the judgments of God, that it is imperative that we consider first the character of God if we are to have any hope of understanding His judgments. In fact, I suspect that for many of us this will mean completely rethinking what we think about God because I have not seen these things written about much in the Christian press (and they certainly aren't out there in the secular press!)


We started by noting that the apostle John declared that “God IS love” (1 Jn 4:8,16). Note in passing that this isn't the same as saying love is God, but it does describe God's nature. We didn't say this in the previous meditation but it must mean that everything that God thinks, says or does is an expression of love. It has to be! This means, therefore, that whatever we find God doing in the Old and New Testament has to be viewed through new glasses, so to speak, seeing that whatever He does is an act of love. Yes, this is really going to be a dramatic exercise that turns our thinking upside-down! Please, we really must take this in and therefore we must repeat it: IF the apostle John was truly inspired to write what he did – and it complied with a teaching right the way through the Old Testament (even though we only looked at some starter verses in the previous study) – then everything about God is love and whenever He expresses Himself, by thought, word or deed, it is an expression of love.


Now I have written it in numerous other places but to build a complete picture here in this series, I need to bring this out yet again. What does love mean? What do we mean when we say God is love? Now love, according to a dictionary, might be described as warm affection, attachment, liking, benevolence or strong benign feelings for us, and in God it shows “selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will towards us. Note that latter part – unrestricted good will towards us. God is for us (Rom 8:31) and wants good for us, all the time. In fact He is working in our circumstances all the time to bring good out of them (Rom 8:28)


We need to anchor that word ‘good'. A dictionary defines ‘good' as “ having suitable or desirable qualities; promoting health, welfare or happiness; benevolent, not troublesome ” and goes on to give reams more uses of ‘good.' ‘Good' signifies in our thinking something that is pleasant, something positive that we are happy with. Moses declared of God, He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deut 32:4) and all of that description could be summed up in, “He is good!” This was Moses' declaration. Everything that God thinks, says and does IS good. Moses knew God more intimately than any other man in the Bible apart from Jesus. He is good for a character reference.


David reminded himself of this truth when he needed lifting up: according to your love remember me, for you are good , O LORD,” (Psa 25:7) and “ Taste and see that the LORD is good, (Psa 34:8) and You are forgiving and good , O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you ,” (Psa 86:5) and “ You are good , and what you do is good, (Psa 119:68) and Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good (Psa 135:3) David was described as a man after God's own heart; he also is good for a character reference. This testimony of God's goodness is repeated again and again and again by a whole variety of people in the Old Testament.


Now our starting verse above - “ Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever,” – links love and goodness. Goodness is an expression of love. In the many verses in the Old Testament that refer to God's goodness, they always come out of a testimony about what God HAS DONE. We know He is good because of what He has done. If He wasn't good He would not have done these things or, if you like, He wouldn't have done these things if He wasn't good.


We are starting to stack up a pile of data in respect of God which needs to be taken into account WHENEVER AND WHEREVER we observe God revealed in the Old Testament. So He's a God of love and so everything but everything that He thinks, says or does is an expression of warm affection, attachment, liking, benevolence or strong benign feelings for us and “selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will towards us. He is also a good God and so whatever He thinks, says or does is “ having suitable or desirable qualities; promoting health, welfare or happiness; benevolent, not troublesome ”. Not troublesome???? In respect of destructive judgments? We are going to have to do some serious thinking, but that is where this is going to have to lead us. If these testimonies are correct, without distorting the English language, then somehow we are going to have to see that every act of God that brings death or destruction comes with selfless, sacrificial, unrestricted good will toward us and will be done to promote health, welfare and happiness!


Ready to do some serious thinking? Well there is one more description of God that we find in the Bible and if the definitions of love and goodness nearly blew you away, you won't know what hit you with the next one. Hold on to your seat, and pray.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.3 A Perfect God


Mt 5:48  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect  


We said previously, by way of laying a foundation to consider the judgments of God, that it is imperative that we consider first the character of God if we are to have any hope of understanding His judgments. We have noted that God is love and that God is good, and we have sought to put content to those two words.


But now we come to a third description of God and it was spoken by the Son himself: God is perfect. Because ‘perfection' is a somewhat difficult concept to grab hold of, I am simply going to use the incredibly basic definition of “complete and faultless, cannot be improved upon”. The Greek (original) word for ‘perfect' means whole or complete, lacking nothing. That is God! Complete!


Now we need to do the same as we did with love and goodness and now suggest that everything that God thinks, says or does is perfect and cannot be improved upon. Another way of putting it is that when God spoke or acted, what He said or did in those circumstances was the very best and could not have been improved upon. This is going to be really challenging because when we come across a judgment of God and there is death or destruction, the logic that we have been following through says that that has to be the best outcome and no other outcome would have been as good in the surrounding circumstances.


Now please note the words I have used – ‘surrounding circumstances' – because God acts into time-space history as it is. When we come to specific judgments, as we hope to do shortly, we need to ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding to see these events as acts of love and goodness and be seen as acts that could not have been improved upon. That is the real challenge.


Now in the first meditation we identified the God who is revealed in the Bible as the Creator God who is all-powerful, all-wise and all-knowing, eternal and unchanging. Here are further points to ponder if God is perfect and complete:

•  if God knows everything (to lack knowledge means He is not complete), then He will never be caught on the hop, never surprised by anything that happens and
•  if His wisdom is perfect (because He lacks nothing – our definition above) then He will always know how to act or respond to whatever is happening, and
•  if His power is unlimited (because He lacks nothing – our definition above, again) then He will be able to respond however He wants in accordance with that wisdom.


Do you start to see how significant this definition of ‘perfect' is? He has no need to act with hostility towards us because we are not a threat to Him and He can never feel defensive. He is utterly capable of handling everything that ever happens.


In case you are note quite sure of the Scripture testimony we ought to pick up on one or two verses. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4) Everything He does cannot be improved upon; there it is again!


“As for God, his way is perfect.” (2 Sam 22:31) The path that God walks, the way He operates, cannot be improved upon.


“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:16) He knows everything in nature! (Because He made it!)


“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” (Psa 50:2) We really cannot comprehend what perfect beauty means but that He is staggeringly wonderful as a Being.


What He does, the way He operates, what He knows and in His very being, He is perfect and even if we could (a foolish thought!) we could not possibly improve on Him. When, one day, we meet Him face to face we will realise these things as reality. This is why, when the prophets had heavenly visions (Isaiah, Ezekiel, John on Patmos ), the prophets struggled to describe what they saw because it was beyond human comprehension and so they used the word ‘like' again and again. He was ‘like' this or that. He wasn't this or that but that was the nearest their limited forms of expression could get to the wonder and the awe of His beauty, of His perfection.


Now, having set this framework in place, we need to hold on to them when we eventually start working our way through the Old Testament, examining each case where God brings His judgment to bear. Hold on to these three things (love, goodness, perfection) because they will appear as markers or signposts to guide us toward the truth about every situation, something that is usually in short supply when people speak on these matters. Let's pray!


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.4 God's Love and Anger and Judgment


Deut 9:18-20 I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD's sight and so provoking him to anger. I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too


While we are still in this first part laying down foundations of understanding God before we move into considering specific judgments, there is an aspect of the Lord that is vital to investigate. So often, it appears, God seems to be motivated by anger. The Bible often refers to the ‘wrath of God' and wrath is just strong anger. So how does this fit with a God of love. I believe we need to understand here two things. First that love shows itself in a number of different ways, and then, second, how emotions and rational assessment of wrong are related.


Let's try and understand how love is there but may be expressed in different ways. Let's think about a loving human father. Some of us may be turned off because we haven't experienced a loving father, but stay with me if you will as we consider how a loving father might express his love for his child or children. Here are a variety of ways, and they are ALL expressions of love:


i) Sacrificial Earner : He works long hours to earn money to provide for the needs of the family. It often means he is not there for them -  but it is an expression of the strong love he has for them.

ii) Gentle listener and encourager : He sits with his children, reading to them and listening to them, and encouraging them. He is there for them and they feel secure with him there.

iii) Firm Limiter : When they ask for things that are harmful, he withholds them and gently says no. They don't understand and think him mean, but it is an expression of his caring concern for their protection and wellbeing that makes him say no.

iv) Strong Corrector : From time to time he brings necessary correction for he can see destructive traits growing in his child and so he brings correction to try to encourage them to not go in that direction. Sometimes that correction appears hard and painful, but he only brings it when it has become obvious that his wilful child will respond to no other correction.

v) Shadows Watcher : Sometimes he stands back and simply watches his child from a distance. He has conveyed his wisdom but his child needs to learn it for himself or herself, sometimes by the hard way of failure. Yet he is always there in the shadows watching them, ready to come the moment he is called and always there for them.


  Similarly we may see God doing things that perplex us, but we must realise that they will always be expressions of His love.

•  Sometimes He provides, and sometimes He seems to be there for us and encourages us, and those times seem good to us.
•  But then sometimes we ask for things and He either says no or remains silent, for He knows that either now is not the right time or there is something better He wants for us.
•  Sometimes bad things seem to come into our lives and for a time we can see no good reason for them. Yet in the fullness of time we see how they benefited us,  or what God was able to bring about and achieve through them.
•  Sometimes God seems distant and we wonder why, and it is only later that we come to realise that He was teaching us to stand on our own two feet, or to appreciate Him more.

In a whole variety of ways God's love is expressed differently – but it is still love.


Now to move on to the second aspect, and that is of emotion versus rational assessment. When something wrong or very bad is done, it is right to be angry about it. At Lazarus's tomb, when Jesus wept, there was also in the original Greek a sense of anger involved, anger at sin that had brought death, and anger at the grief it had caused. If we are complacent about wrongs, it means we have become hard hearted and callous and indifferent to injustice. Sometimes it needs something to strike close to home before we wake up and accept that strong emotions rightly arise when evil hits. Righteous anger is, as a dictionary puts it, “passionate displeasure”


Please distinguish angers from reactive hostility or revenge. Righteous anger is simply an objective emotion that responds rightly to wrong. What follows, when it is God, is a   dispassionate objective assessment   of what to do about it.


God's judgment is His dispassionate objective assessment of what to do about the wrong which has been highlighted by His instinctive anger .


Our passionate displeasure rises up in the face of something awful, something wrong. If it is us, we react and may over-react and get it wrong but God, we saw, is perfect so He looks and He assesses what is the right thing to do, the perfect thing to do, the thing to be done in the light of ALL of the facts of both past, present and future. Only He can do this, for He knows all things and He knows how things could work out and how they can work out and how they will work out, and all the differences depend on His actions now. He chooses that which is perfect. But all of that follows His anger which triggers this assessment, a righteous anger that highlights the awfulness of what is being observed. His anger leads to His judgment but that judgment is objective.


So when we look at His acts of judgment in the Bible, realise you don't have all the facts, your emotions are stunted, you see imperfectly, but God has seen, God has assessed perfectly, and even though you cannot see it, know that what He has done has been The best, The only right thing to be done. Bear ALL of this in mind when you think of the Judgment of God.  This may give us a great deal of fuel to ponder on WHY God brings a particular judgment and why having made a   dispassionate objective assessment   of what to do about it, God's judgment is this particular thing - which, with all the facts and information available to Him, is faultless!

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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.5 The Throne of God


Psa 9:7,8 The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.


There is a truth about God which is perhaps so obvious that we rarely think about it. It is that God rules and judges and reveals to us a picture of Him sitting on a throne in heaven. A throne is a place where a sovereign reigns, and it a place of sovereign control. This whole concept of a throne speaks historically of a sovereign ruler, one who is all-powerful and with all authority. We may have lost this in the light of the monarchy in the UK in the twenty first century where the Queen is a figurehead and the power is actually with Parliament. That has not how it has been in history. The monarch was the one with the power, the one in absolute control and a benign and stable monarch (and God is at least this) had the power to be able to take time to weigh everything before him.


The first mention of God's throne comes through Moses (Ex 17:16) because he recognized that when they prayed against the Amalekites, they were appealing to God on His throne: “hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD.” He saw that God was a ruler who presided over the affairs of men and would act and bring changes as part of His rule.


For the real revelation of the throne room of heaven we have to turn to the prophets. Isaiah declared, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne , high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isa 6:1)


Ezekiel also had a vision from heaven: “Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.” (Ezek 1:26)


Even Daniel saw it: “As I looked, " thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.” (Dan 7:9)


John on Patmos was also privileged to see into heaven: “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders,” (Rev 4:2-4) and near the end of Revelation, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.” (Rev 20:11,12)


Yes, these prophets were allowed a look into heaven and each saw God on a throne, ruling. Job 1 doesn't actually mention a throne but we are shown the deliberations of God in heaven. Micaiah the prophet also had such an insight: “Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, `Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” (1 Kings 22:19,20). It is of God working out His strategies as He rules.


The psalmists also had this idea in the back of their minds so often: “God reigns over the nations; Go d is seated on his holy throne,” (Psa 47:8) and, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity,” (Psa 93:2) and Jeremiah added, “A glorious throne , exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary.” (Jer 17:12) But a throne even appears in respect of the work of Jesus as the writer to the Hebrews indicates: “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 8:1)


But it takes some of the psalmists to catch something of the action of God from His throne in heaven: “Your throne , O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom,” (Psa 45:6) and, Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne ; love and faithfulness go before you,” (Psa 89:14) and, righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne .” (Psa 97:2). The bringing of righteousness and justice is the work of a Judge, which brings us right back to our subject. God sits on a throne in heaven, ruling over all the affairs of everything He has created. He had made everything perfect from the outset but with the coming of the Fall, things go wrong, and things are done wrong. God does not sit back and just let it all happen.


In His role as Judge we may suggest that:

•  1) He assesses all that happens and determines whether it was righteous or unrighteous (i.e. conforming to His original design, or not!),
•  2) He decrees what should happen in respect of those events, and specifically in respect of the people involved, and
•  3) He then acts in accordance with that decree, and this we see as the act of judgment that appears in the records of Scripture.

Now we need to reiterate what we have said before when we had observed He is perfect. This is vital to understand.

•  In the first stage, His assessment is uniquely accurate because He alone sees and knows all that happens and there is nothing about it that is outside His knowledge and understanding.
•  In the second stage, His decree of what should happen is perfect because He alone has the knowledge, understanding and wisdom to know what various outcomes would produce. So He knows that if He does nothing, what will come about. He knows if He brings discipline whether it will bring a change in life. In this determining the decree He knows whether terminating a life or lives will be the best for these people and, even more, for those who are left.
•  In the third stage , bringing about the judgment , we will find that this may come through a variety of means and it will be this that we will go on to consider in later meditations.


Bear in mind what we have observed in some of these verses. Wherever God makes a decision in His rule from the throne in heaven, where He sees and knows all things, His thinking, His decrees and His actions will always conform to righteousness and justice.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.6 God's Will & Purpose


Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.


We've just noted in the previous meditation that God rules on a throne in heaven and a ruler rules with a purpose always. He establishes laws and seeks to maintain order in his kingdom. Now I'm told that painters using water colours lay a background ‘wash' on the paper, let it dry and then start the painting proper with all its details on top of the wash. As we approach the whole subject of God's judgments there is a background factor which is easy to forget but which should be held in mind at all times, and that is that God has a will, a purpose, i.e. God has desires, wishes, plans, purposes for His world, things He wants to happen. These are the things that form the basis of His rule from His throne in heaven.


Now we have already considered some of the characteristics or attributes of God – love, goodness, wisdom, perfection etc – and His will is simply an expression of all these, and having just considered the fact that God rules on a throne from heaven, we noted that He works to bring righteousness and justice , although previously we didn't have time to think much on them.


So God works to bring righteousness on the earth. What actually is that? If it is His will to bring about righteousness on the earth we ought to understand what that means. Let's give a very simple definition:

       •  righteousness is behaviour that conforms to the way God has designed us to live.


When He created the world we read it was “very good ” (Gen 1:31) – including us. He made us to live in harmony with Him and in harmony with each other and with His world . Now any behaviour that is contrary to that is unrighteousness.


Now of course we live after the Fall and so God's will and God's activities are given over to seeking to restore us to the place we were in before the Fall. Of course He starts by having to work with sinners, those who have fallen, and even after He has saved us we will still be battling against that old life. God's way of redeeming us, or buying us back from that old sinful, unrighteous life, was to send Jesus to die for us to pay the penalty for every sin we've ever thought, said or done, and then when we repented and received that work for us personally, He put His Holy Spirit within us and we were born again – washed, cleansed, forgiven, adopted and empowered to live the new life.


Once that has happened His intent is to help and encourage us to live out that life, a life living in harmony with Him, with other people and with His world, i.e. to live righteously because we have been restored to the position of righteousness. Thus when you read in the Bible references to ‘the righteous', that is us Christians.


Now it may be that you are thinking, ‘Hold on, what does all this to do with God's judgment?' Well perhaps there are two answers to that. First, when we are thinking of God's activities, and especially when we are focusing on this subject, we can become judgment-focused and that is all we see – an angry God who deals with the sin of the world by bringing judgments – but that is only part of the picture. The ‘wash' in the background on which all else is painted, is God's will which is to bless and restore whoever will come.


God's word through Jeremiah, although first meant for another context, is applicable here: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:11-13) That does sum up God's will for each one of us – to prosper us and give us hope and a future. That hope and future is about living righteous lives, lives lived in accord with God's perfect design for us.


But there is a second answer to that question about blessings being spoken of in the same sentence as judgment, so to speak. In that previous study on the throne of God there were two words that go together that we noted above: righteousness and justice .


•  Righteousness is for those who will respond to God and repent and turn to Him to receive all of His goodness.

•  Justice is for those who refuse to heed Him and turn back,

and that's where judgment so often comes in. It is a necessary part of bringing justice.


We need to reiterate what we said in that previous study to ensure we take it in. In His role as Judge we may suggest that:

•  1) He assesses all that happens and determines whether it was righteous or unrighteous (i.e. conforming to His original design, or not!),
•  2) He decrees what should happen in respect of those events, and specifically in respect of the people involved, and
•  3) He then acts in accordance with that decree, and this we see as the act of judgment that appears in the records of Scripture.

When He assesses, decrees and acts in judgment, it is to


•  bring justice in respect of the offender and

•  also for the rest of the world .

In other words, justice brings right order and outcome to the offender and everyone else. As we will see as we progress through these studies, acts of judgment come with a variety of reasons or anticipated outcomes:

  • to stop wrong behaviour in an individual,
  • to punish an individual,
  • to correct the individual, and
  • to act as a warning and teaching to all onlookers.

When justice has been done, we can say, ‘The right thing has been done!', it was just and fair and right. That is justice and it helps bring righteousness to God's world.


But remember, the focus is not on the hard aspects of the judgment, but on God's blessing of His world. We may not have seen this before, but judgment also is blessing. The removal of a terror or threat of evil by the judgment, blesses the world by leaving it free from the effects of that terror or evil. It stops and removes that terror or evil and leaves the world open to be blessed by all of God's goodness. Evil prevents God's goodness flowing and so sometimes it has to be removed so that His goodness can be received. That we will see in future studies.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.7 God's Bench Mark


Psa 25:3,4   Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.


Before we move on to start considering different types of judgment, we need to pause up and emphasise what we have been saying in the previous two meditations, for not only do these things prevent us from becoming judgment-focused but I feel we have not yet explained fully enough the background against which all judgments should be seen, that which I called the ‘colour wash' previously.


We simply defined righteousness as behaviour that conforms to the way God has designed us to live. It is at this point many furrowed brows appear. Yes, you say that when God made everything it was very good, and the occurrence of the Fall took away from that, but how do we assess what it was like before the Fall, and therefore presumably, the sort of people God wants us to be?


Well let's use what we find in Psa 25 to help us. It starts out, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (v.1,2) David, the psalmist, starts from the point of seeing God as the Creator of all things. That may have various consequences, but he has one particular one in mind: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” (v.3) David comes in a point in history where Jerusalem has been taken and become the capital and we might assume he has now established the Tabernacle in the city on one of the high points and this is seen as God's place of encounter through the priesthood.


But in David's reflections on the Lord, since Moses He is known as ‘The I AM', the ever-present one. That together with the thought that He is also the Creator of all things brought a sense of awe to David. The other evening my wife and I sat watching a massive thunder storm. The lightning was amazing but the crashes and rolling roars of the thunder left us both aware of power. It was awesome. No doubt David had sat out on the hillsides of Israel looking after his father's sheep and had experienced the same thing. Sometimes just sitting outside on a very clear night, the incredible expanse of the stars can create the same thing. It leaves one thinking, ‘Who are we in comparison to this One who is so awesome and so powerful?' And David thinks the same and struggles to comprehend the sort of person who is acceptable to Almighty God, especially after the Uzzah incident (2 Sam 6:6,7). Let's look at his descriptions of verses 3 & 4. There are four significant descriptions here: “He who has clean hands/ and a pure heart,/ who does not lift up his soul to an idol / or swear by what is false.”


1. “He who has clean hands.” In the Scriptures speaking of hands like this refers to behaviour; for example, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands-- if I have done evil” (Psa 7:3,4) or “the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.” (Psa 9:16) or “repay them for what their hands have done .” (Psa 28:4) Clean hands therefore speaks of behaviour that is guiltless . It is that simple. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had not known what sin was. Today the New Testament teaching is that sin is not to have a part in our lives (see 1 Jn 2:1 & Rom 6:1,2). God's goal for your life and mine is sinless behaviour. (Yes, we may occasionally stumble but that is different from wilful ongoing self-centred godlessness!)


2. “a pure heart”. References to ‘the heart' in the Scriptures refer to our inner state, the direction of our will (towards or away from God), our intent and inner desires (to get our own way or live God's way). This is all about right attitudes and motives . A heart of love for God and for His will for us is the second measuring stick or bench mark.


3. “who does not lift up his soul to an idol.” This again is about being godly, about relying upon God and not turning to superstitious worship of ‘beings' or ‘spirits' or ‘gods' who are not God, leaning on or relying on anything that is not God.


4. “who does not … swear by what is false.” We night simply say, ‘who lives by the truth'. Lies, unreality, perjury and so on have no room in God's kingdom. This is all about having truth at the heart of our lives. Truth and integrity are to prevail.


Of these four things, the first is about behaviour, the second about heart motivation, and the third and fourth are about truth. The third is about truth as to the One and only true deity and following him, and the fourth is about the way you live generally, following truth and integrity.


Now I would suggest that each of these things is simple and straight forward and the person who hedges or queries any of them does so because they


•  know their behaviour is questionable in some aspect, or

•  their attitude towards God may be half-hearted, or

•  they place things or fame above God and

•  they distort or twist the truth for their own ends.

Each of these issues are very simple when it comes down to it and you either have a person who is righteous and godly in attitude, who holds firmly to God and will only speak or live the truth – or you don't! These are the sort of characteristics God wants in His people; this is His will for us, this is what He is working for, and the absence of these things raises questions about the need for judgment.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.8 A Hard-nosed God?


John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


I hesitate to move on because there is something in me that worries that, because of the voices of atheistic crusaders who jump up and down about a hard-nosed God, and the lack of credible voices across the church, and the certainty that deep down many of us are still ‘bad-judgment' orientated when it comes to God, we may suppress it and try to ignore it but deep down we do have this nagging worry that, “Well yes, God is holy and, yes, God does judge people and, yes, He does kill people – and that's not nice.”


I remember a bunch of us parents talking once and someone was having trouble with their child and the parents generally were exchanging views and experiences and someone said, “Well I can't remember the last time we had to discipline (name). I think once you have the discipline thing sorted it doesn't remain an issue. Yes, it was painful for a while but now we never have trouble, we have a harmonious household.” I think if you had watched that parent and their household at one point in their family experience, you would have seen conflict and painful discipline, but now there is peace and order and they are all happy.


I remember Nicky Gumbel, instigator of the Alpha courses, telling a story of when he took his son to play football and the referee hadn't turned up. Nicky was persuaded to referee but he didn't know all the rules and so mayhem broke loose and bad attitudes prevailed. Eventually the proper referee turned up and took over and brought order, and peace prevailed and the boys thoroughly enjoyed playing under the discipline of a referee who knew and imposed the rules.


The point I am seeking to make is that discipline and order is necessary for peace to prevail but experience tells that it doesn't have to be heavily imposed all the time; once it is established that is it. Thus when it comes to the Bible we find the same thing. Yes, there are times when God brings serious disciplinary judgment but those times are rare. Now I say all this because of the bad press the enemy would seek to give God in our minds – but the truth is different.


Imagine a group of terrorists is holding hostage a bunch of tourists and their country send in special forces to get them back. A fire fight takes place and terrorists are killed, but the judgment on the terrorists means freedom for the hostages. No, the terrorists were not open to reason and so stronger measures were taken. That is probably the nearest I can get with a modern example to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt . One person's judgment can be another person's deliverance.


Now suppose a bunch of bandits overrun and take control of say, an area in Texas . The FBI turn up and try to reason with them – to no avail. The army is sent for because they are very heavily armed and proclaim resistance. When the army arrives with much greater force, the bandits would be wise to give up, surrender and leave (if that was an option), but they are foolish and so they fight the army and a number of them are killed. Someone hears that the army are going in and later that a number of the bandits were killed and mouths off about how heavy handed the American authorities were. What they didn't know was that negotiators had sought to talk the bandits off the land for several days before the army slowly advanced with overwhelming superior power – and were then fired upon by the bandits who kept up a rain of fire until eventually the army returned fire. The loud mouth simply didn't have the knowledge and misjudged the situation. That is what I find happens over the instance of Israel being told by God to take back the land of Canaan from awful pagan practices that included child sacrifice. We'll come to it in one of the studies on individual judgments later on so we won't say more here than lack of information often results in wrong assessments when it comes to this sort of thing.


Putting together all we have said in the previous seven studies who is likely to be right? The loud mouthed objector with minimal knowledge or the steady testimony of the whole Bible (it doesn't vary it!) that God is love, God is good, God is all-wise and all-knowing and God is perfect.


We will see, when we get to look at the judgments in Genesis, a God of amazing restraint – and that is the message that comes throughout the Bible. Bear in mind what the Bible tells us about the big picture. Knowing that with free-will Sin would soon follow, the Godhead did not say, “This is a bad idea, let's not make this world and these humans, let's just do something else.” No, Father, Son and Holy Spirit planned how to deal with this Sin in the long term and instead of just ploughing the world and destroying every sinner in sight, they planned how to redeem any one who would use their free will to turn back to them. Hence our verses at the top today, possibly the best known verses in the Bible. God gave His own Son to redeem us and His one and only plan throughout time has been to save us – and Jesus was the way for that to happen and justice be satisfied.


God knows our frailty and hence such verses as, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1) Note the tenderness of the writer, John, and of the intent of the words themselves. Listen to something similar from the apostle Paul: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Gal 6:1) As Paul said, “God is for us” (Rom 8:31) and that is it in a nutshell. God is for us! I'll never tire of declaring the prophet's words from God in Ezekiel: “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32) It is only stubborn obstinacy that ever results in judgment.


In a world when Sin and Satan prevail to bring pain and anguish, hurt and destruction, we find a God who des not stand afar off, but one who steps down into this world to experience all that we experience – including the most hideous death possible – to say, I love you, I am for you, I am with you, I have come down to deliver you if you will have it. This is not the God if the ranting atheist; this is the God of the Bible who shares in our anxieties. Look, if as Christians the Holy Spirit indwells us (and He does!), then He feels all we feel, so He feels your worries and your anxieties and your pains and hurts. God can't get any closer than that. Bear all this in mind throughout all the coming studies as we focus on the judgments of God. Remember the sort of God we have seen, and worship Him.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.9 The Testimony of the Bible


John 3:16,17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


I still have a sense of dissatisfaction, that I have not yet adequately covered the point I am trying to make at the moment and which should be remembered in all that follows. Earlier on we said that God is love and that God is good and that God is perfect and we spelled out definitions to try anchor those words. But when I originally wrote a book on God's love in the Old Testament, when it came to His goodness, I noticed that the testimonies of such people as David always anchored the term with God's activities. To keep us from becoming judgment-orientated, even though this is the subject we are working towards, we perhaps need to remind ourselves of some of the good things God has done as shown to us in the Bible. That is what this study is about.


Our starting point has to be the Creation. As we have noted before, when God finished creating the whole of the earth, including us, His assessment of it was that “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). As a world without strife or disharmony in any shape or form, it was good to live in and the provision of fruit and vegetables was amazing. I am told there are over twelve hundred varieties of edible bean in the world today! God's provision for us is all about pleasure and enjoyment within the boundaries He established. Wonderful!


When Adam and Eve fell He did not destroy them but simply put them outside the garden area where they had known the Lord. He did not give up on His plans for mankind. When we come to look at the judgments of Genesis we will discover that although mankind constantly got it wrong and went from bad to worse, God's activity was incredibly restrained when it came to dealing with them.


We then find Him starting to build a relationship with a man called Abram and when he doesn't do very well on occasion, God still keeps on with him – and with his son and his grandson Jacob. In fact His dealings with mankind simply reveal the folly of sin in man and the grace and goodness of God who does not give up on us.


Indeed God works within the sin framework of the world that exists after the Fall, and so copes with Jacob's self-centred twisting, uses spoilt brat Joseph and allows the chosen family to end up in Egypt where they settle but end up as slaves. He then takes a failure called Moses and uses him to confront the awful sin of the Pharaoh of Egypt and delivers Israel out of his hands. He puts up with the moanings and groanings of Israel as they travel to Sinai and eventually when they refuse to enter the land God has chosen for them, He waits patiently until the generation of unbelief has died off and then takes the next generation to this land described as a land flowing with milk and honey,” (Ex 3:8) a picture of wonderful provision .


When, long after they have settle there, they demand a king, the Lord does not give up on them but gives them one who fits exactly the king they have in mind, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others.” (1 Sam 9:2) Unfortunately he fails and so God gives them another to be king, David, who does unite and establish the kingdom. When it comes to his son, Solomon, we see the peak of God's blessing when the Queen of Sheba comes to visit and is absolutely overwhelmed by God's provision (see 1 Kings 10, esp. v.7-9)


When Solomon eventually drifts away form the Lord, the Lord does not give up on them but splits the kingdom to give two opportunities for blessing to flow out of relationship with Him. The northern kingdom fails from the word go and the southern kingdom has good, bad and very bad times. The northern kingdom eventually fails and is carried away and when the southern kingdom settles in for very bad, they too are eventually swept away in what we call the Exile. Now we might have expected God to have given up on these people and utterly destroyed them but to our surprise we find He brings them back to the land and restores them. Four hundred years later His Son, Jesus, is born into this land.


When we observe the ministry of Jesus the simplest way of describing it is to say he simply did good and kept on doing good in his Father's name. Through him blessing followed blessing. When he formed a group of disciples he did not give up on their misunderstandings but patiently taught them. He allowed himself to be arrested, falsely tried, condemned and crucified. Three days later he rose from the dead and instead of preaching death and destruction for this foolish world (both Jew and Gentile), he promised blessing, which came in the form of the outpouring of his Holy Spirit.


When you watch the movement of the Holy Spirit you see power and joy and then gifting of both spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12) and spiritual ministries (Eph 4:11,12), all of which are expression of His ongoing loving intent for us. In and through the Church we see his ongoing blessing of individuals; it is an ongoing picture of the love of God being poured out and poured out in abundance.


Please, although we are going to focus on studying the different types of judgment, and the reasons and purposes involved in judgment, and then specific judgments, please don't get judgment-centred. Hold to the things we have considered in this first part for the judgments are minimal in comparison to all the goodness that is revealed in the Bible.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.10 The Glory of God?


Ex 15:11 Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?


The more I meditate on this subject the more I have to back away from looking at the judgments themselves and focus on the One who brings them. There is so much about Him that impinges on this subject. But now we come to an area of mystery and I have to confess from the outset that I shy away from writing this meditation because it is an area of mystery and I don't know what I'm talking about! All right, I understand a little but not much about the subject of ‘the glory of the Lord'. Why is this a vital subject when considering the judgments of God? That will become clear when we progress through this mediation.


Let's start from the little I do know. Three primary things, one flowing on from the other. First , the glory of the Lord refers to, as the dictionary says, great honour and admiration won by doing something important or valuable; fame; renown , the condition of highest achievement, splendour, etc., radiant beauty or splendour; magnificence.” So, first of all, if God had never spoken or moved or acted He would still have this glory because, as we've noted in an earlier study, He is perfect and He is perfect in His being. For reasons that defy us, whenever the prophets had a vision of Him, all they could see was this glory manifest as brilliant light. This is what distinguishes Him and sets Him apart from all else.

As a secondary element to this first thing, we might also note in passing, the Scripture indicates that this ‘glory' is so ‘other' that if any man encounter this glory his life goes. We don't know why. Perhaps this incredible light is an expression of power, the power that creates and sustains all else and therefore when any other energy comes into contact with it, it is returned to its original source and the vessel or shell (body) ceases to express it any longer. It is a mystery. All we know is that the Lord warned us that, “no one may see me and live.” (Ex 33:20)


But, second , He is also perfect in His thoughts, words and actions and so whenever He speaks or does anything that can be comprehended by us, if we are able to see it with unbiased and objective eyes, then we would have to acknowledge that it fits that earlier part of the dictionary definition and is worthy of “ great honour and admiration won by doing something important or valuable; renown for the highest achievement.” Sadly we do not see with those unbiased and objective eyes, but the truth is that He IS worthy of this fame, this glory being given to Him.


The psalmist attest to this: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,” (Psa 19:1), and “Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness,” (Psa 29:1,2) and “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you,” (Psa 66:1-4) and “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.” (Psa 96:3) That will do for the moment, there are plenty of others. The point that the psalmist is making is that the things God does OUGHT to bring Him glory (worship-filled fame) in the eyes of the onlooking world.


And that takes us on to the third , and in some ways most important of these three things as far as they touch on the subject of judgment: God WANTS His glory to be seen by all the earth. Seeing His glory OUGHT to be one of the primary motivating factors that bring us to Him in a worshipful relationship with Him.


Our failure to see His glory, because of our Sin, is indeed one of the things that causes God to act, as we'll soon see, in bringing disciplinary judgment: “what may be known about God is plain to them, because …. since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” (Rom 1:18-21)


The message that comes through the Old Testament and then the New Testament again and again, is that God wants us to know about Him and then know Him personally. The Old Testament is full of the phrase, “so that they will know” and the knowing is knowing that He is God. Knowing that He is God, that He exists and desires to have a relationship with us based on His love, is one of His primary goals that is revealed in the Old Testament. As we will later go on to consider individual judgments, we will see again and again that the Lord's intent is that the judgment will not only correct a wrong situation, but it will also teach the surrounding onlookers something of the glory of the Lord. A few verses will suffice as we close to make this point:


"   I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and   all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen 12:2,3) This is reiterated a number of times more with Abram, then with Isaac and even through Jacob.


Then following the Exodus, “ The   nations   will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of   Philistia . The chiefs of   Edom will be terrified, the leaders of   Moab   will be seized with trembling, the people of   Canaan   will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them.    ( Ex   15:14-16)   and then , “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding   to the nations , who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." ( Deut 4:5,6 )   See also Deut 28:8-10 , Josh 4:23,24, 1 Chron 16:8,24 , Psa 57:9  , 1 Kings 4:29-34, 1 Kings 8:41-43, Isa   11:10 , Isa 42:6 and lots, lots more verses. God wants the world to see and know the wonder of who He is, and His love for His world, and thus turn to Him and enter into a loving relationship with Him. This is vital to remember throughout these studies, the glory of the Lord.


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Meditating on the Judgments of God: 1.11 Balance


Psa 30:5   his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime;


This has got to be the last study in this section. Again and again I am feared that still tainted with sin we will get things out of balance and become legalistic and judgmental Christians who become judgement-orientated. Everything in me screams against that. Yes, this series is all about God's judgments (and we will eventually get there!) but they must be seen in the greater context of who God is. We saw that by definition in the early studies – that He is love, good and perfect – but those definitions are worked out in the warp and woof of the Bible as a whole.


David, in our verse above, encapsulates a principle: God does get angry but it is momentary and it subsides in the face of His favour which is His overriding intent for mankind. There are two sorts of people:

•  those who look for and expect God's wrath and judgment at every turn, and
•  those who know Him as the loving God who wishes well for His earth.

Which one are you? That is why I am writing so many of these early studies before we get to the actual subject of judgments, to try and deliver as many as possible from that first negative and false outlook, into the reality of the wonder of who God is.


Imagine a wholesome family. Despite how good this family is, there will be times when a child does wrong and it is right and proper for that to stir displeasure in the parents, and that we may call anger. But the wise parent lets the anger disperse before correction is brought (we considered that in an earlier meditation). Consider the wider lifespan of this family and times of anger over wrong doing are few and far between and they last only a moment – that is in a wholesome godly family. That is how wrongdoing and anger is – momentarily. And that is how it is with God. It is right that He becomes angry when He sees wrong but His anger gives way, we saw previously, to a dispassionate, objective assessment of what to do about that wrong doing.


The prophet Isaiah had the Lord saying, For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer.” (Isa 54:7,8) To convey a sense of personality the word reveals the Lord as acting out of emotion (which is natural and right) but He always anchors that emotion and by an act of will re-establishes His long term purpose. Later we will see that He is “slow to anger” (Ex 34:6) and so what we have here, note, is “a surge of anger,” that eventually broke through in the face of ongoing sin. Examine the pre-Exile history and you find the Lord warning and warning and warning, holding back His anger if you like, until eventually it was like He said, “Enough” That's it, this is so bad we can't let it go on any longer!” and that was the expression of His anger.


In the next verses we find, “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isa 54:9,10) Justice required action and the action came but God's compassionate heart said, so to speak, “That was necessary but we must prevent that happening again.”


Whether the verses in Isaiah speak to the future Exile or to some other more present judgment is unclear but what is clear is that although justice requires it, compassion acts as a brake on it. Does the Lord show us Himself like this to teach us to be the same – yes, to have righteous anger but never to let it run away with over heavy justice, but instead let compassion look for a better way?


In the midst of the Ten Commandments we find, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Ex 20:5,6) These are verses that often confuse people but they are simple. In a Hebrew household (and ours) there may be three or four generations still alive – grandparent, parent, child, grandchild - and they all tend to be judged because the tendency is for the family to follow the father (or grandfather) and if he goes astray, they go astray, and so all go astray and incur God's disciplinary judgment.


Note in passing that the Lord spelled out through Ezekiel that every person caries their own sin and so God only judges the sin bearer (see Ezek 18:3-24) thus it would be wrong to infer from the Exodus verses that He judges sinless generations. The implication is exactly the opposite - He may have to judge these three or four generations because sin gets conveyed from one to the other but in the long term we may see His love poured out to thousands of generations who simply keep His commands.


Again we should, as an aside, note that God doesn't not love people because of their rebellion or disobedience (although He hates their sin); it's more that they are not open to receive His love which is always there. I hope we've seen it again and again in these studies so far, that His intent is to love and bless His world – all of it, all those at least who will turn to Him and be open to receive that blessing.


The Exodus 20 verses have an echo in another later passage that we have seen before: “he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Ex 34:6,7) As we noted previously, yes, he does not let the guilty go unpunished but He is there “forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” – when they repent – and even more, He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Yes, He does deal with those committed to their sin, but He is constantly looking for those whose hearts can be turned and who will repent and be forgiven. Bear all of this in mind as we move on to consider the types of judgment and then the specific judgments.