"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 1





Chapter 1: Setting the Framework for our Considerations

Chapter 1 Contents 


1.1   Introduction

1.2   The Big Question

1.3   A Wider View of Judgment

1.4   Starting from a Biblical Viewpoint

1.5   The Framework of the Fall

1.6   If we could design God

1.7   To Conclude




1.1 Introduction


Our approach


May I state from this opening paragraph of this book 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 things LOGICALLY flow from that.


For example, 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 on, 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 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 if the end conclusion MAKES SENSE like nothing else does.


I realise than many may have question marks about the Bible and obviously the Bible must come under the spotlight and so we will do that in 1.4 below. However, I do want you to realise that every chapter will be filled with what the Bible says because it is that which we will be examining in detail.

Some preliminaries


This is a book for serious seekers of the truth, those willing to read and to think seriously. If you are less than that, please stop now; you will be bored.

This is for people for whom these questions about God are important and deserve answering. If you aren;t open to answers, please stop now, you'll be frustrated.

This is not 'Sunday afternoon reading', not becasue it is scary (quite the contrary!) but because there a lot to read and think about.

If you struggle with the very idea of the existence of God, this book is not for you. If you are open to think through the issues found in this book, then it may help you come to belief, but be warned, all the way through it accepts the Bible's assertions about both the existence of God and the nature or character of God as its starting place, and then works logically from that to check that assertion.

It is essentially a book for those who accept the general statement that God exists as revealed in the Bible, but who have not ever really thought through the issues to do with both His love and the judgments He appears to bring. Let's explain some more.


Facing our fears about God

I have found over the years, there is an area that Christians seem to avoid and non-Christian sceptics seem to delight in. It is that difficult area of the Bible where a loving God appears to command bad things or do bad things. I speak of the area of theology that would come under the heading, “The Judgment of God”. Now I speak not about the End Judgment which is what Christians veer towards (and which we will consider in the end chapters), but the many instances in the Bible of acts of judgment, especially as we see them in the Old Testament (although we will examine the entire Bible).


What does it mean that God is love?

It seems to me that if the apostle John could claim “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) and God Himself could reveal to Moses that He was a “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin,” (Ex 34:6,7) then we need to look again at the Old Testament and see what went on through God's eyes of love, and that is what I started to do in my previous book, “God's Love in the Old Testament”, and now continue here in greater depth.


Facing the thought of judgment

However, since then, as I have been doing various Bible studies, it felt there was more to be said about the anger of God and the judgment of God in seeking to understand His love. That is what this present book is all about. I will by necessity repeat a number of things said in that previous book but hopefully build on them into this new context.


I must confess, from my own experience in the past, talk of God's judgment has never thrilled me and if preachers spoke about judgment it has almost invariably been in harsh, censorious terms. Indeed I find that so many of us have such preconceived but inaccurate ideas of what things like ‘holiness' mean, that without realising it, deep down we hold that idea that God is “a hard man” (as per Jesus' parable – Mt 25:24).


Just recently I came across a book review that complained that “There is a recurrent emphasis on God's compassion and friendship and a noticeable silence over his holiness and sovereignty. The more troubling Jesus who challenges followers to take up their cross, talks about hell as well as heaven and turns tables over, is airbrushed out.”

Now it may be that that is an accurate assessment of the book in question but even in the way it is said, I suggest, it conveys the impression that there are nasty things in the shadows of Christianity and talk of the cross and hell (which we will consider in the end chapters) are bad news things. I would suggest otherwise and it is all about our starting place – is God a God of love or is He a “hard man”? That's the sort of thing we hope to eyeball in this book. Yes, it will affect even how we eventually view “taking up your cross” and the existence of hell.

I have found researching and writing this book the most intellectually and spiritually satisfying exercise of my life, and I hope by the end of it, you also will have found it both intellectually stimulating and spiritually satisfying.



1.2 The Big Question


So let's backtrack a little to expand on what we have already said and review the big question that is often in people's minds, which is how can a loving God also be an angry God or a God of wrath, whose anger provokes Him to become a destroyer? That is what will be at the heart of our deliberations.


When we look at the Bible's claims that God is perfect, God is love, God is good and God is all-wise, for thinking people these claims can appear to be contradicted by the things we think we see Him doing in the Old Testament at least. Hence Part 1 of this book faces each of those claims to His character and builds, if you like, the problem even more. Let's face that apparent bad news and then see if that is just what it is.


In simple outline form, the answer to that problem is:

•  God is wonderful by every definition of that word,

•  His plans, or designs, call it what you will, are utterly good for us.

•  He has gone to incredible lengths to reveal Himself to us so that we may trust Him and enter into a loving relationship with Him.

•  Those lengths include countering false impressions conveyed through the faulty lives of those who historically were supposed to have a relationship with Him.

•  Those false impressions involve a lot of acts of God that appear (at first sight only) questionable.


This will lead us on to consider those ‘questionable' things. Now there is, obviously, far more to it than that and some of the other issues that may spring to mind will come to the fore as we consider these things.



1.3 A Wider View of Judgment


Usually when people speak about the God of judgment they have in mind big bad things that appear to originate with Him. In the chapters that follow I am going to ask us to think more fully about this and see God's ‘judgments' as times

  •  in respect of people: when something bad happens on the earth in terms of the activities of people (i.e. their sinful acts), and
  •  in respect of God: where God assesses them dispassionately, weighs up the rights and wrongs of those acts and what should follow them for the best,
  •  again in respect of God: what He does then, in fact, do about it, i.e. the judgment.

I will suggest in the next chapter that whatever conclusion He reaches is always the best one possible, and we'll see why that is. In other words we will not only observe WHAT happens but WHY it does.


So to clarify this even further from the outset, in the later chapters of this book we will go on to observe EVERY judgment we can find in the Bible and to do that we will seek to

  • take note of the wrong things people were doing, and
  • try to see why they were wrong and then go on to
  • try to assess why God chose to act in the way He did in response,

             but before we do that we will look at what the Bible tells us about God's character to observe those things through the filter of that knowledge.



1.4 Starting from a Biblical Viewpoint


My starting point

Now, for anyone who has not read anything I have written before, and to satisfy the comment I made in 1.1 above, I need to insert this next section. I am aware that there are many views about Scripture and even today (2016,17) debate rages about the meaning of the inspiration of Scripture and the infallibility of Scripture. I will simply say that, as I have read and studied it on a daily basis for over forty years, (and I write from this viewpoint) my conclusion is that we can trust what we have in print before us today found in the Bible. Where there are questionable words or even questionable part verses, they will be highlighted in notes in your Bible, usually at the bottom of the page. Those questionable words etc. are in fact minimal and in no way affect the overall message.

An Inspired Book?

Do I believe God inspired the whole Bible? Yes, the inspired apostle Paul believed that (see 2 Tim 3:16) but ‘inspired' may sometimes mean inspired to write something rather than inspire every word as truth. For instance:

  • in the book of Job, Job's three friends don't always speak accurately,
  • in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes in a jaded manner from the back end of his life and presents a picture as “under the sun”, meaning from an earthly or human perspective,
  • in the psalms, David often writes from a warlike perspective because he was in a battle for survival,
  • in the New Testament the writers believed Jesus was about to return any minute. Living two thousand years later we realise he didn't and hasn't. They were inspired by God to record their perspective which is one that still remains – He will be coming sometime “soon”. (All these things need thinking about).

However, unless the context indicates otherwise, we would do well to accept at face value what we read.


The way we respond to it

The most challenging thing about the Bible, and it says it, is that the way we respond to it reveals the state of our hearts:

  • A critical, judgmental and closed heart will never be satisfied, but
  • a heart that is open to search, seek out knowledge and understanding, and assess and weigh the evidence honestly and without bias, will be satisfied by what it reads and finds in the Bible.


Now there does have to be a rider added to that last comment and it is this:

  • the Bible often simply states facts and often does not give explanations, or
  • if it does give explanations they are found in the bigger picture.

The person who is happy to just snatch a few verses here or there is never going to find resolution. I will, to the best of my ability, lay out as clearly as I can what is there in the Book - the 'big picture' - but even then you will not be satisfied if your heart is set on being self-centred and godless, the two primary characteristics of that thing the Bible calls Sin.


The consistency and uniformity of the Book

I believe in honesty and integrity and therefore I believe that if we are willing to read, study, examine in depth and ponder on what we find in the Bible, we will be completely satisfied with what we find there.

Although there are probably over forty authors of the books or letters that make up the Bible, there is a remarkable consistency and harmony in the whole. I hope I may provide you with sufficient information and explanation that you will go away, not only satisfied, but marvelling at the wonder of God while anguishing over the plight of mankind. Anything less than this and I will have failed.


The witnesses in the Book

Now in chapter two I will make a comment early on about using the witnesses and their testimonies in the Bible and so we need a word about the testimonies of the writers first of all.

The early books of the Bible were obviously written retrospectively – after the events. That was more so in respect of the book of Genesis because it was, we believe, written by Moses many years later, partly on the basis of word of mouth testimony passed down through the generations and partly through the revelation received directly in his times in God's presence. Thereafter records were kept and what we now have as the Old Testament came to be formulated in many scrolls.


Now what we learn about God is almost entirely from the encounters people or nations had with Him and when it comes to making descriptive comments about Him, they are made

a) in the light of how He had dealt with them and

b) in response to His inspiring them to speak and/or write.


In this latter instance, prophets for instance, declared ‘words' they believed God was inspiring them to speak and thus they were seen as His words.


Although the sceptic might challenge the validity or truth of such testimonies, what we can say is that there is a unique uniformity throughout the Old Testament with its many writers recounting many, many incidents so that theologians have been able to say that from this uniformity, it is possible to provide a uniform non-contradictory picture of the nature of God. I simply ask you to bear that in mind in the coming chapters.

And So...

So, the approach you will find in this book, as I stated in 1.1 above, is to take what we find in the Book I have been referring to, the Bible, and

i) initially to assume that what it says is correct and

ii) IF it is correct what logically follows from that and

iii) then, are those conclusions reasonable?

       But our starting point is the Bible as a whole (not snatching odd verses here and there), applying our intellects and rational thinking to what we find there, keeping emotions (prejudices etc.) right out of it, so far as is possible.

THAT is how we will work and so, as I said above, following chapters will be full of scriptural quotes because those are what we will be examining. Indeed it may be the reader's temptation to skip Bible verses but the truths declared by the Scriptures - whether historical facts or doctrinal principles - are vital to the theses of this book and without them there is no argument.



1.5 The Framework of the Fall

A Need for a Big Picture View 

To understand how God works, and why He works in the way He does, and why people act in the way they do, we need to work on the ‘big picture' portrayed in the Bible. Post-moderns do not like ‘big pictures' but that is their shortcoming. This big picture is vital to recognise and it helps us understand everything that goes on in the Bible.

The briefest of summaries 

As I put it previously in “God's Love in the Old Testament”, in essence it is very simple:

•  God made the world perfect,

•  We human beings rejected Him so that the way we live is less than perfect and makes the world ‘go wrong', and

•  God now works to draw us back to Himself and back to a way that restores us, in a measure at least, to what we were designed to be.

With some more detail 


If I may then give a shortened explanation of what I gave there:


•  God made the world perfect and He designed human beings so that they ‘worked' best when they lived in relationship with Him. (Possibly a most simple reason for this, is that He could tell us then how we work best and how each situation in life can best be worked out.)

•  In His design for them He purposed good for them, a world of wonderful provision, a world to be enjoyed and a world in which to live in perfect harmony with one another.

•  He also gave them free will – the ability to choose how to live – what to think, what to say, and what to do. They exercised this free will to ‘do their own thing' and disregard God. This self-centred godlessness the Bible calls Sin and this entered human experience at what we call The Fall (see Gen 3).

•  Every single human being has this same propensity to ‘Sin' and we are unable to free ourselves from it. Hence our lives are ‘broken' and so totter along like a car spluttering on three cylinders only.

•  Yet God is a God of love, and desired us to both experience and express love, and so from the very beginning, worked continually at a long-term plan to reveal Himself to mankind and provide a way back for mankind.

•  That revelation of Himself may be expressed in some other ancient cultures (e.g. the Chinese possibly), but was mainly focussed through the Hebrew people, starting from the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then from the nation that grew from the renamed Jacob, Israel. That is the focus of the Old Testament.

•  What the centuries of that relationship between God and Israel reveal is:

•  The love, faithfulness and ongoing mercy of God towards them, and

•  The folly and stupidity of sinful mankind as demonstrated by them.

•  Approximately two thousand years ago, God revealed Himself more fully through His unique Son, Jesus Christ, who was sent from heaven, lived out his life for thirty years before embarking on three years of ministry revealing the wonder of God, before being taken and crucified and thus put to death. The Biblical teaching is that that death was planned by God before the very foundation of the world and was His means of our deserved punishment being carried by Himself.

•  To all those who received these truths and turned back to God, God granted forgiveness, cleansing, adoption, and the presence of His own Holy Spirit to indwell each one, to help them live a new life.


The Big Picture Summary again

That is the framework or ‘big picture' that flows utterly consistently throughout the whole Bible. If we could summarise it as briefly as possible it would be: 

•  God designed the world perfectly with loving relationship possible between Himself and mankind. 

•  Mankind spurned that possibility. 

•  God worked, and still works, to achieve that relationship with whoever will receive it.


Now at this stage, it is probable that you have many questions that arise in your thinking, most of which start with, “If what you have just said is true, then how could……?” This is what this book is all about, because all such questions indicate gaps in our knowledge and understanding, and I will seek, if it is possible, to fill those gaps with the truth that you will find acceptable. That is the plan at least!


At this point though, even if you may not understand it and, from your present viewpoint, even disagree with it, I would ask you to reread this whole section about the Framework, so that at least you have it in the back of your mind when we move through the coming chapters.


I am aware the above ‘big picture' is incredibly condensed and heavy with information but it is the shortest I could make it. It is what makes up the Christian Gospel.



1.6 If we could design God


At the start of this book, an interesting little exercise is to ponder on, is what we would like God to be, if we started without any knowledge whatsoever of Him – except that He existed.


Many of us need to face the truth that actually the concept of God is abhorrent to us, not because it is scientifically unlikely, but because if there is ‘someone' much greater than us, they might have something to say about the way we conduct ourselves and we don't like being told what to do. We would therefore much rather hold a godless stance than risk being faced with our imperfections, and His demands, as we see it, to change.


So start with no knowledge, what sort of being would you expect or like this ‘God' to be? The Romans and Greeks had gods but they had very human traits and were clearly just expressions of human thought, and so we observe this in them. A quick glimpse on the Internet provides one suggestion in respect of the Greek God, Zeus: “ Cannibalistic, murderer, ate his wife to stop her from producing another son, control freak, vile and nasty to those who opposed him, relationships with various women, used his charms and powers to benefit his evil desires, very untrustworthy.”   Elsewhere, jealousy, lying and cheating are all seen as common negative traits of the Greek gods.  


The thing about these ‘gods' is that they seem remarkably human, made in our image and, quite honestly they lack so much of what we might like the real God to have. They are not only thoroughly unpleasant so often, they just lack any goodness and it is their lack that provokes them to do the things they did.


So, if we are to have a God of our own choosing, one with whom we have to interact, what sort of ‘person' (because ‘He' will have personality) would we like? I suggest we would like the following characteristics:

  • Loving, caring, compassionate, considerate, gentle, understanding, empathizing
  • Good, benevolent, kind, gracious, forgiving, merciful, unchanging, faithful.
  • Lacking nothing (in the light of our comments above of the Greek or Roman gods)


Here's the interesting thing: these are exactly the descriptions of God throughout the Bible. This should be an interesting exercise, laying aside our prejudices and facing both the claims about God and the experiences of God as found in the Bible.

I also realise that the crusading atheists maintain that this exercise above is wishful thinking, but one might ask, why is it that most of us would come up with the same conclusions? Is it that survival of the fittest crates such thinking or is it, perhaps, because that is just exactly how we have been made to conform to the reality that is Him?



1.7 To Conclude


In this preparatory chapter I have

  • explained how this book came to be,
  • acknowledged the ‘big question' how can a loving God also be an angry God or a God of wrath, whose anger provokes Him to become a destroyer? and posed a skeleton answer,
  • clarified what is meant by my biblical viewpoint in writing, and
  • outlined the ‘big picture' of human history and the work of God within it.
  • challenged us to put aside our prejudices and be ready to face up to the claims about God and experiences of Him as found in the Bible.

Now some of these things in this chapter we will repeat in subsequent chapters or perhaps expand upon. This whole subject is so often weighed down with dubious presuppositions – ideas and prejudices – that hinder clear thinking and so some of these things will need repeating to ensure they are taken in and understood, therefore we will not apologise for repetition. It always aids learning.


These things I would ask you to hold in the back of your mind as we move on to consider the primary issues pertaining to this subject starting with the question, what sort of God are we talking about? That is what we will begin to focus on in the next chapter.


Part 1: The Framework for Understanding will consider the following things:

Chapters 2-4 cover the character of God: His perfection, love, goodness

                                                                                      and justice

Chapters 5-9 cover various aspects of judgments generally.

Chapter 10 seeks to focus the primary key issues behind all judgments


Part 2 goes on to examine the judgments of the Old Testament

Part 3 examines the New Testament



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