"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 10

    

     

    

    

Chapter 10: The Big Picture Understanding

Chapter 10 Contents 

10.1 Introduction

10.2 Portraying God

10.3 Portraying God's Design

10.4 Working with a Primitive People, an Embryonic Nation

10.5 And So….

 

10.1 Introduction

 

As I have worked on the actual judgments in the following chapters, I have become more and more aware of the need to accentuate certain aspects of the whole thing which, although mentioned in the following chapters and briefly mentioned in the chapters before this, really go to the heart of this subject in a way that perhaps I have not made sufficiently clear for you the reader.

 

This chapter, therefore, seeks to summarise and emphasise the underlying principles that are behind all that we find recorded in the Old Testament especially, as to WHY these judgments occurred. Before we move on it might be worth while reiterating what I said in chapter 1 about our approach throughout this book:

 

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.

 

In this chapter we will examine various facets of these things, emphasising how they work together to bring understanding of the rationality of the judgments of God found in the Bible.

 

  

10.2 Portraying God

 

We spent some time in the early chapters highlighting the character of God as revealed in the Bible, particularly focusing on His love, His goodness, His perfection and His holiness (His utter different-ness).

 

Understanding this revelation that is unique to the Bible is crucial for, I say again, it is unique to the Bible for nowhere else in ANY religious texts are these four characteristics portrayed of a single Supreme Being who is the omnipresent, all-powerful, all knowing and all-wise Creator of this world.

 

Now there is a further characteristic of this Supreme Being that I believe I have not emphasised sufficiently so far, and that is His desire to be made known.  I did cover something of this in Chapter 9 of my previous book, ‘God's Love in the Old Testament' in the chapter entitled, ‘God and the Rest of the World' . In that I sought to make this same point that is seen again and again in the whole of the Old Testament.

 

In Gen 12:3 God says to Abram (reiterated in Gen 18:17,18 and 22:15-18), all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Now it is not spelled out at that point just how that will be but it does show, from the earliest parts of the Bible, God's intent to bless the whole world.

 

That ‘all nations' thing is reiterated to Isaac (Gen 26:2-4) and Jacob (Gen 28:13,14) and Moses (Deut 2:24,25 and 28:8-10) and Joshua (Josh 4:23,24) and David (1 Chron 16:8,24) and Solomon (1 Kings 8:59-61). Perhaps just one or two of those references will suffice here to emphasise the point:

 

Deut 28:10 “Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD,”

 

1 Kings 8:60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other

 

The first of those two quotes is about Israel being a special people called by God, and the second is about God Himself. The former should have revealed the latter.

 

    

10.3 Portraying God's Design

 

Now not only was the idea for Israel to reveal God's character in the four aspects above – love, goodness, perfection, holiness – but also the intent was to reveal to the world God's design for humanity which had been largely lost as Sin entered the world at the Fall.

 

We have sought to convey this as we covered it in chapter 1:

•  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.

  

Now the key point is that the world has rejected God and God's design for humanity and Israel were supposed (it seems at first sight) to reveal to the watching world how that could be changed and the world could see what it meant to be living under God's blessing. The greatest example of this was in Solomon's reign, blessed by the wisdom of God, and revealed through the words of the visiting and powerful Queen of Sheba:

 

1 Kings 10:6-9   She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel . Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel , he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."

 

Look at her words of testimony:

  • not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard . (Wow! I could never have guessed how good God has been to you!)
  • How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! (I didn't realise that happiness was God's intent for us all!)
  • Praise be to the LORD your God , who has delighted in you … (It even makes me want to worship Him!)
  • Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel , he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness." (I see the reason for all this is His love!)

That was Israel at its best. Now we said above that that was how Israel were supposed to reveal God and His will for mankind to the rest of the world, but the reality of the history of Israel throughout the whole of the Old Testament was that what was revealed was

  • The sinful nature of Israel again and again turning away from God
  • God's grace and mercy persevering with this people, to again and again seek to bring them to their senses and back to Him so that they could continue to receive His blessing.

   

10.4 Working with a Primitive People, an Embryonic Nation

 

Why, we might ask, did God not wipe Israel out because of their continual folly? The answer surely has to be because even through their folly, His love, goodness, perfection and holiness would be revealed.

 

Early believers

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that Abram was a traveller from Mesopotamia, the so-called Cradle of Civilisation. His initial experiences with God were while he was still very much a pagan from that part of the world. As his experience of God developed we see embryonic faith emerging, a trust in the words he was hearing from God which were translated into acts. These acts of Abram revealed the love and goodness of God.

 

When we come to the amazing account of the Exodus, hundreds of years further on, the Hebrew people, soon to become the nation of Israel, were simply a people who were slaves within Egypt, aware of their history and no doubt struggling with the superstitious occultic idol worship all around them.

 

A Special People

When God delivers them and meets with them at Mount Sinai, He invites them to share in a binding agreement or covenant:

 

Ex 19:4-6 You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt , and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'

 

We should not see the call to obey God and keep to the covenant as hard things but simply the way for Israel to enter into experiencing God's wisdom. If they did what He said, then that would work well for them and He would add His blessing to the outcome to make it even better. They would know in very practical ways His love and goodness.

 

God's wisdom revealed

If any have a negative feeling about ‘obeying' God, simply observe the first basic instructions God gave them, instructions we call the Ten Commandments, which work for all nations. For example: “You shall not murder.” (Ex 20:13) Who would be foolish enough to say that is a bad law? How about, “You shall not steal” ? (Ex 20:15) Who would be foolish enough to say that that is a bad law?

 

It doesn't take much thought to see that disobeying those two laws, for example, causes breakdown of society, or at the very least, a second-rate, unjust and insecure society. In our largely godless societies of the West today we find both these laws commonly broken and so we might be in a good position to ask, what do you think a society would be like where these two commands were kept completely?

 

The command of “You shall not commit adultery ” (Ex 20:14) is so widely abused in Western society that the fruits of that abuse are so obvious that we almost don't take note of them any longer and take them for granted, despite the fact that TV portrays almost every night the folly of disregarding it and the painful fruits that follow!

 

Sin means rejecting God's wisdom

Now if God is the Creator-Designer of all that we know, then we would expect Him to know best how we work and, even more, how we work best. This assumes the characteristics we highlighted above. Looking at the evidence, it is a fair assumption. Again and again God's intention to bless Israel, i.e. bring them good, is revealed.

 

When we come into the New Testament it is like that revelation is put under a magnifying glass and magnified a dozen times. There can be no question, looking at the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels and the outworking of that ministry and life revealed in the remaining books of the New Testament, that God intends good for us – and that is a major understatement!

 

Our acceptance of discipline

Look at school and look at, say, the Forces (army, navy & air force), and you will see in every learning or training institution, forms of discipline being applied. In schools that used to be the application of the birch or the cane and today, detentions or being expelled. Schools where the least learning takes place are those where there is little or no discipline imposed. The absence of discipline is the last thing that any commander in the army, navy or air force would countenance. Crack troops are those who endure the toughest discipline.

 

God's dealings with Israel

When we come to investigate the activities of Israel and God's dealings with them we will note certain things in this embryonic nation:

  • The rules are made very clear by God and they are for the good of every person.
  • His expectation is very high – those rules will be kept.
  • Failure to keep those rules will incur discipline.
  • The purpose of discipline is to bring to the fore the folly of the wrong activity – and change it.
  • Where there is an outright refusal to keep the rules, then removal becomes the only option if the nation is to be preserved as the revealer of God's character and His wisdom.

That last point becomes a crucial issue, not only for the ongoing life of Israel, but also for revelation of who God is, and that must be born in mind through the reflections on the judgments that we will find in the following chapters.

 

Understanding Consequences

Again and again we need to ask two questions in the face of foolish and sinful activity we find recorded in the life of Israel (and the wider world) in the Old Testament:

1, What would happen if no action were taken against this sin?

2. Is there any alternative to prevent that happening other than the

    judgment we find recorded?

We'll try not to repeat it again and again in any great detail in the following chapters, but responses to the first question must include the following answers:

  • The wrong behaviour would be repeated and increased and spread more widely through society (Israel or the world at large)
  • As that behaviour so often included things like child sacrifice, occult activity, slavery, violence and injustice, we can fairly assume that the outcomes would include more death, more destruction, more harm, more pain, more upset, more injustice and a generally downward spiral of community breakdown degenerating from what might be called civilisation.
  • God would be seen as powerless and even worse, uncaring.
  • When it is in respect of Israel, their very future existence as a nation would be put in jeopardy.
  • In respect of the world at large, time may yet tell that it threatens the very existence of mankind.
  • When it is in respect of Israel they will fail to reveal God and His will to the rest of the world and thus undermine God's primary intention of revealing Himself to His world.

 

Modern Expectations

Today when we teach on family life, we hope for couples who will be loving and caring in respect of their children and included within that loving and caring will be

•  drawing boundaries and

•  bringing correction and,

•  as necessary, discipline.

There will be other things like

•  providing for them and

•  ensuring protection for them.

 

Now if we expect these things of human parents, why should we expect anything less of God who, in the Scripture, is often referred to as Father or Daddy? Why do we relish these things when it comes to the Forces but shy away from them when it comes to God seeking to raise up and train a nation in the face of sinful opposition all around them?

 

 

10.5 And So….

 

Rather than repeat all we have said in this chapter, before you continue with the rest of the book, may we suggest that you reread the whole of this chapter which seeks to highlight the thinking that must go behind seeking to understand the purposes of the judgments that we find in the Bible.

  

    

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