The Working Premise
Types of Judgment
The Goals of Judgments
The Mystery of Invisibility
has been a long journey but we have arrived at the end. I happened
today to be reading a book where the author was rather negative about
Christians who are ‘consumed by judgment and negativity when they
should be leading lives overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of
what is interesting is that as much as I completely agree with that
author I have come to see through these studies that actually the
judgments of God as seen in the Bible are amazingly an expression
of the goodness and kindness of God. Now I know there will be certain
crusading atheists who will automatically take exception to that comment,
shouting how can a God who kills people be considered good and kind?
Well that is what this book has all been about and so in this final
chapter I would like to simply reiterate and summarise the key things
that have come through in these studies so that I hope by the end,
any thoughtful person will agree with my assessment above.
The Working Premise
have approached this subject with two thoughts in mind and they were
there from the outset and were the basis upon which I worked on this
first one is that years of study of the Bible, verse by verse and
chapter by chapter (the entire Bible many times over) together with
learning about how scholars tell me the Bible actually came into being,
has left me confident that
the end product that we have in our hands today, is the same as
was originally written,
both the general and specific content can be trusted in terms of
what it says.
I am aware that the sceptic will say, “But I don't believe in God”
which is why the second working premise was so important. That premise
said, ‘Suppose, just suppose, that what we read in the Bible is true,
then what are the logical outworkings of that? This is important because
are the things we read in the Bible rational and
do they fit with everything else we know about our world?
accordance with the title of this book, one of our starting places
was to consider the Bible's declaration that “God is love” and ask,
“If that is really true, what are the implications of that?” Included
in those considerations then come such questions as “In what varied
ways does love show itself?” Even more it created the challenge that
said, “If that is so, then we need to start seriously studying everything
that goes on in the Bible looking through a new ‘filter' that says,
“If God is love then everything He thinks, says or does MUST be an
expression of love and if that is so, how can that possibly be in
each and every ‘judgment' that we observe in the Bible, and there
are quite a few of them?”
was on this basis that we worked our way through the Bible, but not
before giving some consideration to what actually a judgment of God
is, and in what ways does it come, as well as seeking to look in some
depth at why any particular judgment came and ask, “What was God doing
through this judgment?” Let's recap those particular things before
going on to some more specific conclusions.
Types of Judgment
to get an overview of the judgments in the Bible we concluded that
ultimately there are two overall sorts of judgment:
Terminal Judgments – those that result in death.
Disciplinary Judgments – those that bring about a change of behaviour.
we noted along the way, three references within the book of Ezekiel
that very plainly declare that God takes no pleasure in bringing about
the death of any person and would much rather that any such person
facing the potential of a terminal judgment, would repent and be saved
and avoid it.
also noted that God only brings terminal judgments
when He sees that the hearts of the individuals in question are so
set that any disciplinary judgment would be a waste of time, and I
thus described them as “a judgment of last resort” i.e. God only resorts
to bringing death when there is no other way out. (We will look at
the reasons for such judgments in a moment).
Judgments – that simply seek
to bring about a change in behaviour (repentance) – are brought where
there appears a hope of that change, and essentially comprise of God
lifting off His hand of restraint or protection so that the unpleasant
circumstances that follow – rampant self-damaging sin, sickness, destructive
work of Satan, and attacks by enemies – will bring about a humbling
and subsequent repentance.
see the theory behind such judgments in the back part of Romans 1
and worked out in numerous examples in the book of Judges in particular.
There are occasions when disciplinary judgment is brought and it is
clear that the intent is to humble and bring about repentance but
in the end hard-heartedness refuses to respond and death follows.
We might ask why isn't every judgment like that and we can only suggest
that there are varying circumstances where that isn't always appropriate
and there are clearly times when the hearts are so obviously set against
God and His ways, that a disciplinary expression to start with would
be quite unrealistic.
The Goals of Judgments
we have already suggested that the goal of a disciplinary judgment
is to humble and bring repentance, i.e. bring about a change of behaviour,
but there are two other primary reasons that came up in our studies:
To shut the floodgates
are clearly times when sin is so rampant and unrighteousness and occult
activity (which is often linked when these things get to this stage)
are flooding across a nation or the world, that the only way to protect
and save the rest of the world is to bring a judgment that will act
as a brake or even cleanse away what is tantamount to a plague of
sin. Ultimately, in such cases, it is the care of God for His world
and His caring compassion for people that steps in takes the drastic
action that we see of a modern surgeon who uses a scalpel to remove
a spreading malignant tumour. These judgments seem to appear more
in the early books of the Bible when the world's civilisations are
still in embryonic stages.
To hold together Israel
respect of Israel, this seems an overwhelming motivation for the Lord
to act in some form of judgment. God's will – to reveal Himself to
the world so they may see His loving goodness and turn back to Him
– is top priority. Again and again it is clear that Israel have been
called to reveal the Lord to His world, in a favourable way. The intent
was that Israel's neighbours and, indeed, the rest of the world, should
see the Lord's goodness to them and see there is an alternative way
of living, in harmony with God, that brings goodness and blessing.
was the intent, and it is seen at its peak when the Queen of Sheba
comes and sees Israel under Solomon and praises God. It was, however,
a forlorn hope because every individual and the nation at large showed
themselves, again and again and again, incapable to living in harmony,
and righteously with the Lord in their midst for any length of time.
It is against this backdrop that judgments appear.
our end conclusion, having observed the life of Israel in detail throughout
the period of the judges, then with the single monarchy and then with
a divided monarchy, is that in the end the main reason we can see
for the Lord to allow Israel to continue to exist is to reveal the
inherent nature of Sin in mankind, even with God in the midst, and
to reveal the need for a Salvation that would come with His Son, and
which must work on a completely different basis to ‘keeping the rules'
which is what life in Israel had been under the Law. The secondary
reason was to maintain a ‘national or cultural environment' into which
His Son may come and live and reveal Him before dying for the sins
of mankind, as He establishes the Church, the ‘called-out ones' who
respond to Him.
famous crusading atheists have slandered God and one of the charges
is that He is capricious, fickle, changeable, hasty and easily resorts
to anger tantrums. Examining in detail the judgments of God throughout
the Bible, we have to say that nothing could be further from the truth.
The word that has arisen as we have observed these judgments is ‘restraint'.
We have been amazed again and again at the way that God almost hesitates
in rising up against a people or a nation. Yes, there are times when
He acts decisively and quickly, but more often we have been surprised
at His slowness to move.
the Fall onwards
first saw this in the very first judgment against Adam and Eve. Although
they were put out of the Garden that was not the end of it for mankind.
In the chapters that follow there are indications of God's ongoing
desire to have relationships with individuals and these reach their
peak with the arrival of Abraham who Scripture records three times
as being ‘God's friend'. Indeed the ongoing history of this Hebrew
family, and eventually the nation, shows that although God holds Himself
at a distance, He still desires fellowship and friendship and desires
to bless mankind.
the second judgment, in respect of Cain after killing Abel, that same
restraint is amazingly evident. Centuries later, after failure after
failure of those chosen by God (and the failures of Moses, Samuel,
David and Solomon as starters are so obvious) even in the dividing
of the kingdom there is grace, giving opportunity for restoration
by the kings – which never comes.
the Divided Kingdoms
often this restraint is so that God's warnings can come again and
again and again. In studying the various kings, I have been amazed
at the way that the Lord tolerated the apostasy of the northern kingdom
that was there from the outset, and remained until the nation was
eventually overrun from the north. Indeed with many of the kings you
are left wondering at God's grace that gave second chances.
is a classic example of an evil king who is given another three years
of life when he repented. Yet even then he thought he could outwit
God. Manasseh is the other who stands out, an utterly evil king who
was sent into captivity where he eventually repented and was then
allowed to return to Israel where he instituted reforms. Yet his name
is mentioned in respect of the Lord's anger that would eventually
send Israel into exile, but it leaves us thinking that it wasn't just
the failure of the kings but of the people as well who seem hell-bent
on turning to idolatry and destruction.
to the Exile
history of the Exile reveals to us the wonder of God's desires to
warn His people to turn away from the destructive path down which
they were plunging. Jeremiah in Jerusalem, speaking to kings and people,
and Ezekiel in Babylon, speaking to the exiled people, and Daniel
in the royal court of Babylon, speaking to kings and princes, are
all instruments in God's hands, bringing warning after warning to
the participants of that incredible phase of history. The book of
Jeremiah, in particular, is a book of warning after warning to a succession
of kings and the message is always the same – God doesn't want to
do this but don't keep on provoking Him!
the New Testament, it was the apostle Peter who summed it all up:
Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone
to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
The Mystery of Invisibility
is an initial mystery about the judgments of God and it is why doesn't
God reveal Himself more obviously to mankind, why don't the warnings
come louder and more clearly? Surely, we might think, if God put signs
in the sky we would realise and come to our senses?
of course, one of the things that these studies have shown, is that
God does warn – again and again. He warned Israel specifically. He
warned the surrounding nations through the things that happened to
Israel. The record is there and the record is clear for anyone who
will be bothered to take the time and make the effort to read it.
The more of it you read, the more it becomes clear.
of course the Lord warns; the Gospels are all about God's indirect
warning to the world. The history of the church and the lives of individual
Christians are indirect warnings to those who have eyes to see. The
evidence piles up like a mountain for those who are looking.
in his famous parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31)
concluded it by replying to the rich man who wanted a warning to be
sent to his family, “If
they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced
even if someone rises from the dead.”
(Lk 16:31) A tongue in cheek warning against hard-heartedness, for
he himself then died and rose from the dead, yet many still do not
believe, such is the folly of Sin.
we have to stop somewhere. I started this chapter with a comment about
negative judgmentalism and so I will finish it with a prayer: “Dear
Lord, please open our eyes to see the wonder of your love and goodness
on these pages if we have not yet seen them. Please forgive us that
we are so often so slow witted. Thank you for the wonder of your word
and the truths therein. Thank you for your dealings with us that,
in the words of my colleague, seek to help us to lead
lives overwhelmed by your goodness and kindness.
Thank you that that goodness and kindness is so visible in your word
for those who have eyes to see. Open my eyes that I may see more and
more clearly and worship you more and more, without restraint. Amen.”