"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 7

    

     

    

    

Chapter 7: Corrective Disciplinary Judgments of God

Chapter 7 Contents 

7.1 Introduction
7.2 God gives them over to….sin
7.3 God gives them over to….Satan
7.4 God gives them over to….enemies
7.5 God gives them over to….sickness 
7.6 To conclude
     

7.1   Introduction

 

Perhaps to clarify where we are going we may describe the end activities of God dealing with wrong attitudes or wrong behaviour as follows:

    

•  Disciplinary – where the object is to bring change of behaviour

•  e.g. the many times in Judges of God stepping back and enemies stepping forward

•  Destructive – where God knows discipline will not achieve anything and therefore destruction is the only option.

•  e.g. the Flood in Genesis

  

Now because human behaviour is not always neat, sometimes this way of grouping God's acts does not convey the whole picture. For example in the Exile (see end of Chronicles) through the insight of the prophets (see Jeremiah and Ezekiel – we will consider them later) we know that God's long-term goal was to discipline the nation of Israel in exile, to bring about changes in them so that He could eventually bring them back to the Promised Land and reconstitute them as a nation into which He would bring His Son in some four hundred years time. However, in the process of Jerusalem being taken and the land being overrun by Nebuchadnezzar's troops, some of the Israelites would have died. It is destructive for some in the short term, and life-changing discipline for the majority in the long-term.

 

As an alternative way to views these things we may consider them as

•  Direct – acts by God Himself

•  God clearly brings the judgment Himself – there are numerous examples

•  Indirect – where God uses other agencies.

•  e.g. God uses Satan and pagans, as in the case of Job's disciplining.

   

We have asserted a number of times that the Biblical record is quite clear: God looks for, and much prefers, to bring about change of behaviour rather than bring destruction (see again the earlier chapters quoting the threefold references from Ezekiel).

 

We need to say that in the remainder of this chapter we will be citing examples of discipline/judgments but we will only be doing it in such a way as to show the general principle. We will consider every judgment in detail in later chapters. The emphasis of this chapter is upon discipline.

 

Remember we have said that the purpose of discipline is to bring about change of attitude and behaviour and not end-destruction simply because God sees that this will work and will avoid death. Having said that, where the discipline is in respect of the whole people of Israel, it may be that the process did actually involve some dying, but the point is that the majority were saved.

 

    

7.2   God gives them over to….sin

 

We see the process in Paul's words in his letter to the Romans:

 

Rom 1:24, 26,28 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another….. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones….. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

 

•  This suggests that so much of the time, in some way or other, God restrains human sinfulness.

•  I can only assume He does this by speaking into our minds either directly or through His servants.

•  The result is restrained sin. Thus far and no further.

•  But then there comes a time when a people or nation so set their hearts on going away from God and from His laws, that He says, “Very well, if that is what you want, go for it,” and He lifts off His hand of restraint, if you like, and allows society to ‘do its own thing'.

•  That doing its own thing is a form of judgment. It is self-imposed but it is nevertheless judgment.

•  God is bringing discipline on a people by allowing them to experience the folly and pain of going their own way. It is what so many societies in the West are going through today.

•  The object of such a course of action is, as we have just said, to bring a people to their senses and realise their folly and turn back to God.

•  Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-24) shows this perfectly:

•  The son wants to turn away from the father (God) and so the father allows him to do that.

•  The son goes away and lives a dissolute life until he reaches rock bottom and realises his folly and returns in repentance to his father.

•  That epitomizes this strategy perfectly. But notice the almost gentle bringing of pain to the son. It happens gradually and it happens because he brings it on himself.

   

        

7.3   God gives them over to….. Satan

 

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, we see this applied to a man caught in ongoing sin:

 

1 Cor 5:5  “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”

 

•  In the Corinthian church was a man committing sexual immorality.

•  Paul thus says, put him outside the protection of the church, leave him to the ways of the world and the enemy until he comes to his senses and repents, which 2 Cor shows us he did.

•  The implication is that Satan will burden this man with a sense of guilt and shame in an endeavour to destroy him, but the Lord will use it to bring him to repentance.

   

If it is not actually Satan, Scripture also shows us an example of God allowing a lying spirit to lead a sinful man into activity which is folly:

 

1 Kings 22:19,20  “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?”

 

•  The context shows Jehoshaphat king of Judah (foolishly) going to visit ungodly king Ahab. (1 Kings 22:1,2)

•  Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to support him against his enemies (v.4) and Jehoshaphat agrees but suggests they enquire of the Lord first.

•  Ahab's prophets of Baal had been falsely prophesying peace but Jehoshaphat doesn't trust them and demanded a prophet of God, so they brought in Micaiah who first of all agreed with those prophets but is clearly being derisory, so he is told to prophesy properly! He declares, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, `These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.” (1 Kings 22:17) but he doesn't stop there; he explains what is going on in the spiritual realms as we see in the verses above.

•  Micaiah sees other beings around the throne, including fallen angels who are invited to go and mislead Ahab and lure him into battle where he would be killed.

•  Now we might ask why did the Lord not just strike down this ungodly king Himself?

•  The answer has got to be because He wants us to learn something of the spiritual dynamics that sometimes go on behind the scenes.

•  A lying spirit would go to these false prophets and they, in their deceived state, would accept the lie that Ahab would be safe.

•  But note what the Lord does: He gives Micaiah this insight and allows him to speak it out so we all see it.

•  Ahab is so foolish that he thinks he can outplay God and so goes into battle disguised but is still killed by a ‘stray' arrow. Jehoshaphat escapes with his life and no doubt learnt from his folly.

•  Note the two key lessons here:

•  an ungodly king, Ahab, given over to godless unrighteousness IS confronted by the truth by God's prophet but still refuses to believe it, thinking he can outwit God, and so dies in his folly anyway. For him this was a destructive judgment experience.

•  The godly king, Jehoshaphat, who has simply been unwise, is made to realise his folly and barely escapes with his life. For him this was a disciplinary experience.

•  In bringing these things about, note that the Lord does NOT bring the judgment/discipline Himself but involves a) His prophet, b) Satan's underlings (fallen angels, specifically a lying spirit) and c) enemy soldiers.

    

An Aside: How God USES Satan

We should understand that the Bible reveals a variety of ways that God makes use of Satan for His own purposes:

 

1. To reveal men's hearts Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron 21:1 ) He was to reveal David's underlying sin of pride

2. To bring judgement on unbelievers They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon . (Rev 9:11 both names mean “Destroyer”)

3. To bring discipline to believers hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord , (1 Cor 5:5) by putting this sinful believer out of the church's protection, it enabled Satan to come against him and humble him and bring him to repentance

4. To subjugate unbelievers the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 Jn 5:19b). Satan is allowed to rule where there is unconfessed sin, i.e. over unbelievers

5. To maintain humility in our lives I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud. (2 Cor. 12:7)

6. To develop faith & righteousness in our lives These trials are only to test your faith ( 1 Peter 1:7) See also 1 Peter 5:8-9 and 2 Peter 1:4-8

7. To bring about trials whereby we can be rewarded God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. (James 1:12) These trials, that involve Satan, make us rely upon God, His word and His Spirit and so the outcome of the battles we fight is that we appreciate Him, His word and His Spirit more and more.

8. To teach us how to fight These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience) (Judges 3:2). As we face such trials we learn how to overcome

9. To demonstrate God's power over the enemy His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph 3:10)   We need reminding who is who in the battle. Jesus IS Lord! As we triumph God is glorified in the heavens (observe Mk 1:21-27 Acts 13:6-12)

 

      

7.4   God gives them over to…. enemies

 

The example of Judges

In the book of Judges we observe a recurring sequence of events: faithfulness, drifting away from God, vulnerability and then incursion by surrounding enemies, crying out to God, and then the Lord sending a deliverer. It is fairly obvious that again and again the Lord steps back and allows Israel to feel weak and vulnerable, while surrounding nations (possibly prompted by Satan) feel bold and come against Israel. Observe:

 

Judg 2:12-14  They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

    

•  Previously I spoke of direct and indirect judgments and suggested that indirect ones were those where the Lord Himself did not do it but allowed the sinfulness of mankind to rise up unrestrained so that man would bring judgment on man. But it is often more complex than that.

•  Sometimes, at first sight, it may not be very clear whether it is direct or indirect. For instance in the verses above we focus on the words, “He sold them to their enemies” and might think that was His direct action, but what we see before that was, “the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them.”

•  Now did the Lord make the raiders plunder them? No, He simply stepped back and allowed their natural sinful tendencies free rein.

•  It was the sort of thing they normally did and so when the Lord stepped back it gave them opportunity.

•  One might ask how, therefore, would the Lord have restrained them previously and I think it would very simply by Him speaking into their minds negative words that would put them off, without them realizing it.

•  The above was a summary of what was going to happen again and again, for example:

    

Jud 3:7-9  “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer.”

Observe the process:

1. They forgot the Lord,

2. He ‘sold them into the hands' of another nation,

3. After 8 years they cried out to the Lord so,

4. He raised them up a deliverer.

The cycle is soon repeated:

 

Jud 3:12-15 “Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel . Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel , and they took possession of the City of Palms . The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer.”

Again the process is clear:

1. Israel did evil,

2. The Lord gave a foreign king power over them,

3. After 18 years they cried out to the Lord so

4. He sent them a deliverer.

This time the expression, “the Lord gave Eglon power over Israel,” is unclear in its operation but again gives the clear picture that Eglon's activity was enabled in some manner by the Lord.

 

The example of Job

The story of Job is mysterious. The Lord apparently wants to reveal to us that it IS possible to go through terrible trials without turning on the Lord. He does this by specifically inciting Satan to rise up against Job, but only so far:

•  Satan is given permission first of all to touch Job's family and goods (Note he has to have it before he acts).

•  In what follows we first see the Sabeans (Arabs from the south probably) stealing all his oxen and donkeys. The heart of his business was undermined.

•  A while later we hear that the Chaldeans (probably Bedouins from the south) stole all his camels.

•  Satan was given permission to attack Job's possessions, but the reality is that two different groups of people attacked and stole his goods.

•  We know how Satan was released to do it – because of his conversation with the Lord – but we aren't told how he stirred up those two groups.

•  I suggest, very simply, as he has always done and still does today, by whispering the temptation into the minds of those people who found their attention focusing on Job's wealth and then on the possibility of taking it.

    

iii) The example of Jesus

The death of Jesus was all part of God's plan formulated from before the foundation of the world but look at the revelation the apostle Peter has under the anointing of the Holy Spirit as he preaches on the Day of Pentecost:

 

Acts 2:23 “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

 

•  i.e. In allowing the judgment of the world to fall upon the shoulders of His own Son, God allowed ungodly men to rise up and bring that judgment.

     

7.5 God gives them over to ….. sickness

 

Discipline also appears in the form of sickness which, when repentance is not forthcoming, may result in death, but where it is, will result in life. We have a number of examples in Scripture. We'll take them in chronological order:

 

Abram

Gen 12:17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai.

    

•  This incident (which we will look at in detail in a later chapter) occurs when Abram goes to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan .

•  Pharaoh thinks Sarai, Abram's wife, is his sister and so takes her into his harem. Sickness follows, but Pharaoh quickly clued in to what was happening and sent Abram and Sarai away.

•  Read the whole story in Gen 12:10-20

•  Sickness acted as an alert, and quick response brought reprieve.

•  However the same thing happened a while later in respect of another local leader, Abimelech.

•  Read the details in Gen 20:1-7

•  Again sickness acted as a wake up call. Response brought reprieve.

   

The Ark of God

•  Without going into the details, for we'll do that in a later chapter, Israel went to war against the Philistines, taking the ark of the covenant as a good luck charm.

•  The ark was captured by the Philistines and to cut a long story short wherever it ended up with them, it seemed to bring sickness (and only eventually, death) and the Philistines soon saw the connection and had it returned. Read the story in 1 Sam 5

 

Miriam & Aaron

Num 12:10,11 “When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam--leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.”

  

•  This was a time when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and the Lord held them to account so that leprosy appearing on Miriam brought instant repentance in Aaron.

 

Hezekiah

2 Kings 20:1 “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

  

•  Now Hezekiah a good example of a man who understood something of the principles of repentance.

•  He immediately called on the Lord in what was clearly an attitude of repentance and so the Lord told Isaiah to go and declare healing for him and added an additional fifteen years on his life span.

•  Leprosy appears to have been used a number of times to chastise individuals – Gehazi, Elisha's servant (see 2 Kings 5) – king Azariah (see 2 Kings 15) and king Uzziah (see 2 Chron 26:19-21)

•  In each case repentance brings deliverance but failure to repent means it just carried on.

 

The Corinthian church

1 Cor 11:28-30 “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”

 

•  This church was taking communion, remembering Jesus at the Lord's Supper, but were being careless and casual about the way they treated that which should be holy, and as a result a number had died!

•  Some of them had been acting really badly in respect of this sacrament and the outcome was they were dying!

•  It took Paul to point this out. Now we aren't told how they responded to this but I would suggest they suddenly sharpened up how they treated the Lord's Supper.

•  What was sad about this was that it took an apostle to point this out and the local elders were not sufficiently discerning that they had not realised what was going on and put the church in order.

    

7.6 To Conclude

 

What we have been considering in the many examples in this chapter, is the way that God moves in the Bible to bring people to their senses, by bringing discipline through a variety of ways. But be quite clear: the objective is not destruction but change so that the person or people are saved.

Just a reminder that we have been seeing how God disciplines by lifting off His hand of protection or restraint so that discipline comes in the form of

    • unrestrained sin's self-destructive effect,
    • Satan coming against the individual to humble them,
    • enemies rising up to pressurise them,
    • sickness coming to weaken and to humble.

   

What is truly amazing is

1. The restraint of God that does not simply wipe out sinners

2. The restraint that also operates with those who were clearly not on the side of God's people. His mercy extended beyond those He had specifically drawn into relationship with Him.

 

This chapter has been full, therefore, of examples of judgments on people that were seen as acts of discipline and not ultimate destruction. To quote yet again from 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)

 

What we have been examining, therefore, are ways that God works to bring about that repentance where people are open to it. Unfortunately not all are open to it and that leads us on to consider acts of judgment that are terminally destructive which we will consider in the next chapter. Be warned, these are examples of people who refused to heed the warnings that came and thus the judgment came.

 

 

Return to top of page