"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 9

    

     

    

    

Chapter 9: Lessons for the Remaining People

Chapter 9 Contents 

9.1 Introduction
9.2 Fear as a Future Deterrent
9.3 Revealing the Greatness of the Lord
9.4 And So….

9.1 Introduction

 

In the previous chapter we observed that disciplinary judgments are intended to change people's behaviour but when people refuse to change, ultimately God may bring a terminal judgment, but His desire is that it should never get that far. The fact that it does, only goes to confirm the fact that we have free will which can operate to allow people to harden their hearts against God and remain hardened.

 

What our previous considerations about disciplinary judgment showed is that, by giving opportunity after opportunity to repent, after He has warned and warned and warned, God desires never to bring terminal judgment (unless forced to do so by the individual and the prevailing circumstances). This we have seen in earlier chapters.

 

In this chapter we intend to consider further God's desire to bring blessing to His world. God, the Bible shows us, is concerned for the whole world. Those famous verses in John, chapter 3, proclaim it well:

 

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

 

The actual outworking of it is in respect only of individuals who will avail themselves of this salvation, but it is available for the entire world to take it up if they would.

 

There is a danger, therefore, when we are focusing on the individual judgments, to become judgment-orientated and fail to remember that almost invariably the judgment in question only covered a certain number of people and that there was a much greater multitude looking on. In each judgment we go on to consider in the following chapters, we should ask, who else was around this, who else saw this, and what would have been the effect upon them? What was God attempting to say to them through this judgment?

 

It becomes fairly clear that apart from dealing with particular offenders, any judgment also has two effects in respect of the onlookers, if we may call them that, although ‘onlookers' may include a few people who actually witnessed what happened, or large numbers who heard about it later. The effects upon the ‘onlookers' would have been

•  to act as a deterrent to deter them from this same path, and

•  to reveal the greatness of God to the world, so others might turn to Him..

   

9.2 Fear as a Future Deterrent or Corrective Element

 

The thing about a deterrent is that it needs to deter from a specific sin, therefore if God judged and destroyed a specific individual, we have to ask why, what had this man done wrong that we now need to avoid doing?

 

The death of Er

The fact that a judgment of God is actually recorded is in itself an indicator that a specific sin was committed and God dealt with it. That may sound obvious but sometimes the sin itself is not spelled out in any great degree but the fact of it being there speaks to its existence. For example –

 

Gen 38:6,7 “ Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah 's firstborn, was wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death,”

 

Now there is no reason given for this death beyond the words, that he was “wicked in the Lord's sight.” Now if that is God's assessment then we have to assume that a loving and good God does not do this for any capricious reason. The man is wicked, goes on being wicked and refuses to repent. Those have got to be givens in the light of all else we see about God in the Bible. It may be frustrating but we must live with this lack of further information. The people round about would know that Er was ‘wicked' (for it to be so recorded) and so this is a natural deterrent to wickedness.

 

The death of Onan

In what follows there is more information. The Hebrew practice (God instigated) was for another male member of the family to marry the widow and carry on the family name through her. Onan, the next of Judah's sons basically refused to have children with the widow Tamar so we read, What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.” (Gen 38:10)

 

We might consider this severe except when you consider this is about carrying on the name of Israel. Refusal to do this was tantamount to denying the birthright and denying God. As we have stated above, if the judgment involves the death of someone then we might say that for that someone it is too late for them to learn anything; they are gone. Yes, but look at the effect of their death on those who are left. The sin of denying the birthright and denying the widow is again obvious and Onan's death – attributed to God – would act as a deterrent to stop others doing this.

 

Let's look at some instances of this ‘deterrent effect'

 

Lot 's Wife

Gen 19:26 “But Lot 's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt,”

 

Because we'll look at this in detail when we consider the book of Genesis as a whole in a later chapter, we won't delay long over this. The basic facts:

•  Lot and his family was fleeing from Sodom before it was destroyed by God.

•  They were warned not to look back, but she did and died.

•  At the very least the family would know the circumstances and would be careful how they lived in the days ahead.

     

The Israelite spies

  

Num 14:36-38   “So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it-- these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”

  • the details of this were so clear and the judgment on the ensuing unbelieving Israelites (who died over the next forty years in the desert) so obvious, that future generations would clearly know and be warned.

       

The death of Uzzah

2 Sam 6:6,7 “When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”

  • this shocking event would have impacted all of those involved in this procession but the man more impacted was king David.
  • he was first angry and then fearful and came to realise that he had been treating the holy ark of God casually and has been specifically disobedient in respect of the way it should have been moved.
  • After a period of time he moved it again but this time – and it is very clear in the text – he did it according to the Law.

     

Ananias and Sapphira

   

Acts 5:4,5 You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

  • this well known incident in the New Testament clearly shocked the church AND the onlooking community which is clear by the following response: “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” (Acts 5:11-14)
  • a reverential fear of God fell on both the church and the community.

     

      

9.3 Revealing the Greatness of the Lord

 

We said a little earlier that there would be two effects when these judgments came and have considered the first effect above, namely a corrective fear. The second effect, we said, was simply to reveal the greatness or glory of the Lord, so that others would hear and believe. Perhaps the best examples of this are the two things we have referred to in the previous chapter, the Exodus and the Exile.

  

The Exodus

    

The revelation of the Lord's greatness comes in stages:

   

i) To Israel

Ex 6:6-8 Therefore, say to the Israelites : `I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.' "

  • remember ‘LORD' here means ‘the I AM' the eternal One the ever present one.
  • three times here He declares, “I am the LORD”
  • as this unfolds they will realise his greatness.

ii) To Egypt

Ex 7:5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

  • this miraculous ten-part deliverance will leave Egypt fully aware of who it is they have been contending with!

iii) To Pharaoh himself

Ex 7:17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile , and it will be changed into blood.

  • it was important that Pharaoh would realise who he was up against – even if he refused to surrender to Him.

iv) The whole world

Ex 9:15,16 by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

  • what takes place will be spoken off all around the world and they will know!

 

The point, as we have shown in my previous book, is for the Lord to be revealed to the whole world through Israel. Again and again this comes through in the scriptures.

 

The Exile

   

If this came through in the Exodus it comes through even more clearly at the Exile. After terrible words of judgment (as revealed through Jeremiah and Ezekiel) we start finding words of hope where the Lord speaks of bringing His people back to the land (e.g. Ezek 34:11-16, 25-31) That latter passage concludes with, “Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD” (v.30)

 

Later on in Ezekiel we find a further revelatory word:

 

Ezek 36:16-23 “Again the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, ( Israel 's previous failure) they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman's monthly uncleanness in my sight. So (the Lord's action against them) I poured out my wrath on them …. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. ( Israel 's ongoing failure) And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, `These are the LORD's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' (The Lord's worry – His reputation) I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name , which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.”

 

The result of this judgment and restoration will be that the world will understand, this was the Lord! But there is more about Israel and we really need to note the transformation that will be brought about in the people of Israel through the whole experience of the Exile:

 

Ezek 36:24-29 “For

(a) I will take you out of the nations;

(b) I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.

(c) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

(d) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;

(e) I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And

(f) I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.”

i.e. they will be a transformed nation. This is to be the end product of the Exile. The work of the Exile would mean that the remnant, who were not destroyed but carried abroad, would have their hearts changed. This is the greatest example of this in the Old Testament. God didn't give up on Israel but carried out radical surgery. The end result was a transformed body.

 

As we noted in chapter 7, in the Exile we know that God's long-term goal was to discipline the nation of Israel in exile but, 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 – bringing about an amazing change in them

 

    

9.4 And So….

 

So now we prepare to move into the second Part of the book in which we work our way through specific judgments, starting from the book of Genesis and then working through book by book. In the light of all that we have considered so far in these earlier chapters the following are the key things we will be looking for:

 

  • What was the cause of this judgment?
  • Was it disciplinary or terminal?
  • What effect did it have?
  • Were there any alternatives to it?
  • What does it show us about God?

However, before we do that we will have one more 'overview' chapter  to ensure our focus is clarified as mcu has possible.   Ready?

 
 

Return to top of page