9: Lessons for the Remaining People
Fear as a Future Deterrent
Revealing the Greatness of the Lord
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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..
Fear as a Future Deterrent or Corrective Element
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?
death of Er
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 –
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,”
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
death of Onan
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.”
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.
look at some instances of this ‘deterrent effect'
Lot 's Wife
Lot 's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt,”
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
Lot and his family was fleeing from
Sodom before it was destroyed by God.
At the very least the family would
know the circumstances and would be careful how they lived in the
The Israelite spies
“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.
death of Uzzah
“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.
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.
well known incident in the New Testament clearly shocked the church
AND the onlooking community which is clear by the following response:
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
reverential fear of God fell on both the church and the community.
Revealing the Greatness of the Lord
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.
revelation of the Lord's greatness comes in stages:
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
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
To Pharaoh himself
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.
was important that Pharaoh would realise who he was up against –
even if he refused to surrender to Him.
The whole world
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!
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.
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”
on in Ezekiel we find a further revelatory word:
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
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:
I will take you out of the nations;
I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your
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.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of
I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and
be careful to keep my laws.
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.”
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.
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
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?
before we do that we will have one more 'overview' chapter to
ensure our focus is clarified as mcu has possible. Ready?