An Act of Love: Divine Judgment
As I read through the Prophets, I am reminded of a mental image I had as a child. I remember seeing God sitting behind His judgment bench...up the clouds...wearing His white gown with His long white beard...banging His gavel while pronouncing me guilty every time I did something wrong.
I am not sure if that was just the imagination of a child or if someone truly put the “fear” of God into me. Either way, to be perfectly honest, certain aspects of that image shaped my view of judgment. Even the word “judgment'' was scary to me until one Sunday morning our pastor was sharing that he doesn’t see a vengeful God in the Old Testament, he sees a loving, patient, and forgiving God. At that moment, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the reality that I had it all wrong. Divine judgment isn’t about vengeance, but about love.
We all have heard stories from the Bible of God’s divine judgment; destroying the whole earth by flood, the plagues on the Egyptians, forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities...you get the point. But do you know the big picture? Did you realize that the Bible is one continuous love story that includes you and me? In fact, you are a main character.
Some of you are saying of course I did, but some of you are where I was one year ago and you are a bit confused by that statement. In the very beginning, God created man in His image to be in relationship with Him. It was man, who invited sin into that relationship. Keep that in mind because it is fundamental in His story. Every instance of divine judgment in the Old Testament was preceded by great sin. (Like really bad!) God justifiably delivered His divine judgment (and it was severe). Then, after much suffering, His people repented and cried out to Him for help. Guess what God did? You probably don’t have to guess because you know. He came, He delivered, He blessed. Then, unfortunately, His people forgot all that they learned and the messy sinful cycle continued over and over and over again.
Can anyone relate to that besides me? SMH. I describe the Old Testament as “But God……” because no matter how many times the Israelites turned away from God, He never abandoned them. He never let them get too far away that He lost us. Did you catch that? He never lost us. Yes, God knew this cycle would continue to repeat itself, but it was all part of His plan from the beginning to save us.
My amazing daughter pointed out to me that God is Holy and the Israelites were not, so they could not be in His presence or they would die. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), but that wasn’t God’s design. All of the Old Testament judgment involved teaching and showing both the Israelites and us that the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and that only God can save us. Sin leads to terrible suffering, but how would we have known that if God hadn’t shown it to us? Without understanding the consequence of sin, how can we begin to understand the significance of the next part of this story? Jesus.
God sent His son to this crazy broken world to live a perfect human life so that He could be the one and only perfect sacrifice able to atone for our sins. Jesus willingly hung on the cross and accepted our divine judgment - our punishment. When I truly sit and think about the fact that I was the one that deserved to be on that cross, it overwhelms me. Even as I write this, my eyes are teary. If that isn’t love, then what is?!? God didn’t send His son into the world to condemn it, but to save it and all we have to do is believe in Him (John 3:16-17).
Let’s just wrap this up with a nice little bow. From the beginning, everything God has done is still doing and will continue to do is to establish and maintain a relationship with you. There would be no loving Jesus of the New Testament without the loving judgmental God of the Old Testament - one precedes the other intentionally. Therefore, when Final Judgment comes, we don’t have to be scared. Christ took our judgment and our punishment on the cross that day. Thank you, God, for showing us the significance of that very moment. We have been judged innocent. We are innocent! Amen! Praise God!