Meditating on the Will of God: 26: The Judgement of God
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.
Although I didn’t state it at the beginning of this set of meditations, I felt that I wanted to approach this subject, rather than going down a carefully delineated logical path, more like a person wandering rather aimlessly around an art gallery, coming across paintings that are different. Yes, they are linked by the medium used, the fact that they are all framed and hand on walls and so on, but they are individual. I have sought to pick up links of thought but basically wander around this subject, which is why I have looked at a subject, moved on, and then meandered back to it.
I say all this to explain where we are in this present study. We have lightly looked at the subject of God dealing with bad people and we noted Ezekiel’s question and answer: “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) but I want to return to the general subject of the judgment of God and I want to approach it from a angle I have never seen before.
In an earlier meditation we noted that Scripture declares that God is perfect and all His ways are perfect and we suggested that perfection means that it is impossible to improve on it. Therefore if God is perfect, and the Bible says He is, then everything He thinks, says or does is perfect and cannot be improved upon. It is the very best when you take all things into account. And there is our difficulty because we have such limited knowledge, and therefore we struggle to understand sometimes, or if we don’t understand we simply (and I suggest callously) take at face value what we read without any thought, and so if we read about God killing someone we just look and say, “God is holy, he was wrong and so he deserved it,” but God isn’t like that. We’ll come back to this thought, but again and again He tries to avoid the ‘death outcome’.
No, take this in, this incredible thought: God is perfect and so nothing He thinks, says or does can be improved on – including acts of judgment! If we were able to see with the knowledge of God, we would conclude that whatever act of judgment was before us, it was essential in the face of all the facts! Now I know that is so contrary to what so many of us think, but it is THE only logical outcome. What it leaves for us, is a massive challenge to see what is the thinking behind the will of God that results in death and destruction.
I would like to wander into this minefield using the verses above from Romans 1. There are most revealing. Three times it says that “God gave them over” to some perverted behaviour or perverted thinking. What does that mean? It suggests that so much of the time, in some way or other, God restrains human sinfulness. I can only assume He does this my 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 of 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 see the folly and pain of going their own way. It is what our own society is 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.
Because we live in a fallen world where Sin prevails and Satan provokes, in order for human beings to be brought back to their senses, God often uses this strategy. It is this strategy that is behind the apostle Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church in respect of a man committing sexual immorality: “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) i.e. 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).
What we have seen in these examples are times where individuals are allowed to go into deeper trouble until they come to their senses but, of course, that will not always happen, as we saw in one of the early studies about Pharaoh. What is incredible about the plagues, apart from the fact of them, is that they gradually intensified and became worse and worse thus making the recipients of them gradually aware that this is the hand of God and it was going to get heavier and heavier until they repented. Pharaoh appeared to repent and then backtracked and ended up dying – but it was his choice! Thus this form of disciplinary judgement allows the individual to face what is happening and come to repentance in a gradually worsening situation.