PART 2: About Judgements
Meditating on the Judgements of God: 2.1 The Concept of Indirect Judgements
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.
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
- 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.
- g. the Flood in Genesis
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 in the case of Job’s disciplining.
We now move away from considering the nature of God to the different ways He brings judgements. In this meditation we will consider what I am going to call ‘the concept of indirect judgments’ where God uses people to bring the judgment. (Direct judgements are where God does something directly Himself).
In Romans 1 (see above) we find the apostle Paul explaining this concept. 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 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 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.
We see this concept of indirect judgments most obviously in the book of Judges. in chapter 3 of Judges: “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.” (Jud 3:7-9) Observe the process:
- They forgot the Lord,
- He ‘sold them into the hands’ of another nation,
- After 8 years they cried out to the Lord so,
- He raised them up a deliverer.
Note the expression, “sold them into the hands” which is not explained and yet is a clear indication of the Lord’s work, but whether by lifting off His hand of restraint or by allowing Satan to whisper words of malice against Israel into the minds of the invader, is unclear.
The cycle is soon repeated again and again in the book; for example,: “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.” (Jud 3:12-15) Again the process is clear:
- Israel did evil,
- The Lord gave a foreign king power over them,
- After 18 years they cried out to the Lord so
- 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.
Now, as we said above, this cycle is observable again and again in Judges and the objective of the Lord is very clear – to bring Israel to the point of realizing their folly and of returning to the Lord. Indeed as the Bible testifies again and again, God would far rather have repentance than death and destruction. 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, and it often involves Satan, which we’ll see in the following mediation.
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 see if we look at Pharaoh who opposed Moses (Ex 5-12). What is incredible about the plagues, (direct judgments) 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 do so and then backtracked and ended up dying – but it was his choice! Thus this form of disciplinary judgment allows the individual to face what is happening and come to repentance in a gradually worsening situation. If they harden their hearts, as Pharaoh did it moves from a disciplinary judgment to a destructive judgment.
What we are shown is how God uses the ungodly to deceive the ungodly – and yet is very blatant about it – to bring judgement. 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: “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.” (Acts 2:23) We will see more of this strategy in the next meditation.