Lessons From the Old Testament: God’s Judgment

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13)

God does not kill Cain for murdering his brother.  We see no punishment for Lamech‘s boastful claim to kill a man for wounding him.  But here, when it becomes apparent that all the earth is sold out to disobedience and corruption, God tells Noah that he is going to kill everyone on earth.  We see this again when Israel is heading toward Canaan to completely destroy man, woman and child in obedience to God’s command (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).  Is God a God of love or a God of judgment?  And the answer must be yes.  He is both.

Even against His own people God leveled a stunning series of judgments while they were traveling from Egypt to Canaan.  When His people or any other human beings who owe their existence to God choose to rebel and to reject the God who provides for them, God will eventually bring some form of judgment to bear on them.  At the same time, God Himself says,

“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?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

God punishes to the third and fourth generation those who hate Him, but he shows love to a thousand generations of those who obey Him (Exodus 20:5,6).  His judgment is His “strange” work (Isaiah 28:21).  It is not the norm of His heart or His behavior.  But He will not hesitate if justice calls for judgment.

What kind of God would He be if He did not measure out justice?  What kind of world would we have if justice were not carried out?  Couldn’t God just forgive and forget?  Couldn’t He merely ignore those who rebel and bless those who obey?  Wouldn’t that be enough to show people the benefits of obedience and be a more appropriate demonstration of God’s love?

Apparently not.  God’s own character won’t stand for rebellion.  And we won’t either.  When we see the results of someone’s evil perpetrated in the life of another, are we content to simply reward those who did not perpetrate evil, or do we feel within us the demand for justice?  We are just like God (yes, we are made in His image) and our concept of justice comes from Him.  He understands the evil of those He punishes or asks others to punish.

Though we may not be able to see the justice of God’s judgment, we may trust that He is judging fairly.  And if we are prone to see the evil in others and assume that they deserve judgment, we must exercise the discretion of the Old Testament saints and leave vengeance in the hands of God.   David may have prayed for the destruction of his enemies, but he did not act on that himself.  Paul’s quote, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” in Romans 12 is from Deuteronomy 32:35.


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