DIVINE JUDGMENT ANCHORED IN HOLY-LOVE

When is the last time you heard a sermon on divine judgment?  It is probably been awhile, yet the Bible speaks of it and it should not be ignored.  What is God’s purpose in executing judgement? God’s purpose in judgment is redemptive. While in judgment sin is punished, in His holy love judgment seeks to eradicate sin and establish holiness. God’s judgment is holiness’ response to sin. Holiness is repulsed at sin and must deal with it and destroy it. Judgment is God’s holiness in opposition to sin.  God’s love redeems in the midst of judgment to establish his holiness.  Divine judgment is anchored in holy-love. His love is so great He at the cross dealt with sin in his Son. At the cross we see judgment upon sin and the redemptive love of God from sin. The judgment of God is an aspect of His love. God’s judgment and love are not opposed to one another, for there can exist no true love without judgment on sin. As Leon Morris says, the judgment of God is “a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature…. God is not passive in the face of sin. God is implacably and vigorously opposed to every evil.”

His action to judge demonstrates His redemptive love at work to deliver us from sin which seeks to destroy and damn us. In judgment God, like a surgeon ridding the body of a destroying cancer, surgically removes the cancer of sin to bring about the health of His holiness. Love that doesn’t demonstrate hatred for what seeks to destroy and that which is an enemy of all that is right and holy, is not love but only sentimentality. God’s judgment upon sin is not capricious or unpredictable, but is provoked by the evilness of sin. God’s judgment is not to be viewed like the vindictiveness of man, but God’s judgment is vindicative of His holy nature. Divine judgment needs to be seen more than retribution, but the establishing and the securing of eternal righteousness and holiness. Judgment is more than the consequences of sin in  a moral universe, more than an impersonal process of cause and effect, but it is God actively being involved in his creation to restore His holiness in a creation that has been cursed by sin.   The judgment of God strikes a blow to moral relativism by revealing that right and wrong are true and the expanse of divine holiness is the goal of creation.

Failure to hate evil implies a deficiency in understanding God’s love. The love and judgment of God is fully understood only in the light of the cross. In the Christ of the Cross God vindicated His holiness through holy-judgment, assuring humanity His holy-love can be trusted. Liberalism dismisses divine judgment and speaks only of God’s love. P.T. Forsyth insightfully writes, “If we spoke less about God’s love and more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of His love” (Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 1909, 73).  There is dualism in holiness and love. Emil Brunner states it well, “The objective aspect of the Atonement…consists in the combination of inflexible righteousness, with its penalties, and transcendent love. The love of God breaks through the wrath of God”  (Brunner, The Mediator, 1967, 520). The only complete satisfaction that can be made to a holy God from the sinful side is the sinner’s restored obedience, his return to holiness. Jesus completed that satisfaction in our stead!

The love of God will always be seen as weak and anemic, unless we hold it up in the light of God’s hatred toward sin and love of holiness. There is no love of God that is not holy and no holiness of God that is not loving. To reject the divine love of the Creator as found in Jesus Christ, who in the cross dealt with sin making it possible for man to be redeemed, is to turn one’s back on the only hope for redemption and to seal one’s own fate of incurring  divine judgment.

Thomas F. Torrance has eloquently written, “God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” (T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 1994.  94)

One can only be eternally justified by faith in a God who justifies Himself as so holy that He must set up His holiness in human history at any price, and that  price was allowing judgment to fall upon His own beloved and eternal Son.

Oh, what a Savior.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

A PERPLEXING QUESTION RECEIVES A PUZZLING ANSWER

An obscure book of the Bible sandwiched between the pages of the Old Testament which shouts insights for us of the twenty-first century is the Book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, asks a question that I am sure most Christians have asked at one time or another. Written around 612 B.C., the prophet, whose names means to “embrace,” looked around at the corrupt moral, social and spiritual conditions of the southern kingdom of Judah and asked, “How long Habakkuk15holy and righteous God will you let evil run rampant and not judge it? How long O Lord will you be silent in the face of rampant, unrestrained wickedness?” (1:1-4). After all, the prophet reasoned, if God is holy, how can He let sin continue unchecked like a polluted river that has spilled over its banks and is contaminating everything it washes over?

Habakkuk was perplexed, but the answer he received was even more puzzling. The Lord told the questioning prophet that the sins of Judah would not go unpunished. As matter of fact, the Lord told him He was not inactive against evil but was raising up a people called the Chaldeans (Babylonians) who were more wicked than those of Judah who would be used to punish them for their willful departure from their walk with Him and forsaking their spiritual heritage (1: 5-17)

The prophet scratches his head and incredulously asks, “You are gonna do what? Let me get this straight, you are going to use the wicked and cruel Babylonians who worship pagan gods and are more wicked and sinful than the people of Judah to bring judgment upon them?”

Waiting patiently for a clarification from God, Habakkuk is left alone with his thoughts (2:1-3). His being baffled is understandable, for the Babylonians slaughtered people without any remorse, plundered every city they invaded and left nothing but heartache and wreckage behind them. And God was going to use these evil people to bring judgment upon Judah! You got to be kidding? Surely, the prophet misunderstood.

At last the Lord communicates to Habakkuk these words,” No, you didn’t misunderstand me. I will use people more evil than those of Judah to bring judgment upon their sinful ways. However, the Babylonians will not escape judgment, as I will judge them as well. Just have faith and remain faithful, righteous justice will prevail.”

The prophet stands in awe at God’s power, holy-love,  majesty and His just dealings in the affairs of man. Instead of arguing with God, Habakkuk embraces Him in worship and begins to warn His fellow citizens of the coming judgment by a people more sinful and unrighteous than the inhabitants of Judah (Ch. 3). The majority laughed and mocked Habakkuk saying, “We are God’s people. He will not let those more sinful than us bring harm our way.” Very few believed the message of Habakkuk and continued on in their sin and their deliberate departure from God.

Too bad they didn’t listen and repent, for the time came when the words of Habakkuk and the active work of God came to pass. In time the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom (605, 598, and 587), slaughtering people, looting, destroying and taking many citizens captive back to Babylon. Judah was left in flaming ruins.  As well, in 538 B.C. the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire and they passed from the scene as a world power just as the Lord stated would happen (Daniel Ch. 5).  Events unfolded exactly as God said they would.

What relevance does the Book of Habakkuk have for us today? We find ourselves as a nation like Judah. We have forsaken the God of the Bible by continually stripping Him from the societal arena. We have defiantly abandoned principles of biblical morality and replaced them with “anything goes.” Those who embrace traditional marriage are mocked. Human dignity and worth is depreciated by abortion, debauchery goes unchecked, greed is rampant, injustice is widespread, perversion is celebrated, good is called evil and evil is called good, and ungodliness abounds.

How can a holy God, who opposes unrighteousness, seem to be silent in the face of such a cesspool of sin and defiance? Would He not be going against His own holy nature if correcting judgment doesn’t visit this nation? Let me offer some food for thought, we see being raised up in our very midst a group of people of the likes this world has never seen – ISIS –Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are demonic in their evil, ruthless, brutal, beheading individuals, slaughtering Christians by the thousands and all others who disagree with them. The world has never seen such evil like this that has not only vast financial backing but a fearless passion to conquer the world. They have stated they will not rest until they see the ISIS flag flying in Washington, D.C.

USA  leaders must  see ISIS as more than a regional problem and not be naive to dismiss that they will ever be a threat to the USA. However, they don’t appear to take the threats of ISIS seriously.  Just last week a US State Department spokesperson stated that the beheading of US citizen James Foley wasn’t about the US and ISIS isn’t Islamic. The State Department spokesperson stated that “this is not about the United States and what we do. This is about countries in the region coming together to fight a shared threat, and this is not about us. [ISIS] does not operate in the name of any religion. The president has been very clear about that, and the more we can underscore that, the better.”    It’s the blindness of Judah all over again.   Surely the Lord will not let a people as wicked, evil and demonic as ISIS bring harm to the USA for we are more righteous than they?  That was the thinking of Judah. Judah was wrong.

I wonder, have a people more unrighteous than the USA been raised up to bring correcting  judgment to a nation that has forsaken the spiritual foundation of our Founding Fathers? Like those in the days of Habakkuk we can laugh at and mock such a notion, or we can cry out to God in repentance and pray that God will have mercy upon us.

ISIS has one goal, which is to conquer the world and destroy the USA. It is time we fell to our knees in repentant prayer that this evil cancer of ISIS, with God’s help, be eradicated – if not we are going to be knocked to our knees in devastation.

The message of Habakkuk is clear: those who don’t learn from the past failures of other nations who have forsaken God are destined to experience His correcting hand. If we don’t believe it, just ask Habakkuk and Judah.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan