SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
God's Judgment and the Flow of Human History
Print This Sermon
Sunday, October 21, 2012 - AM  Sermon #: 1599
Don Horban

Speak of judgment to a church congregation and most of our minds go to their default setting. In those rare moments when we think of Godís judgment at all, we think of the coming Day of Judgment when Jesus comes again. We think of those passages in Revelation where the books are described as being opened. We think of that great final separation of, in Jesusí words, sheep from goats. We think of heaven and hell. We think of the day of grace and the chance of repentance being over. Certainly there are different theological schemes and timetables for these events, but almost all Christians believe the Bible teaches these things will take place.

We will look at all of these events in future studies, but what I want to focus on today is the reality of Godís present judgment - right now - before we die and before Jesus comes again. I want us to consider Godís judgment and the flow of human history. Iím not now talking about the culmination of human history, but the flow of it here and now. This is where much of Godís judgment takes place.

One other thing: I hope, if you currently have a dark and negative opinion of Godís judging work in this present world, as though it were somehow beneath Godís grace and mercy, that you will come to see true beauty in it. I hope that you will come to see, as the Psalmist said so long ago, that all Godís judgments are according to truth and righteousness - Psalm 119:160 - ďThe sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.Ē

What this means is the sum of Godís work is righteous. And every one of Godís works is right. And the reason the Psalmist mentions both the individual acts of God and the sum of them taken all together is you and I usually have to wait until we see all of Godís works taken together to have a proper assessment of them - ď.....all things work together for good....Ē

1) OUR OWN FALLEN MINDS ARE NOT RELIABLE INSTRUMENTS FOR MAKING ASSESSMENTS ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ANY OF GODíS ACTS OF JUDGMENT

This can be seen by the fact that we can be equally annoyed both when Godís judgments seem too severe and when they seem too slow in coming.

Letís take the second example first:

Psalm 73:12-14 - ďBehold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. [13] All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. [14] For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.Ē

The Psalmist is not an ungodly man. Yet he is certain that God has everything screwed up in His dealings. The wicked arenít being judged. They are getting away with murder. And he, the Psalmist, is pure and innocent and prayerful to no avail. He says he starts every morning under the chastening hand of the Lord (14). This is truly a terrible way to live life. Everything is morally up-for-grabs in terms of Godís justice and fairness. And life is hard-lived when you feel God has it organized against you.

Then you have another group of people who donít like linking a loving God with any kind of judgment in this present age. God, they feel is good, and a good God doesnít do bad things. And theyíve already reached that verdict in their finite minds - a judging God is a bad God. After all, weíre encouraged to be kind and loving, so surely God must be as good as we are.
So, if youíre going to throw the issue into the court of human reason, you will end up with some kind of split decision as to the righteousness of Godís judgment in this world. Human reasoning can go either way on this issue, depending on our circumstances and the temper of our heart.

It is of high significance that in heaven, with the perspective of earth fading and the sight of the throne of God vivid, those around the altar, having seen the judgment of God poured out unmixed on this world, never dream of questioning the rightness and beauty of Godís judgment - Revelation 16:7- ďAnd I heard the altar saying, ĎYes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!íĒ

So this is where we must start. We need something solid to stand on. We need revelation. We canít each be left to the meanderings of our minds. Our uninformed minds, on their own, are no place to begin when studying the doctrine of divine judgment.

2) GOD DOES ACT UNILATERALLY IN JUDGMENT IN THE PRESENT FLOW OF HISTORY IN THIS WORLD, BUT ALWAYS WITH THE GOAL OF THE GREAT GOOD BEING ACCOMPLISHED.

This, I believe, is where we come into the meat of the issue of Godís present judgment in this fallen world. It is so important that the unpleasantness of the circumstances of judgment donít blind our hearts to the loving heart of the Judge.

I believe itís because people havenít been taught about Godís motive in present acts of judgment that many Christians have come to think of Godís love and Godís judgment as two opposite sides of His nature - a kind of Jekyll and Hyde manifestation of God. And they come to love the one while questioning or shying from the other.

Look at some important principles and texts with me:

a) Godís judgments are never hurried or impulsive.

Luke 13:6-9 - ďAnd he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. [7] And he said to the vinedresser, 'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?' [8] And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. [9] Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.' "

The central message of this story is there is nothing rash or hasty in Godís judgment. While judgment isnít always avoided, it is never rushed. God looks and labors for fruitfulness. He waits longer than seems reasonable to many. This is what weíre meant to see. He exhausts every resource in the pursuit of fruitfulness and redemption in our lives.

b) Even Godís severe judgments are intended as examples, turning others from wickedness to grace and mercy.

Consider two of the best known cases of Godís judgment being poured out in the Scriptures. One from the Old Testament and one from the New. The case of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is recorded in Genesis chapter 19. While we doníthave time to read that whole account, there is one very interesting fact that the Scriptures do relate as the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is reflected upon after the fact.

Ezekiel 16:46-48 - ďAnd your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. [47] Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. [48] As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.Ē

Common evangelical legend would say that God judged Sodom and Gomorrah so drastically because they were the most sinful cities ever. The Bible says this is not so. Here, in Ezekiel, God warns Judah of coming judgment and says they are worse sinners than Sodom or Gomorrah - ď....more corrupt then theyĒ(47).

And that makes us all want to ask, ďIf Sodom and Gomorrah werenít the most wicked, why didnít God judge the more wicked cities instead of them? Why did God judge them so severely?

Peter tells us what Godís plan was in judging Sodom and Gomorrah: 2 Peter 2:4-6 - ď For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; [5] if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; [6] if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly....Ē

God made Sodom and Gomorrah ď....an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly....Ē(6). God was removing the temptation of future ungodly people - your neighbors and relatives - to think that He was indifferent to their sin. He doesnít want to have to judge them. So Peter says God was supplying an incentive to conviction and righteousness outside the walls of any church. He was planting a warning sign in the pages of history.

ďBut that still doesnít answer the question about why God judged Sodom and Gomorrah so severely when the Bible says there were other cities more wicked than they. Why did He do that, Pastor Don?Ē

My only answer is I think it best fits in with Godís intention of using Sodom and Gomorrah as public examples to call the careless and the godless to repentance. If God only punishes the most wicked for their sins, the lesson people might take is that it is safe to sin up to that point. We could always justify ourselves by saying, ďWell, Iíve not sinned to the extent of those most godless and wicked so Iím safe from judgment.Ē

You see, God removes the basis for any wicked person presuming his own safety from judgment by making Sodom and Gomorrah examples of His work in this world. There is always mercy in Godís methods.

This is another example of how important it is to learn the whole flow of Biblical revelation. This, contrary to what many people think, has nothing to do with trying to be the smartest Christians in terms of our theological knowledge. It has to do with knowing God in a way that doesnít misrepresent and misjudge Him.

If all you knew was the bare story of Sodom and Gomorah you could judge God as a blood-thirsty brute. It takes the full light of Scripture to grasp what God is doing there and why He was doing it. I say it again, there is always mercy in Godís methods. Heís still out to reach your heart. More on this next week.