INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 14: God the Judge
Many today downplay or deny the judgment of God. God’s position and ability to judge demonstrate his character, confirming his moral perfection, righteousness, justice, wisdom, omniscience, and omnipotence. God will judge us according to our deeds and words, whether good or bad. We know in our hearts that this is right because we are created in his image.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt 12:36-37)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10)
The Bible clearly calls God the judge and illustrates his judgment.
God Called Judge
Gen 18:25 calls God “the Judge of the earth” as does Judges 11:27, Ps 75:7, and Hebrews 12:23.
God Acted as Judge
God brought judgment to characters throughout the Bible when justice was appropriate.
God executed his judgment in the Old Testament:
· Adam and Eve broke God’s one prohibition and lost paradise.
· The world filled people's minds “with only evil all the time” and God brought the flood in Noah’s time.
· God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin (Ez 16:36 says they were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”)
· The judgment continued throughout the Old Testament to those who deserved justice: Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10), Achan (Joshua 7), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4), and Bellshazzar (Dan 5), to name a few.
Did God change in the New Testament?
· God judged Ananias and Saphira for lying (Acts 5), Herod for his pride (Acts 12:23), and Elymas for false prophecy (Acts 13)
· Jesus frequently spoke of a day of judgment (e.g., Matt 25, Luke 18, John 12:47-48)
· Paul (Acts 17:30, Rom 2:16, 2 Tim 4), Peter (Acts 10:42, 1 Pet 1:17, 4:5), John (Rev 20), and James (James 4:12, 5:29) also emphasize judgment!
What do we learn about “the Judge”?
1. The Judge has authority. As the King in Biblical days had supreme authority, God carries ultimate authority. He has a right and a duty to judge.
· Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance. (Ps 82:8)
2. The judge identifies with what is good and right. God is not dispassionate or cold. He loves justice and enforces fairness.
· Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Ps 51:4)
3. The judge is wise and discerning. He ascertains the facts (God needs no jury). God, the perfect judge, is omniscient and flawless in his discernment. He judges according to truth.
· Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Ps 96:13)
4. The judge has power to execute sentence. Yes, he pronounces sentence (like today’s judge) but God also executes the sentence. (Read the entire Psalm 94!)
· Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? ... He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them. (Ps 94:16,23)
In Matt 25 (v31ff), Jesus sits on the throne in his glory with all men before him and pronounces judgment based on our response to the poor and needy. Jesus is our compassionate savior and righteous judge.
As Peter taught in Acts 2:36, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (judge) and Christ (savior)”! We all stand condemned by our deeds and truly in need of a savior. As the crowd responded to Peter, we too must come to ask, “what shall we do?”
Our understanding of God’s judgment should change how we live and ultimately make us appreciate the grace of God. When God clothes us with Christ (in baptism Gal 3:26-27), he then treats us as sons rather than as we deserve. How did we, the guilty, turn into the Princes and Princesses, literally the King’s children? Consider the horror of the final judgment in contrast to the lavish grace shown to God's people whose names were "found written in the book of life":
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Disciples no longer fear judgment but rather with John proclaim, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Rev 22:20)