Some Thoughts About the
Judgment of God

By James L. Morrisson

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"If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31

 

Introduction

     On September 11, 2001 the United States suffered a massive terrorist attack that killed over 6,000 people and did great damage. Our President has declared a war on terrorism.

     This attack was a wake-up call for our nation. It made us realize that we are not invulnerable. It got us praying. It changed many of our priorities.

     Some have called it God's judgment on America. The statement has outraged many, but I suggest that we need to take a closer look at the concept behind it and at Biblical principles related to it.

     I am not saying that God brought about this attack. But if he is sovereign, then we have to say that he allowed it.

     In this paper I want to explore, from a Scriptural point of view, the question whether God does judge nations, and, if so, how he does it. I believe Scripture gives us quite a bit of information on these questions, that we need to consider and understand. I believe a clear understanding of the relevant Scriptures will help us evaluate the situation we are now in. I shall also suggest some areas of our national life which may be relevant to the issue of judgment. I do not presume to say whether or not God is judging us, or is about to judge us. But I think we should be aware of what some of the possibilities are. Every nation needs to consider whether its ways are pleasing to God.

     I also want to raise another, related, issue. Scripture often declares that "the battle is the Lord's" (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 20:15). It tells us to put our trust, not in military weapons, but in God (Psalm 20:7). The military power of the United States is impressive, but it is small compared to the power of almighty God. If God is with us we can hope to prevail; if God withdraws his protection we cannot expect to succeed. "Unless the Lord watches over the city [or nation], the watchmen stand guard in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

     These are weighty subjects. Many people don't like to think about them, but I believe we must. I approach them with caution, with fear and trembling. But I think an understanding of what Scripture says about them will be helpful and necessary to enable our nation to chart its course for the future. In that spirit, I offer what follows for your consideration.

 

A God of Mercy and Justice

     God has many attributes. He is a God of love. "God is love" (1 John 4:16). God shows an amazing love for us. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love" (Psalm 103:8). (Scriptures are from the New International Version unless otherwise indicated).

     But he is also a God of holiness and justice. When men have had a glimpse of God, they saw angels who cried ceaselessly, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). He has told us, "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). He is a God who hates evil and injustice. He has a holy wrath "against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men" (Romans 1:16). His holy wrath is a righteous anger against those things that offend his righteousness; it is a vindication of God's truth against every kind of falsehood.

     Paul speaks of the "kindness and sternness of God" (Romans 11:22). (The King James Version calls it "the goodness and severity of God"). I believe we need to keep in mind both of these aspects of God. God is usually loving, merciful, patient and kind. But, when necessary, he can be severe, and wrathful against evil; he can bring judgment and punishment. There are some who put such emphasis on God's lovingkindness that they neglect the fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of wisdom, Proverbs 9:10). And there are some who are so concerned with the wrath of God that they fail adequately to speak of his love.

     I need to make one further observation on this point. We sometimes hear it said that the God of the Old Testament was a God of severity, harshness and wrath, while the God of the New Testament is a God of love. I do not believe Scripture supports this distinction. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). There is much about God's love and mercy in the Old Testament. And some of the strongest statements about his judgment and wrath are in the New Testament. In both parts of the Bible, God appears as a God of "kindness and sternness". (I develop this more fully in the Appendix.)


God Does Sometimes Judge
Nations and Individuals

     There will be a final judgment when God, through his Son Jesus Christ, will judge all humans. Some will receive eternal life with God. Others will receive condemnation, "eternal punishment", "destruction", "everlasting destruction" ; they will be thrown "into the fiery furnace", into "hell, where the fire never goes out" (John 5:29; Matthew 25:46; 2 Peter 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 13:42-43, 49-50; Mark 9:44,48). I want to make it very clear that in this paper I am not talking about that final judgment. I am talking about a kind of judgment that God brings now, particularly on nations and groups of people, to vindicate his justice.

     At times God, to satisfy his justice, brings an immediate judgment on individuals, groups and nations. Such a judgment does not involve the eternal life of the soul. It can involve painful and difficult things. Some may think that a loving God would never bring suffering to his people. But God cannot indefinitely tolerate injustice and wickedness. His patience is very great, but eventually he acts.

     The principle is stated clearly in Deuteronomy, Chapters 28 and 30. God listed the blessings he would pour out on his people if they obeyed him and the curses they would receive if they turned against him and disobeyed him Among the curses are terrible diseases and plagues, loss of crops, ruin, military defeat, and captivity (slavery). God said, "I set before you today life and death, blessings and curses. Now therefore choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19). Many of these curses later came on God's people because of their disobedience. Again, when Solomon's Temple was dedicated, God said that if they obeyed him he would bless them, but if they "turned away" and served other gods he would "uproot Israel from my land" and bring "disaster" on them (2 Chronicles 7:17-22).

     Scripture shows that God has often brought death or other physical injury on people in order to vindicate his justice. Because this point is often misunderstood I shall list a considerable number of examples, to emphasize what an essential part of God's character this is, and to show the circumstances and variety of God's responses. I describe them very briefly but I would encourage the reader to read the Scriptural passages to get their full flavor. Note that these examples involve judgment against individuals, cities, nations and the whole world. At times God uses, and even raises up, evil nations to be his instruments in bringing judgment.

     Because of man's great wickedness God destroyed the whole earth by flood, killing all the humans except eight (Genesis chapters 6-9).

     Because of their grievous sin God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and other cities (Genesis chapters 18-19).

     In order to rescue his people from heavy oppression God brought numerous plagues on Egypt, including the death of all first-born sons (Exodus chapters 7-11).

     God consumed two sons of Aaron with fire for making an improper offering at the altar (Leviticus 10:1-2).

     When Miriam and Aaron, Moses' brother and sister, challenged Moses' authority "The anger of the Lord burned against them." God struck Miriam with leprosy. Then, at Moses' request, God healed her but she was confined outside the camp for seven days (Numbers chapter 12). It does not appear that Aaron or Miriam ever challenged Moses' authority again.

     When Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against God's anointed leader Moses, God caused the earth to swallow up them, their households and their possessions (Numbers chapter 16). We do not read of any further rebellion like this against Moses' authority.

     When the people of Israel indulged in sexual immorality with the women of Moab and worshiped the Moabite gods, "the Lord's anger burned against them" and 24,000 died in a plague (Numbers chapter 25).

     King Ahab of Israel, led on by his Queen Jezebel, provoked God to anger by worshiping the pagan god Baal and by other wickedness (1 Kings 16:30-33: 21:25-26). Therefore God caused the rain and the dew to cease in Israel for three and a half years (1 Kings chapters 17-18). God also destroyed Ahab, Jezebel and their descendants (1 Kings 21:17-28; 2 Kings 10:17).

     The "fire of God" consumed 100 Israelite soldiers who sought to arrest God's prophet Elijah (2 Kings chapter 1).

     When the people of Israel (the northern kingdom) repeatedly turned away from God and served other gods, and would not listen to his prophetic warnings, God sent Assyria to conquer them (Isaiah chapters 8, 10)."I dispatch [Assyria] against a people who anger me" (Isaiah 10:6). Assyria did conquer the northern kingdom and dispersed them throughout its territory. Scripture records that because the northern kingdom rejected him, served false gods, and committed other sins, "the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers until he thrust them from his presence" (2 Kings 17:20).

     Because of the sins of Judah (the southern kingdom) God declared, "I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction" (Jeremiah 4:6; see also Jeremiah 6:19). Accordingly the Babylonians captured and destroyed Jerusalem and took many of its inhabitants captive, holding them for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).

     There are a great number of Old Testament prophecies in which God prophecies destruction to a nation or city that has violated his justice.

     Jesus wept over Jerusalem. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:37-38). He predicted that the Temple at Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-2). In fact Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed by the Romans about 40 years later, in 70 A.D.

     God struck Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11).

     When King Herod gave a speech the people shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not a man." "Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:22-23)

     God is in control of the destiny of nations. "He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff" (Isaiah 40:23-24). "There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God" (Romans 13:1; see also John 19:11).

 

God Sometimes Withdraws
His Protection and Favor

     At times God may withdraw his protection and favor. He does not cause harm, but he allows it to happen. At times he merely allows us to reap the natural consequences of our own actions. While his hand of protection is on us we succeed, but if he removes it we may encounter great difficulties.

     Sometimes the withdrawal is temporary; sometimes it is permanent. I think we can see this as a kind of judgment. (God may also withdraw his protection to test us, as he did with Job (Job chapters 1-2) and with Peter (Luke 22:31-32); but I am not concerned with such cases here). Scripture gives us several examples from the history of Israel.

     When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, God gave the Israelites an unusual strategy for taking the mighty walled city of Jericho and they conquered it. He told them not to take any of the silver or gold for themselves, because they were "devoted things", intended for the Lord's treasury. He warned them "Keep away from the devoted things so that you will not bring about your own destruction" (Joshua 6:19). Then they went against Ai, a much smaller city, and were defeated. When Joshua asked the Lord why, God replied that they had taken some of the "devoted things" and had lied about it. God said, "I will not be with you anymore" unless you deal with this (Joshua 7:12). "You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it" (Joshua 7:13). Joshua found out who had violated God's command, and had him and his whole family stoned to death. "Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger" (Joshua 7:26). God told them to attack Ai "for I have delivered [it] into your hands" (Joshua 8:1). They did so with complete success. The Israelites continued to conquer all of Canaan.

     About 40 years earlier, the people of Israel had refused to believe God's promise that he would give them the land of Canaan. After God rebuked them for this, they decided to attack some of the tribes in the hill country. Moses told them, "do not go up because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated" (Numbers 14:42). They ignored Moses, and were defeated.

     God said to Moses that his people would forsake God and worship other gods. God said, "On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them and they will be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 31:17).

     The Book of Judges records that repeatedly the people of Israel "forsook the Lord", worshiped other gods, and "provoked the Lord to anger".. "In his anger against Israel" God "handed them over to raiders" and "sold them to their enemies". When they fought battles "the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them." Then he raised up a judge to liberate them. For a time all was well but then they turned away from God and the whole process repeated itself over and over (Judges chapter 2).

     God chose Saul to be King of Israel. For a time he was successful, but then he disobeyed God twice. The first time Samuel, who had anointed him as king, said "now your kingdom will not endure" (1 Samuel 13:14). The second time he told him that God had "rejected you as king over Israel" and "torn the kingdom of Israel from you" (1 Samuel 15:26-27). Near the end of his reign Saul consulted a witch, who summoned up the spirit of Samuel (who was now dead). Saul said, "I am in great distress... The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me." Samuel said, "Why do you consult me now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy" (1 Samuel 28:15,16). Soon thereafter Saul was wounded in battle and killed himself to avoid capture; his three sons also were killed (1 Samuel chapter 31).

     David, who succeeded Saul as King, had great success. He built up the nation of Israel
in power, wealth and territory. Then he committed adultery with Bathsheeba and arranged to have her husband killed in battle. He hid this sin for about a year. He records in Psalm 32 how God dealt with him for this. "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer" (Psalm 32:3-4). Then the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sin and he confessed. Nathan told him that God would bring calamity on him out of his household. "The Lord struck the child" that Bathsheeba had born him and he died. (2 Samuel chapter 12). Later, another of his sons, Amnon, raped his half-sister, and David did nothing about it. (Perhaps his own sin with Bathsheeba made it difficult for him to take the leadership in his family that he should have taken.) Another son, Absalom, became indignant, killed Amnon, and eventually rebelled against David and almost took the kingdom away from him (2 Samuel chapters 13-19). And so calamity came on David as Nathan had predicted. Eventually Absalom was killed; David's rule was reestablished; and Scripture repeatedly speaks of David as a man whom God loved. There are some elements of direct judgment in this history, but I think we can see it primarily as a case in which, for a time, David lost the favor and protection of God. In Psalm 51 David prayed, "Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).

     Under David's son Solomon the kingdom of Israel prospered even more. However, Solomon ignored God's command not to marry foreign wives, and he began to worship pagan gods. Scripture tells us that "The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord" and that God said "I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you" (1 Kings 11:9, 11). The result was that the kingdom was divided, and never again attained the power and wealth that it had during the reigns of David and Solomon.

     Before he destroyed the northern kingdom God said, through the prophet Isaiah,"When you spread out your hands in prayer I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers I will not listen" (Isaiah 1:15). Again, speaking to the southern kingdom, he said, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2). Later, speaking of the southern kingdom, God said, "Do not pray for this people or offer up any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress" (Jeremiah 11:14; see also Jeremiah 7:16).

     The people of Israel were God's chosen people. They were not chosen because of their own righteousness or integrity; they were simply chosen (Deuteronomy 9:5-6). When Jesus came, as the fulfillment of prophecy, the religious leaders of the nation did not accept him. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). Jesus declared to the Jewish leaders, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21:43). He prophesied "Woe" to the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew chapter 23). Paul, in Romans chapters 9-11, describes how the Jewish people lost the promise that God had given them."What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain" (Romans 11:7) "They were broken off because of unbelief" (Romans 11:20). Paul says that Israel lost its favored status but it will eventually be restored.

     I believe that our nation, like Israel, has been greatly favored by God. He has given us great material wealth. We are the greatest military power in the world. We have freedoms which few nations enjoy. I suggest we need to see all these, and more, as gifts which a gracious God has bestowed on us.

     God warned his chosen people Israel that when they entered Canaan and prospered, "then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:14, 17). He went on to warn them that "If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods... you will surely be destroyed... you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). Are we, as a nation, in danger of becoming proud and forgetting the Lord our God?
I suggest that we need to be careful that we do not lose God's protection and favor. His word is clear, "Unless the Lord build the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

     Our military might is tremendous. We have awesome weapons of destruction and a well-trained and courageous body of men and women to use them. But all of our military might is tiny in comparison to the power of almighty God. In the war we have announced against terrorism we are facing an enemy who is remarkably elusive and difficult to pin down. I suggest we are in a situation like that of Joshua. If God is with us, we shall succeed. Without the help of almighty God, we cannot expect to succeed. We need to pray that God will not remove his protection and favor. We also need to change our ways so that our iniquities will not separate us from God.

 


SOME PRINCIPLES OF GOD'S JUDGMENT

 

God Usually Warns
His People in Advance

     God usually warns his people before he brings judgment upon them. Before the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, and the southern kingdom was sent into captivity in Babylon for seventy years, God gave repeated warning through his prophets that they needed to change their ways. Over and over God said, "I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen" (Isaiah 65:12).

     Commenting on the fall of the northern kingdom, Scripture says, "The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers... But they would not listen... They rejected... .the warnings he had given them" (2 Kings 17:13-15). Only after many warnings did he destroy them. Jesus spoke sadly of those who, "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand" (Matthew 13:13).

     When God was about to destroy Sodom, the angels told Lot to warn his whole family. He spoke to his sons-in-law, but they "thought he was joking" (Genesis 19:14). The next day they were destroyed with the rest of the city, while Lot and his daughters escaped. We need to be careful not to brush aside or ignore the warnings that God gives us.

 

God Gives Us an Opportunity
to Change Our Ways

     The purpose of a warning is to give men an opportunity to change their ways. God has shown repeatedly that if men repent and change their ways (the word "repent" means to change) he will withhold the judgment he had planned.

     "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

     God told Jonah to "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me" (Jonah 1:1). Jonah did, proclaiming, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned" (Jonah 3:4). The people of Nineveh fasted and called on God. "When God saw what they did and how they had turned from their wicked ways, he had compassion and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened" (Jonah 3:10). Was Jonah a false prophet? No. God changed his mind when he saw genuine repentance.

     Later, God declared this as a general principle. "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it" (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

     The purpose of God's warnings is to give people a chance to change and avoid the judgment of God. This is clearly expressed in God's prophetic warning to the "house of Israel": "Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18:30-32).


CIRCUMSTANCES THAT CAN BRING ABOUT GOD'S JUDGMENT

     The examples I have given suggest some of the kinds of things that have, in the past, been the basis for God's judgment against nations or people. Let me try to list some of them and suggest how they might apply to our nation today. I mention these examples very tentatively. You may disagree with some of my examples, but perhaps they will suggest a way of thinking that is useful.

 

Godlessness and Wickedness

     Paul said "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Romans 1:16). The following are some illustrations of this "godlessness and wickedness."

 

Idolatry

     As we read the Old Testament record, the one single factor that stands out as the primary ground for judgment against Israel, and against the two kingdoms of Israel after they divided, is idolatry. God's people turned away from him and served other gods. God said it thus, through the prophet Jeremiah, "'Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,' declares the Lord. ' My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water'" (Jeremiah 2:11-13). Typically what happened was that the Israelites worshiped both the God of Abraham and pagan gods; God saw this as turning away from the one true God.

     God sent the people of Judah into captivity in Babylon for 70 years, partly because of their idolatry. It is noteworthy that, after they came back from that experience, they do not seem to have engaged in idolatry any more. Apparently the experience cleansed them.

     Today we do not bow down to many graven images. But an idol is anything we set ahead of God. And I suggest there are many things our nation today may be setting ahead of God. One thinks of such things as wealth, power, and influence, of self-gratification and pleasure; of valuing material things more than spiritual things. Perhaps it can be said that we make science and technology a god. I value the great contributions science and technology have made to our society, but I do wonder when we consistently accept as true everything a scientist or group of scientists say, and question or ignore what God says in his Scripture. Perhaps it is not so much that we reject God as that we ignore him; but is there any real difference between the two?

     There is also, in America today, a remarkable resurgence of the occult - witchcraft, paganism, satanism, spirit channeling, dial-a-psychic, and the like. Scripture says, "Let no one be found among you who... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." God said these practices are "detestable" and that, because the nations of Canaan engaged in them, God would "drive out those nations before you```````" (Deuteronomy 18:10-13; see also Isaiah 8:19).

     The founders of our nation were agreed that democracy could succeed only if it was based on a strong moral sense and a strong belief in God. We have moved a long way from that foundation. I suggest that we need to return to it.

 

Child Sacrifice

     Another "detestable practice" listed in Deuteronomy 18:10 is child sacrifice. Scripture often warns against sacrificing children to pagan gods. This was one of the reasons for the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:17). What does God think of abortion today? I believe his word is very clear that God sees life as beginning at conception. He told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" (Jeremiah 1:5). "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). When Mary, bearing the infant Jesus in her womb, visited her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist, "the baby leaped in [Elizabeth's] womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:41). If I am right as to this, then abortion-on-demand is sacrificing a child to its mother's convenience. We have sacrificed over 40 million children in this way. How does God see this? Is he apt to bring judgment on our nation because of it?

 

Injustice

     God said through the prophet Micah, "Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds...They covet fields and seize them, and houses and take them. They defraud
a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. Therefore, the Lord says, 'I am planning disaster against this people'" (Micah 2:1-3). There are many other such prophecies against injustice.

 

Immorality

     A major part of the sin for which Sodom was destroyed was sexual immorality. In particular, Scripture records that all the men of the city, young and old, demanded to have sex with two men (angels) who visited Lot (Genesis 19:4-11). Part of the reason for God's destruction of 24,000 Israelites was that they "began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women" (Number 25:1). Paul said that because of "sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry" "the wrath of God is coming" (Colossians 3:5-6; see Ephesians 5:3,6).

     What does God think of the "sexual revolution" which has been rampant in the United States for so many years?

 

God's Intention for His People is Always Good

     When God does judge his people (in the ways that I am talking about in this paper), it is for their own good. "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). We should see God's action, not as punishment, but as correction.

     God does not want even the wicked to perish. "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live. Turn. Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11). God "is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

     God has declared certain principles in his dealings with individuals that I think apply also to his dealings with nations. One is that of discipline. "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:10-11). He has also said that we should "consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds", because they develop our character and bring us to maturity (James 1:2-4; see also Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7).
I am not suggesting that we should take joy in what happened on September 11. But if it leads us to return to our national heritage, and to be stronger, more mature and more righteous as a people, we may eventually, perhaps, be able to see that, while God did not cause it, he has used it for good..


Conclusion

     My primary purpose in writing this paper has been to make it clear that the possibility of God's judgment is very real. God does judge peoples and nations. He does withdraw his protection and favor from them. And the result can be very terrible. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

     I hope that the many examples I have given will dispel any notion that God never brings death, illness, military defeat, or other injury on nations and people. He has, many times. He has also allowed it by withdrawing his protection and favor.

     God does not change. His attributes of love and mercy, and also holiness and justice, are the same today as in the times recorded in Scripture. And I see no basis for assuming that he will not do the same things today that he did in the days recorded in Scripture.

     Whether our nation is facing judgment today, and what we need to do about it, are questions beyond the scope of this paper, and beyond the scope of my competence to comment on. I have tried to suggest some areas of possible concern. There may be more which I have failed to mention. But I leave it to others to speak for God as to what we need to do about them.

 

September, 2001


Appendix

Has God Changed?

     God has said, "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). We find many passages in the Old Testament that speak of God's great mercy and love. And some of the strongest passages dealing with God's wrath and judgment are found in the New Testament. God, as revealed in both parts of the Bible, is a God of great love and mercy and also a God of justice and, at times, wrath. Paul speaks of "the kindness and sternness of God" (Romans 11:22), and we see both qualities in both Testaments.

     Among the very many Old Testament passages dealing with God's mercy and love are the following: Psalm 136 with its refrain "His love endures forever." Psalm 103:8, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." Lamentations 3:22, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness." When the Lord's glory filled the Temple that Solomon had built, they sang, "He [God] is good; his love endures forever" (2 Chronicles 7:3). God said through Jeremiah, "I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight" (Jeremiah 9:24).

     The New Testament often speaks of God's love. John declared "God is love" (1 John 4:16). But it also speaks of his wrath and of eternal judgment. Jesus said that in the last days he will judge all men; some will live and some will be condemned (John 5:29). He will divide the sheep from the goats; the sheep will go to "eternal life" and the goats to "eternal punishment." (Matthew 25:46). Those who cause sin and do evil will be "thrown into the fiery furnace" while the righteous will shine in the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:42-43; see also verses 49-50).

     John the Baptist said that "God's wrath remains" on anyone who rejects the Son (John 3:36). Paul said that "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Romans 1:18; see also Romans 2:5, 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19). He lists certain kinds of conduct and says, "because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 5:6; see Colossians 3:6). He tells us that a time will come when the Lord Jesus will be "revealed from heaven in blazing fire" and will punish "with everlasting destruction" those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Hebrews speaks of a "fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:27, 31). Revelation 6:16-17 speaks of a time when people will hide "from the face of him who sits of the throne [God] and from the wrath of the Lamb [Jesus]. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who shall stand?" (see also Revelation 11:18, 14:10, 16:19, 19:15).

     God's "kindness and sternness" are both eternal qualities of his. Both are evidenced throughout the Bible.

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     08/19/2007