When God Judges

As I have been reading the F260 material from the Old Testament, it has struck me that much of Scripture speaks of God’s favorable/unfavorable view of Israel, or the Jewish people, as a nation. The lives of individuals such as the prophets and important characters like Ruth, David, Samson, etc. are detailed. However, when God speaks of favor for those who follow and punishment for those who don’t, it is very often outlined in broad terms. In the past I have reflected on the inequity of these broad brush strokes of God, deciding in my own shallow and sin-stained mind that “surely the remnant of faithful followers received better treatment” , or in times of repentance, “those who continued to turn away from God must have been held accountable for their individual actions”.

This morning I was reading the last two chapters of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament, before 400 years of silence from God). Chapter 3 begins and ends as follows:

“”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts…….. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Generalizations are often full of exceptions, and what I am about to suggest is no different. But it seems to me that part of God’s story for humankind begins with individuals (Adam & Eve), transitions to a chosen people (Israel – OT), and then ends (will end) with a one-on-one judgement (Great White Throne / Bema Seat). Two things in all this stand out to me.

First, what happened to individual Jews in the Old Testament, or what may happen to each of us today, may seem fair or unfair, depending on our faith and trust in God (Prov. 3:5). Cancer or starvation vs. perfect health or fortune would seem to us as very different life experiences. However, what we so easily pass up  is that peace and joy come from a relationship (with Christ), not from physical conditions. The more we (and the Israelites) can (could) accept what God offers recognizing it will ultimately be in our best interest, (Matt. 6:26)  the better we will be.

Second, if the Prosperity Gospel is truly false (which it is) and yet God is the perfect judge (which He is) then this short earthly life is almost exclusively about His will, and not the place where the scales of right and wrong, sin and Christian sacrifice are weighted and apportioned (Rom. 9:14-18). If the saved (redeemed and forgiven) and the lost (sinners in the hands of an angry God) can be rich or poor, sick or healthy in this life, then it should only make eternity more compelling for some and more terrifying for the rest.  Each of us needs to reflect on the question of all questions…. Is our name written in the Lambs Book of Life?

Jeff Hilles

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