Thursday, July 31, 2008

Old Testament Violence (3) - Judgement

Christians have misunderstood the way that God works in the world to bring his judgement against nations and societies that choose evil. He does not use his people to execute judgement, but he may use one evil group to bring judgment against another group that is worse.

God created a world that is good. Violence came into this world when human sin freed up demonic forces to work their wickedness. Sin and evil spiritual forces are the source of violence, but God has not left them unrestrained. Judgment is an important restraint on evil.

God is a god of judgment. He has created this world in such a way that evil people and wicked nations are eventually destroyed. God sometimes intervenes directly to ensure that judgment occurs. He does this without sinning, because just judgment is part of his nature.

God controls this judging process himself. Humans can never understand all the circumstances surrounding the behaviour of a nation, so we cannot decide when a particular nation deserves judgment. We cannot decide when more mercy might give the nation opportunity to repent. Judging a nation requires enormous wisdom and knowledge, so it is best left to God.

It is mine to avenge; I will repay (Deut 32:35).
God sometimes uses a wicked nation to execute judgement on another. The Medes and Persians were used to bring judgment against Babylon.
This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor (Is 45:1).
I am glad that God judges wickedness, because it limits the damage that evil people can do. If wickedness was given full reign to multiply, life on earth might be terrible. God’s judgment ensures that evil is constantly brought down to size, giving peace a chance.

The theme of God’s judgement continues in the New Testament. While Jesus required his people to love one another, he also warned that those persisting in wickedness would eventually face judgment. Here are two examples.

Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:4-5).

Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52).
Judgement did not end at the cross. Jesus saw God’s judgment of wickedness as continuing. The Revelation of John described further judgments in history after Jesus ministry on earth was complete.

With regard to God’s activity in judgment, there is no inconsistency between the Old and the New Testament. Righteous judging is part of his character.

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